Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)

If there’s one word to capture the essence of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), it’s Synergy. The value delivered by using APIs to integrate applications is much greater than the simple sum of the value delivered by individual applications.

Ultimately, your software developers can leverage the work of other software developers to enable your applications to expand their services and run more efficiently. That means customers can purchase products and services with ease, and employees can complete business workflows more efficiently.

And by saving you from having to write software code for a service that already exists, APIs also give your applications the ability to quickly tap into services offered by other applications. This means you can deliver new services to customers and internal users faster while also saving on development costs.

In this series on how to capitalize on APIs for your business, we start by describing how APIs work and the value they provide to businesses. We then guide you through all the key aspects of developing a program for managing internal as well as external APIs. This includes how to design, build, and deliver APIs along with how to secure, document, and test. We also provide advice on creating an enterprise strategy with tips on what it takes to manage an API program and suggestions for identifying an API partner—should you need to outsource components of your program.

What Exactly Are APIs?

Interconnected computer applications

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are the key connectors between business processes that make it easy for customers to buy products and services and for employees to complete internal business workflows. They allow front-end applications to talk to back-end applications to access data and leverage services that add value to the front-end applications.

A prime example is a web application that presents products for sale. When a customer decides to purchase a product, that application connects to an online shopping cart service via an API. The application also relies on an API to connect to a credit card service when the customer submits a payment.

In this article, we define and delve into the three API components and how they work together to enable businesses to run more efficiently. Read more.

What Is the Purpose of an API Key?

Hand reaching for a key

APIs play a key role in helping customers transact business and employees in completing workflow tasks. Given this importance in driving business processes, it’s critical to make sure APIs are accessed only by authorized developers looking to integrate one of their applications with the API.

One of the primary tools in protecting APIs is the API key. API developers can provide an API key, which is a long string of randomly-generated characters, to any developer who meets the criteria for having access to the API. Authorized developers could be internal to the company or work for an external partner with which the company has business relationships and integrates applications.

In this article, we examine API keys, how to generate and use them, and the method they use to authenticate users. Read more.

What Does an API Gateway Do?

Diagram of how an API Gateway works

Gateways play a dual role in supporting APIs. They help ensure only authorized users can access an API, and they manage the traffic that hits an API to make sure it can respond quickly to user calls. In cases where an API is used heavily, the gateway can direct traffic to multiple compute resources so that all users receive fast responses.

This article explains the benefits of API gateways and how they work. It also covers the common use-cases for APIs and the pitfalls to be aware of. Read more.

What are Some Common API Authentication Approaches?

API Authentication Methods

In addition to API keys and API gateways, another important component to secure your APIs is authentication. Authentication validates the identity of clients attempting to make a connection from one application to another via an API. This helps keep cybercriminals from breaching the application infrastructure that encompasses APIs and the applications they connect.

In this article, we provide an overview of API authentication methods and best practices and tips on how to select the right method for your API environment. Taking these measures will ensure you don’t just give access to anyone. Read more.

What is the Difference Between an Open and Closed API?

Door opening against black background

Should you open or close your APIs? The answer will vary according to the role each API plays in your business workflows. Sometimes, the answer is obvious, but in others, it can be a little murky.

Open APIs can attract a larger developer community and encourage the use of your API. But you can also lose control over how the API is leveraged by external developers. While closed APIs allow you to control exactly how your API is used, you may limit the value the APIs can deliver to your business in terms of driving revenue or streamlining workflows you share with partners.

Check out this article to understand the nuances of open and closed APIs as well as the hybrid approach that combines elements of both types. We also provide tips on how to decide which approach is best for your business.

How is the Role of APIs Changing?

Man pointing at the word API inside a gear

As technologies evolve and companies reimagine new ways to conduct business with customers and improve the efficiency of internal workflows, so too do the capabilities of APIs. More and more, developers are integrating their applications with services offered by other applications as customers and internal end-users keep pushing for faster applications that deliver a greater range of functionality.

API ecosystems are also evolving, with stronger security and more detailed documentation. These make it possible for authorized developers to set up integrations faster and bring new services to market sooner. Check out this article to find out more about the evolving roles of APIs.

Why is Documentation Important for APIs?

API Collage

If you want developers to use your APIs, detailed and up-to-date documentation is a must. Learning about the documentation needs of your target audience and then setting up the right format, layout and navigation are all critical. If the documentation isn’t easy to interpret, developers will try someone else’s API.

In this article, we take you through the basics of API documentation along with best practices and technical tips to make sure your APIs deliver their full potential for your business. Read more.

Best Practices for Performance Testing APIs

API testing on white tile against grey background

APIs are just like applications. You have to test before you go live. If APIs don’t perform correctly out of the gate, you may lose your target audience forever.

This article examines the different types of API performance testing and the best practices to ensure a robust testing program. By building a consistent testing process, you can find bugs in your APIs in less time to make sure API development projects stay on schedule. Read more.

