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Three Letters That Are Key to Driving Digital Transformation: A-P-I

The key to digital transformation is figuring out how to improve without throwing out existing investments. Three letters can help: API.


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As organizations strive to improve the customer experience, they are going through a digital transformation focused on leveraging some of the latest trends at their disposal to help keep and grow their customer base — mobile, cloud and Internet of Things (IoT). They are finding that in the journey, no one is starting from scratch with an ideal backend to deliver the services and apps for mobile and cloud, for example. Previous efforts at addressing complexity in the backend may have resulted in a service-based architecture pattern.

This resulting SOA infrastructure likely consisted of applications exposed only to other internal applications, delivered on various mainframe and distributed platforms, connected via adapters to an enterprise service bus (ESB) and exposing XML-based Web services over HTTP, MQ or JMS. The problem is, in a digital world, these services are not easily consumed by today's mobile app developers. These are the buzzwords of yesterday — SOA, ESB and legacy.

But this is the reality of a digital transformation. The key is figuring out how to transform without throwing out existing investments. Three letters can help: API (Application Programming Interface). Whether it's creating new sources of revenue in the front-office, or unlocking data siloes on the backend, APIs are at the heart of an organization's digital initiatives and its resulting successes.

The Problems with the Status Quo: Cost, Complexity and Security

Let's consider SOA and ESB as the status quo. Those initiatives likely took a huge investment of time and money to get them just right. They may have been good enough for the needs of yesterday, but as organizations strive to build a path for digital, multi-channel engagement with customers, they need a modernized approach that helps alleviate some of the challenges with SOA / ESB:



Cost: Many have committed millions in sunken costs to SOA and ESB deployments. For example, application servers and queue servers and orchestration engines and registries and governance tools create a huge overhead. On the software side, the application code, mappings to legacy systems, and adapter configurations all require training, development, lifecycle management and maintenance.

Outmoded: Even the most efficient, highly optimized traditional SOA/ESB infrastructure isn't capable of responding to today's pace of business, which demands mobile, cloud and IoT. These systems cannot handle the next generation of modern app development. Here's why: They don't expose modern interfaces using REST and JSON to best enable rapid developer adoption and low-bandwidth mobile interfaces. They aren't ready to connect to SaaS services in the cloud to broaden the enterprise data center and integrate best-of-breed offerings. And they aren't prepared for the next wave of IoT as the concept of "Things" moves from smartphones and tablets to homes and cars and wearables.

Security: In any digital transformation it's imperative to engage with third parties and those entities outside the company, such as partners and customers. The ability to provide the threat protection and access control standards necessary to expose internal assets to others outside of the company is critical.

It's as Easy as A-P-I

The good news is you can digitally transform your business without starting from scratch and throwing away the investment you've already made in SOA and ESB architectures. The answer lies in three letters and one word: API management. API management can extend your existing investment, and this is not a secret. One analyst firm reports the API management market is expected to quadruple by 2020 as business goes digital.

There are many ways API management can extend an existing investment:

  • It can be a bridge between your SOA environment or ESB and the new use cases, consuming services exposed through previous initiatives, mapping message formats and protocols to developer-facing interfaces on-the-fly, and doing so with very little configuration.
  • API management can co-exist with an existing ESB. For example there are products that enable avoidance or reduced dependency on complex ESB products in many cases, as described generically as the "NoESB" concept.
  • For organizations that haven't yet made a major investment in ESB or SOA architectures, but would still benefit from the features, there are offerings available that include the critical features of a lightweight ESB and can often stand alone as a single solution providing dual functionality.

API management can remove the emphasis and need for extensive new investment in existing ESB or SOA infrastructure. By focusing on APIs and their value chain, organizations can address digital business requirements.

The business and its developers should be able to concentrate on building delightful apps, enabling partners and employees, and discovering innovative routes to market, not pouring further investment into systems that aren't going to deliver the security, functionality and flexibility needed for the digital world. But the right API management engagement can provide all the modernization needed while leveraging existing investments.

About the Author

Jaime Ryan is Senior Director, Product Management & Strategy at CA Technologies, leading integrations between CA API Management and other CA and partner technologies. Jaime was at Layer 7 prior to CA's acquisition in June 2013, where his responsibilities included technical strategy, partnerships, evangelism, marketing and analyst relations. He has been building secure integration architectures as a developer, architect, consultant and author for the last fifteen years, and currently resides in San Diego with his wife and two daughters.

 

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