An application programming interface (API) can be defined as a set of protocols, routines, and tools for building software applications. An API enforces structure on both sides of a request, and a good API makes it easier for developers to build apps. Over the past few years, there has been a sharp increase in the use of Web-accessible APIs. Twitter, Google and Facebook handle billions of API requests every day. Others are steadily joining the API movement: ProgrammableWeb.com provides a directory listing nearly 10,000 different APIs, and even provides an “API for APIs.”
Why the astounding growth? Mobile applications are driving much of the increase, but the bottom line is that APIs are unleashing an incredible amount of creativity by enabling software developers to build amazingly powerful applications — while letting others manage the underlying IT infrastructure. Additionally, the developer is shielded from the complexities of the service implemented behind the APIs, while a pay-as-you-go pricing model further reduces barriers to entry.
Enterprises are moving toward Web-accessible APIs, albeit at a slower pace. Data security is a key concern, as is the risk of adding external dependencies. As a result, there are many companies offering API management services now. These services are offered in on-premise, cloud and hybrid flavors — and are helping to speed the adoption rate of APIs by enterprises. Common features include access portals, development tools, security, analytics and more. Additionally, there are several open-source solutions available. Ultimately, enterprises will embrace APIs from proven, trusted, providers of enterprise-grade solutions and services.
Is your enterprise leveraging the power of Web-accessible APIs yet? If not, it’s time to start thinking about it. Do your business partners offer secure, reliable, managed APIs? If not, make sure it’s on their roadmap. By all accounts, the Age of the API is upon us.