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What Makes a Good Cloud API

· Cloud Zone

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Coders are craftsmen, so they both (a) accept things the way they are, and (b) try to make them better. This is true of languages, but also of APIs: learn the API, sure, but also realize what it's missing, and how it could be improved in the future.

Then the language developers respond to the programmers' demand, and the language becomes increasingly useful over time. Or a whole new API is created, and a dozen related development problems are solved in one stroke.

Cloud APIs, though, complicate the situation just a tad. For one thing, developers love the cloud precisely because they don't need to worry about anything except the API. So a lot of cloud developer happiness rides on API convenience alone. For another, the very same convenience allows coders with relatively little IT experience to perform IT-intensive tasks -- so the cloud API needs to be not just convenient, but error-proof, and extremely stable.

From a business perspective, too, Cloud API development is extra-sensitive: cloud provider profit margins are generally razor-thin, and the user base changes so quickly that good APIs must not only attract customers, but also retain them against fierce and ever-adapting competition. 

Cloud API strategy, in other words, requires even more acumen than other kinds of API development.

For more on what kind of acumen cloud APIs require, check out these lessons from Heroku CEO Byron Sebastian. Heroku seems like a good case-study for API development -- not only because of its general popularity, but especially because of its rapid expansion from Ruby to many more languages.

Dan Woods, co-author of APIs: A Strategy Guide, summarized Byron's advice, which combines both sides of the cloud-concerned coin:

The quality and ease-of-use of Heroku’s APIs are central to its success. The alpha-geek startup developers want a stable and powerful API that allows them to create new applications. The enterprise community wants that, but also wants more of the trappings of a product: administration, monitoring, and security infrastructure. Both groups demand great design and documentation as a sine qua non.

Wise words for high-level developers of cloud APIs, but also good news for everyday coders hoping for more responsive cloud API development in the near future.

Check out the rest of Byron's advice here.

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