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Executive Insights on the State of Integration: API Design and Management

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Executive Insights on the State of Integration: API Design and Management

Read about integration and API security, migration, API adoption, and more in this interview with 18 tech executives on the state of integration.

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To gather insights on the state of integration, API design, and API management, we spoke with 18 executives who are familiar with integration and APIs. Here’s who we talked to:

  • Murali Palanisamy, E.V.P., Chief Product Officer, AppViewX

  • Kevin Fealey, Director of Automation & Integration Services, Aspect Security

  • Max Mancini, V.P. of Ecosystem, Atlassian

  • Shawn Ryan, V.P. Product Marketing, Digital as a Service, Axway

  • Parthiv Patel, CTO, Flock

  • Anwesa Chatterjee, Director of Product Marketing, Informatica

  • Simon Peel, CMO, Jitterbit

  • Keoki Andrus, V.P. of Products, Jive

  • Steve Bunch, Product Manager APIs and Integrations, Jive

  • Rajesh Ganesan, Director of Product Management, ManageEngine

  • Brooks Crichlow, V.P. Product Marketing, MongoDB

  • Derek Smith, CEO, Naveego

  • Guillame Lo Re, Senior Software Engineer, Netvibes

  • Vikas Anand, V.P. Product Management & Strategy - Integration, Oracle

  • Keshav Vasudevan, Product Marketing Manager, Smartbear

  • Kevin Bohan, Director of Product Marketing, Tibco

  • Pete Chestna, Director of Developer Engagement, Veracode

  • Milt Reder, V.P. of Engineering, Yet Analytics

Key Findings

1) The keys to a successful integration strategy are: 1) workflow; 2) flexibility; 3) data; and, 4) ease/reliability. Understand user workflow, who the users are, and what they’re trying to accomplish. If you are successful, the technology will become part of the larger workflow. You also need to understand the possible use cases. A technological need likely requires a private API, while business drivers require public or partner-based APIs. Successful integrations think about the user experience (UX) first. They consider how end users want to interact with, and benefit from, the product.

Integrations need to be sufficiently flexible to handle new use cases and processes, as well as the ability to scale as data expands exponentially. Toolsets also need to be flexible and shouldn’t be too restrictive when working with external data. Recognize that any given service may be superseded by another in the future – service providers may go out of business or better options may come about.

Have a sound strategy to expose and build on the data. Meet data where it lives in real-time. Take data from anywhere and enable business owners to get value from it.

Make it easy for developers to get started. API providers should provide resources to help developers effectively learn and begin using these processes. Provide SDKs for the most popular languages and ensure that documentation is up-to-date.

2) The most significant changes to integration in the past year have been the accelerated adoption of APIs and the importance of containers and microservices. Every service is an API-driven
technology, and as such you must take an API-first approach. There’s been tremendous proliferation of APIs, since software is not homogeneous.

There is a heightened focus on the containerization of applications. DevOps is being adopted and teams are leveraging Docker and AppFoundry. There is a need to support containerized development and microservices. With microservices hitting their stride, developers have the tools to quickly build integrations with any system imaginable and the challenges posed by legacy systems integration are being diminished.

3) Swagger is the most frequently mentioned technical solutionwith regards to the design and management of APIs. Developers like to make APIs self-documenting with Swagger. Swagger defines API structure and generates API documentation as part of the build process. Developers understand that well-maintained, easy-to-use API documentation is a top priority when building new apps. Swagger makes it easier for developers to build integrations.

4) Given the ubiquity of APIs, real-world problems being solved by APIs yields a wide and deep group of use cases. Companies are integrating CRMs to enable click-to-call and screen pop-ups on their websites. The Sacramento Kings have the most connected basketball arena in the NBA and have integrated 35 different applications with APIs including ticketing, ordering, CRM, concessions, loyalty, etc. Financial services are using integration to facilitate seamless and secure mobile banking applications. A container shipping company has generated a new revenue stream by opening their digital business platform to other businesseswho are provisioning containers as they need them – for more than just shipping. LA Metro has a lot of information in their CRM, service cloud, card fulfillment, and ERP systems. All of these are integrated together, so customers can reload their transportation card via the website.

