APIs vs. SQL-Based Connectivity for SaaS
Learn how to save your product developers time and energy and turn your application into a central data hub for your customers with standards-based drivers.
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When you need to provide your customers with access to data stored in your application or platform, the easiest place to start is with traditional application programming interfaces, or APIs. An API serves as an intermediary that allows two or more applications to interact with one another.
APIs offer plenty of flexibility. Data is not bound to particular resources or methods, so APIs can handle many different types of calls and return different types of data. This allows you to build APIs that meet your company's and customers' needs, all likely using a variety of differing databases and resources. APIs are also increasingly easy to create, as numerous platforms exist to generate basic APIs with little code.
But while they provide a great starting point, APIs are just table stakes in integration. They provide only a base level of data accessibility, leaving your customers without a data experience. By simply stopping at the most introductory level of connectivity, you can slow product adoption and even turn away customers. By contrast, if you add comprehensive no-code data access to your application, you can greatly improve your customer experience and significantly reduce customer churn.
In this article, we explore standards-based drivers and their advantages when compared to APIs. Drivers build on APIs and enable seamless data connectivity behind the scenes. They save your product developers time and energy, while helping you turn your application into a central data hub for your customers.
The Limitations of Traditional APIs
Overall, while APIs are a fantastic place to start when it comes to giving data to customers, they fall far short of offering the kind of straightforward, frictionless data experience that customers and businesses demand. As a result, their limitations may discourage adoption and limit your platform's use.
Customers Have Too Many Applications to Learn Your API
Companies are already swamped and overloaded with data. Enterprise firms connect with hundreds of data sources, and keeping up with the ever-growing number of applications, databases, and services is difficult. Providing your users with yet another API only adds to their data fragmentation problems.
APIs Force Your Customers to Become Integrators and Developers
By only making your data available via an API, you require your customers to do all the work of writing code against your API to retrieve and edit the data they need. Your customers' primary objective is to simply get the data, not to be loaded with additional development work.
APIs Lack Consistency
Since APIs aren't standardized across applications or industries, yours will look extremely different from the dozens, if not hundreds, of other APIs your clients already integrate. No matter how hard you attempt to standardize it, your platform will inevitably use a different data model than the others. By stopping at the API, you are only adding to the growing data transformation problem your customers have.
Simplify Last Mile Connectivity to Expand Use
Allowing your clients to deal with all their data in your platform without having to do any coding or integration work with your API is the key to easy adoption. Make sure you're not adding to your consumers' workload. Make it simple for people to read, create, and update information on your platform instead. This increases the likelihood that users will interact with your app, resulting in more data and activity on your platform.
You also want to avoid the programming effort yourself to create unique integrations for the hundreds of application APIs your clients will need.
The easiest way to achieve this is to offer off-the-shelf connectors to your platform to simplify how customers integrate. Connectors should come embedded and pre-built with high-performance data connectivity that brings native data access into your platform - without you or your customers having to code or maintain integrations.
Standards-Based Drivers Simplify Integration
Drivers provide an excellent way to simplify integration processes. These SQL-based connectors come ready to go with the heavy integration work already completed.
SQL interfaces take the challenge out of integration and data access for your customers, enabling them to use simple SQL queries to access data from hundreds of enterprise data sources from inside your platform. They can simply work in the background, behind your user interface, and your customers can simply use your application or write SQL queries directly against their data without the need for any heavy lifting.
Drivers provide a much easier and far richer experience for your customers and frees them from both the extra work and proliferation of data sources that come with APIs.
Connecting to APIs Through SQL
Almost every application today provides some level of database (RDBMS) integration. Typically, this type of application extensibility is offered through a driver interface like ODBC, JDBC, or ADO.NET, or at times through direct connectivity to a popular database like SQL Server or MySQL.
Drivers are data connectors built using these universal database standards. They provide a standard SQL wrapper around APIs, giving you a data layer that drastically simplifies connectivity to any application. As SQL is a universal language understood by every modern application, these connectors are much easier to implement into your platform than building out direct app-to-app integrations using APIs.
Even better, SQL is understood by millions of data analysts who prefer a simpler interface for working with data, rather than running API requests.
APIs differ drastically from application to application, even with attempts to standardize them through representational state transfer (REST) or Simple Objects Access Protocol (SOAP). Drivers enable easy integrations by abstracting those differences inside a standard, universal layer that everyone and every application can understand.
High Performance and Broad Coverage Anywhere
Having a solution that provides standards-based connectivity to applications, databases, and popular enterprise data sources is crucial. Your enterprise customers require seamless connectivity between your application and their BI, Analytics, ETL, and custom applications. At the same time, every software solutions provider is increasingly trying to deliver a richer experience for their customers and remove unnecessary obstacles. You can simplify your customer integrations, provide a standout data experience, and reduce churn with standards-based drivers that support database interfaces, such as ODBC, JDBC, and ADO.NET.
Published at DZone with permission of Alex Pauncz. See the original article here.
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