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Treat APIs as a Product, or The Sun Is Not the Centre of Your Solar System

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Treat APIs as a Product, or The Sun Is Not the Centre of Your Solar System

Learn more about why you should treat your API as the center of your integrated infrastructure and what that means for you.

· Integration Zone ·
Free Resource

I recently stumbled across the above beautiful animation of celestial mechanics by Malin Christersson. On the left-hand side, you see how simple and elegant it is to plot out celestial mechanics when you assume that all the planets in our solar system are in orbit around the sun. Whereas on the right-hand side, you see the resulting chaos if you assume earth is at the center.

If you fail to treat your APIs as products then you’ll end up with the chaos and disarray as seen in the geocentric view of the solar system. Unfortunately, APIs are often relegated to middleware or plumbing. As such, they can be perceived as a cost/liability to an organization and not direct value to the business. In this scenario, APIs are often one-offs resulting in chaos and a high cost of ownership due to the difficulties in untangling the knots that are created by multiple one-offs. However, change the perspective, treat APIs, and integrations as a product. Now instead of chaos, you’ll end up with a beautiful heliocentric solar system of APIs.

It should be noted that there are many types of APIs  to be found in the enterprise "solar system." Within an enterprise, there are layers upon layers of technologies deployed over time. Many of the older technologies still bring value, making them far from obsolete. Traditional mechanisms for providing integrations still exist and work successfully today — SOAP, EDI, and MFT. REST APIs are de rigueur for today, but they're losing market share to the new kids on the block (Webhooks, WebSockets, SEE, gRPC, GraphQL etc.)

If you constrain your organization to a REST only strategy for integration then you will be ignoring the existing value that you have in your enterprise. Therefore, if we’re considering APIs as products we should be considering all integrations as products.

Why Treat Your Integration as A Product?

What is a product? A product is any item or service you sell or provide to serve a customer’s need or want. Every integration asset is a product. 

From the outset you will have the business goals at heart, you should not shoehorn an existing integration into your business goals. Business first, technology second. You will have a vision for your integration, in how it will help to drive the business forward. 

When designing your integration, you should adopt a product mindset. After all, the interface is intended for use by someone else. Whether you think of it that way or not, whether you actually sell it or not, you have a product on your hands and it is intended for use by someone else. As such, this product will have a lifecycle and a success criteria. 

With a product mindset, you will design and deliver the integration to help drive business value. When you treat your integration assets as products you will evolve the integration so that it in turn evolves to meet the evolving customer needs. The integration will have a lifecycle which matches that of a traditional software product. And the role of an integration product manager will be identifying, planning, forecasting, production, and marketing of the integration product at all stages of its life-cycle

When you treat your integration assets as products you will evolve the integration so that it provides the best consumer/developer experience. There will be a single place for your consumers to view available assets regardless of their technical heritage (MFT, EDI, SOAP, REST, event-based, etc.) 

Unified Catalog

At Axway we have built the Unified Catalog which can handle all different kinds of integrations. The consuming developer doesn’t care "how it works," they care "what it does and how it’s used." It is a single location to view documentation, usage and subscriptions of your enterprise’s integrations. It is beyond REST and has support for AsyncAPI, MFT, EDI, SOAP, etc. The Catalog enables a business to meaningfully expand its ecosystem, accelerate development, and improve efficiency. In order to innovate fast, you must be able to integrate fast!

Good product management is all about building products that consumers love – can you say that today about the integrations in your organization. With a well-designed API, solid supporting documentation, and good support for developers’ existing tools, you will delight the technical consumers of your API every time. All this is available to you in the Unified Catalog. The catalog brings harmony to your solar system of integrations and your ecosystem will run smoothly just like the heliocentric solar system.

Topics:
apis, integration, product mindset, unified catalog

Published at DZone with permission of David Mckenna , DZone MVB. See the original article here.

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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