5) The most common issue you see affecting integration is thefailure to follow good API design practices. APIs should be easy to adopt, flexible yet stable, backwards-compatible, easy to migrate, and secure. Look at the integration project strategically and build for the future.

1) Easy to adopt: APIs should be implemented using popular and standard technologies, rather than proprietary mechanisms. 2) Flexible, yet stable: Frequently changing and deprecating an API is often a recipe for failed integrations. It makes sense to be flexible in terms of having more parameters or more calls than changing an existing API for every request. 3) Backwards compatibility: Calling applications could stall and become useless if an API gets removed or discontinued often. Backward compatibility is needed for a while to allow all applications to move to more recent versions. 4) Migration: It is critical to provide procedures and tools to make it easier to move to later versions of the API. 5) Secure: Often overlooked, API security is a critical aspect that could make or break API adoption. It is vital for designers to keep security as an important factor right from the initial design, yet abstract the complexity from the API consumers. This includes choice of authentication mechanism, encryption of the communication channel, and ensuring authorization rules are applied and all input is validated on every API call.

6) The future of integration is using AI/ML to seamlessly connect more systems. Co-created integration is a mindset where two providers get together to provide seamless integration of
their products. Serverless will hide the complexity of integrations, enabling system-to-system communication across multiple platforms. Users get a more robust experience as more services are integrated seamlessly.

We’ll use AI/ML to predict future integration needs, which will produce more efficient connections. Systems will be more intelligent as they are ingesting data in real time.

7) There are a broad range of concerns around integration today. The most frequently mentioned were security, tooling, and being business-centric. The top concern was handling information
security. Data must be encrypted in transit, and vendors must supply security around APIs to provide the best UX. Developers need to ensure their users can only access the data and services they are entitled to access.

We’re at a point where we have a host of powerful and accessible tools to build the next generation of integrated systems, but we need to be mindful of the discipline it takes to use them well. Tools need to bring together capabilities without causing confusion with regards to what tool is used to solve a specific problem.

We need to be more business-centric than before and ensure we’re meeting a consumer need. Identify integrations that create solutions to customers’ problems.

8) The skills developers need to ensure their code and applications integrate well are documentation, API design, and an API-first mentality. Properly documenting the API for
others ensures widespread adoption. Easy-to-follow tutorials for common tasks are helpful. Developers should learn good API design, follow frameworks, understand use cases, and treat endpoints that address those needs. Think about integration in a sustainable fashion, build flexible APIs that will last 10 years. Lay out how you will expose the API. Think about the implications of what you’re building. Create a contract first, then create a service to ensure people have the best experience, and don’t forget to run tests before implementing the backend.

9) Additional considerations include: 1)how to help legacy systems make the digital transformation; 2) thinking about the future of APIs on several fronts; 3) communicating the value of an API platform.

Most companies are not digitally native. They are dealing with legacy systems. How do we modernize and leverage traditional
interfaces for the digital transformation? How do we make innovation possible for these companies?

There’s a lot of consolidation going on with API management. What’s the future of the space, especially in the cloud? As developers, we need to plan for change by taking a critical look at the decisions we make around APIs, especially around API design.

The most elegantly architected, best integrated, and well-designed API framework will not attract developers without a clear story about how developers can create value (remove friction from workflows, make money, get new customers, etc.) by building an API platform that works in any environment for hybrid consumption of APIs.

The keys to success for APIs are to: 1) stay abreast of technology, invest in integration, and provide a level of investment to ensure customers can use the product they purchased for a reasonable amount of time going forward; and, 2) use telemetry to know what people are and aren’t using so you can make informed business decisions.

This article is featured in the new DZone Guide to IntegrationAPI Design and Management. Get your free copy for more insightful articles, industry statistics, and more!

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