Strategies for Designing, Building, and Delivering APIs

Word API on computer window with application design model

For APIs to consistently go into production on time and perform as expected, you need a well-defined process. You also need to help your API team become proficient in the three main phases—designing, building and delivering.

The key is to develop a strategy that puts planning ahead of coding during the designing phase, incorporates best-practice standards into the building phase to ensure development efficiency, and factors in the target audience when determining how to deliver APIs. Read more to find out how to help your target audiences solve their API challenges so your business can seize upon the opportunities that APIs enable.

Aligning Your API Strategy with API Marketplaces

API marketplace concept

Just like the business plan for any set of products, the strategy that goes into your API program needs to take into account where you will be selling—API marketplaces. Marketplaces play a vital role in making it easy for developers to find your APIs. They can also assist you in monetizing your APIs. The marketplaces you choose will thus go a long way towards determining the success of your APIs.

This article discusses the benefits of API marketplaces for both publishers and developers while comparing marketplaces to API portals. We also make recommendations as to how marketplaces should govern APIs and what the API marketplace of the future will look like. Read more.

How to Measure the Value of Your APIs

Dial showing performance increasing

How do you know if your APIs are performing well? Yes, key performance indicators (KPIs) will do the trick, but it’s just as important to focus on the right KPIs. It’s easy to get caught up in the wrong numbers that give you a false sense of whether or not your KPIs are delivering sufficient value.

To help you take on this challenge, this article presents how API KPIs vary depending on the role of each person examining the KPIs. Understanding the different perspectives is key because executives, developers, and program managers will value a different set of numbers. We also recommend which APIs to focus on for performance, to measure the impact on development, and to determine the impact on the business. Read more.

Full Lifecycle API Management

Word API on futuristic background

APIs are living, breathing entities that require careful management throughout their lifecycle—from the initial planning phase all the way to retirement. Take your eye off the ball during any phase, and your APIs will likely to go off the tracks in fulfilling their mission.

In this article, we take you through all the steps of API lifecycle management and provide recommendations on how to put all the people, processes, and technology into the right places to make sure your API processes run smoothly. Read more.

API Security Best Practices

Futuristic Padlock Around Stream of Data

Given that APIs connect applications to each other and to various databases, API security has ramifications that can impact entire ecosystems of supply chain partners as well as internal application infrastructures. A breach to one API could give a cybercriminal or unauthorized user access to all the applications and databases that connect to that API, thus exposing valuable digital assets belonging to businesses and their partners.

To help you take on the API security challenge, this article presents the best practices for securing both web and REST APIs. We also cover how an API gateway offers an extra layer of security that’s well worth the investment. Read more.

API Design Best Practices

API on computer monitor

Digital transformation is key for businesses to enable their internal teams to collaborate when working remotely and for making it easy for customers to do business online. The mission to achieve digital transformation is influenced heavily by APIs and how well they seamlessly connect business processes through application integrations. Generating APIs that facilitate digital transformation starts with API design.

This article reviews the three main patterns to consider for API design and provides best-strategies along with technical tips to create API designs that enable a smooth development process and deliver the capabilities to drive digital transformations. Read more.

Managing Consumption of APIs

Word API against white background

In addition to the APIs you develop internally, your business also needs a program to manage your use of external third-party APIs. Finding and tapping into the right third-party APIs can save coding time for your internal developers and allow your applications to access services and data that help generate revenue and speed up your business processes.

In this article, we discuss how to use and manage third-party APIs. We also help you determine how to make the decision as to whether it’s better to rely on a third-party API vs. when it makes sense to develop the API yourself.

The Role of an API Product Manager

Woman smiling at coworker

owning a business—where production, human resources, marketing and the P&L statement all come into play.

This article covers the responsibilities of API Product Managers and gives advice on how to juggle the interests of the various stakeholders who are involved in an API program. By starting with a well-devised vision, API Product Managers can make sure the ship stays on course. Read more.

Developing an Enterprise API Strategy

Chess piece knocking over King

When an API is needed to connect two applications, the knee-jerk reaction is often to simply throw a developer into the mix and just get it done right away. But with APIs playing such a key role in business processes, and so many applications requiring internal and external integration, if there’s no strategy in place before development begins, that type of reaction is likely to cause more problems than it solves.

This article takes you through the nine components of an enterprise API management strategy to give you a high-level plan of where your API program needs to go. From there, we examine the elements that go into developing a tactical plan for addressing all the details that are necessary to drive your API strategy. Read more.

Benefits of Selecting an API Partner

Two men shaking hands

Now that this series has taken you through all the key considerations for designing, implementing, and maintaining an API program, you may have come to the realization that you don’t have sufficient internal resources to build an API program the right way. Many other businesses find themselves in the same position. That’s where an API partner can help.

While your internal team continues to focus on your applications, an API partner can integrate your applications internally and with external applications. They know the best practices to apply and the pitfalls to avoid in order to make sure your APIs perform as expected and get used at the level you plan for. Check out this article for a rundown of the key criteria for selecting an API partner and the partnership details to consider for finding the candidate who is the right fit.