2016 has been an eventful year on many fronts, and not least for APIs. We’ve see the emergence of microservices as a big new driver for API adoption, numerous high profile security breaches (being DDOSed by your own webcam hurts!), vendor acquisitions, the growth of the Open API Initiative, and some more industry events. Some of these trends we already had inklings of at the beginning of the year, but others came very much out of left field.
As is traditional at this time of the year, we’ve been reflecting on 2016 and looking ahead to 2017. Each year we make a set of wild predictions to see what we can guess of the year to come. So, first, it’s time to see how we did with our 2016 predictions (look out for our 2017 thoughts soon!).
Taking the predictions in turn:
1. Security Will Remain a Key Issue
It’s now the second year where security (and especially API security) has been in limelight and unfortunately, there were numerous new serious incidents: Disqus, Qualcomm, and numerous vehicles including the Nissan Leaf. There is growing awareness of the types of threats to APIs and incidents have slowed a little but we’d be surprised if this abates any time soon.
2. Automation, Microservices, and APIs Will Be Driving Forces in Enterprise IT
This prediction has come through loud and clear. Analyst papers and the press, as well as numerous events, have flagged the importance of APIs for large enterprises. In some areas, it is the top analyst inquiry. Anecdotally, at Red Hat, we see an extremely strong demand in particular for integration technology, container management, DevOps automation, and APIs together – a sure sign that microservices are on the menu for many companies.
3. Engagement and Usage information Will Be More Critical for API Owners
Vendors have delivered more engagement data, and new companies such as Hitch are aiming to specialize on (for example) developer engagement. However, it’s fair to say there is still a long way to go in terms of new features and customer adoption.
4. Bimodal IT Will Transform Into Internal Platforms for Success forLarger Companies
The notion of two-speed (or bimodal) IT has been on agenda a while, and there was a clear resurgence in analyst circles in 2016. There is also definitely a more measured approach towards how customers are approaching the challenge of building a platform. What we’re seeing with customers can be found in our recent Gartner Presentation.
5. IoT Apps With APIs Will See Big Visible Deployments
The number of real-world IoT deployments has risen markedly in 2016, and the 2016 landscape of IoT is starting to look pretty crowded. Lastly, we all got a sharp reminder that there are already millions of devices out in the world when part of one of the largest DDOS attacks of the year involved not only desktop computer botnets but also attacks from unsecured webcams and DVRs. Devices like Amazon’s Echo are also becoming ever more present in our lives!
6. Real-Time, Event, and Hypermedia Patterns Will Be Key Parts of the API Design Tool Chest
While real-time and hypermedia did all see more adoption in 2016, we think it’s fair to say neither is yet established as a common place tool or design pattern. Maybe 2017 will see the breakthrough?
7. API Management Will Grow in Importance for Both Public and Private APIs
The API management market grew rapidly in 2016 based on evidence that we saw internally in terms of demand and market interest. Gartner and Forrester also both released updated vendor reports. It also turned into a year of acquisitions with 3scale joining Red Hat, Apigee becoming part of Google, and Akana being acquired by Rogue Wave. The main driver for 3scale’s acquisition by Red Hat at least was the rapid growth in demand for API management across the vast majority of Enterprise customers. API management capabilities are now seen as key by many customers and vendors. While there are now less independent vendors out there, it’s likely we’ll see a lot more deployments and no doubt new innovation.
8. Citizen Integrators and Non-Technical Users Will Lift the Most Successful APIs
A clear and present need remains in how to enable non-technical staff to draw on the on the benefit of APIs. Zapier, IFTTT, and others have made progress in the market, but it still feels as though the tooling to enable non-specialists still has some way to go before break-out success.
9. Companies Will Dig Into the Challenges of Identity, Security, and Access Control
Anecdotally from 3scale customers, almost every deployment today makes use of integrations such as Red Hat SSO, Auth0, or another identity solution. So, there has certainly been an uptick in taking identity seriously with APIs. However, we feel there is still some way to go in having a unified identity, security, and access control pattern that is widely repeatable.
10. Standards Will Cause an Explosion of Tooling
A year in, progress on the Open API Initiative looks very significant. New members have joined and vendors seem to be aligning around the new standard. A lot of progress has also been made on a new version of the standard with a launch planned for early next year (contribute here!). There have also been numerous new API companies adopting OAI or pledging to do so. Hopefully, 2017 will see a great deal of new adoption.
Either we’re getting good or things are getting more predictable — we got more of these right than we ever have! Despite that, there were also a few big things that we missed.
Since it was open-sourced by Facebook in 2015, GraphQL has really begun to grow and exploded in 2016. The Google trend graph shows just how blindsided we were by this one!
Numerous Industry Acquisitions
The acquisitions were somewhat of a surprise to us. API management has become critical for most large enterprises and this has meant strong market growth. On the other hand, it also accelerated appetite amongst larger stack vendors to own their own solution and seek an acquisition. No doubt we’ll see a new wave of innovation in the API technology space as standards such as OAI and OAS establish themselves!
Growth in Machine Learning, Bot and Automation APIs, and Apps
Bots have seized our imaginations and Artificial Intelligence APIs are now one of the fastest growing categories in terms of new APIs. Voice-powered assistants such as Amazon’s Echo and Google Assistant are also continuing to become more mainstream. In a future of voice controlled applications, APIs will be the key to providing all that intelligence.
Lastly, we’ll always remember 2016 for the great API community events from APIDays, APISTRAT, RestFest and others, as well as Kin Lane’s Drone Recovery. A great reminder that everything is ultimately about people.