By Shantanu Ghosh, Managing Director and VP of Rocket Software’s centers of excellence in India and China
We talk a lot about APIs in the business community, often as a kind of monetization strategy. But there’s a lot more value to APIs than just discovering new sources of revenue. Today, many companies are embracing something called “API-driven development,” an approach to software architecture in which the basic unit is the API.
In API-driven development, the application is divided into different services, each of which must be built according to predefined specifications and parameters. It’s up to each team to decide how they want to build their respective services. (In this way, API-driven development is a subset of the microservices approach.) This approach has the benefit of allowing teams to work in parallel, which can save a lot of time in development.
But that’s just one of many benefits that come with using APIs. Here are a few more reasons to embrace APIs for enterprise application development, whether you’re starting from scratch or building new applications on the basis of existing ones.
APIs are Infinitely Reusable
When building a new application that requires data from some existing source, the temptation to opt for a loosely-defined, quick-and-dirty solution can be strong. But as your organization grows and builds more applications to support your business, you often find yourself needing access to the same data sources or functionality. If that’s the case, hard-coding those connections each time is not only a waste of time, but can actually make it a nightmare to update applications as the connections grow in number.
With APIs, on the other hand, all you need to do is define certain kinds of interactions once and you’ll be able to access that functionality again and again. This benefit of APIs is referred to as “infinite reusability”– or as I like to call it, the “set it and forget it” feature. Yes, it takes a little longer the first time around, but the time and headaches you save down the road are significant. What’s more, if you’re ever in a situation in which an existing API provides some, but not all, the functionality you need, you still have a strong basis upon which you can add.
Ultimately, as your catalogue of APIs grows, you’ll start to find that you already have the building blocks to provide new services. All you need to do is combine them in creative ways.
APIs are a Shortcut to Modernization
A lot of companies rely on older applications for their mission-critical activities and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. These systems are often hearty and more reliable than newer, trendier platforms, and represent the accumulation of years of business knowledge. But when it comes to user experience, these systems may not have as much to offer.
This is another situation in which APIs come in handy. With APIs, you can create the modern user experience you’re looking for without replacing anything. Simply define the user experience you need to provide, then build APIs that specify how to access key functions and data. Your users will never know the difference, and you’ll save big when compared to the cost and time of a full-scale rip-and-replace job.
APIs Let You Easily Extend Functionality to Web and Mobile Applications
Web developers often don’t know the first thing about programming on host-based systems or managing enterprise-scale databases or servers. And with APIs, they don’t have to. With a robust suite of APIs, developers can get all the data and functionality they need from your mission-critical systems without having to change a single line of code. This not only enables you to get the “best of both worlds” – keeping your current system while extending its functionality to vital new services – but it also frees you to choose the best, most specialized development talent without having to a pay a premium for programmers with full-stack capabilities.
A Little Bit of Forethought can be a Big Deal Down the Road
Like in any field, when it comes to enterprise IT, you can’t just put the hard work off indefinitely. Eventually, avoiding the long-term solution will come back to bite you – it’s just a matter of time. By clearly defining APIs from the start, instead of just opting for quick fixes, you position yourself for success in the future.
(Shantanu Ghosh is Managing Director and Vice President at Rocket Software, a global technology provider specializing in application modernization and systems optimization, where he oversees the company’s centers of excellence in India and China. Before joining Rocket, he was country head of product operations for Symantec Corp and Global VP for Symantec’s Data Center Security business.)