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The World of API simplified – API Integration and API Management

APIs connect applications, systems and partners in real time. From mobile apps, e-business or cloud, to on-site or point-of-sales connections, APIs enable fast, secure, easy access to data and business processes. They enable interaction between systems, applications, mobile devices and apps.

We will answer these questions: What are APIs, exactly? Why are APIs so important? What opportunities and possibilities do APIs offer? How are APIs managed? What does API Full Lifecycle Management include?

We will also introduce you to a useful API solution and answer the most frequently asked questions about APIs and API Management.

APIs are your key to digitalization

1. Why are APIs so important?

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) integrate business processes, services, content and data. They connect partners, systems, internal teams and numerous other sources easily and securely.

APIs shape the digital world. Today there are more than 20,000 APIs listed in API online portal directories, with several hundred being added every month, and the trend is rising. In addition, only public APIs are listed in these directories. If you consider the countless APIs that are currently used internally by companies, the number 20,000 is conservative at best.

Why have APIs become so important to business?

APIs enable existing application functions and data to be leveraged by other systems and applications. This means, for example, that with an API, data within a company database can be made available to other internal systems (i.e. legacy system integration). Before APIs, only isolated or locally used resources could be made available to other systems.

The better a company is internally integrated and the better it connects different applications with each other through APIs, the more accurate and comprehensive the information it obtains, for example, about its customers and itself, which gives it a significant competitive edge.

In addition to internal networking, APIs can also open the door to the outside world for companies to innovate, create new business models and take advantage of their digital transformation. Many companies are already providing APIs to suppliers, customers and other partners to help them access relevant information. In addition, APIs allow this information to be directly implemented into other systems, where it can be accessed in real time. How professional API management can help you stay on top of things is explained in chapter 5 - "API management - how does it work?”.

Where external partners get access to internal APIs, it is often possible to develop a business model that generates additional revenue. There are virtually no limits to the opportunities.

2. What is an API?

API is an acronym for Application Programming Interface. Application Programming Interfaces play an important role in software development. A program provides its functionality to other programs or systems via interfaces, so-called APIs. These APIs connect applications and systems with each other, open data silos, enable developers of new applications to access and reuse existing applications and data sources. They can open various functional units to the outside world and connect platforms with ecosystems. They are designed for real-time scenarios, less for mass data, and enable today's interactions between any system, application, mobile device or app.

In short, APIs as interfaces provide a standardized way for clearly defining the kind of data or functionality a system or application can provide in real-time. These quick and easy entry points to systems and applications have transformed entire business models and initiated completely new strategic business orientations.

3. APIs – new opportunities and possibilities

When Amazon founder Jeff Bezos proclaimed the API First strategy in his famous mandate in 2002, he was already aware that the digital future will be built on a strategy of data opening - not only internally, but also externally

Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of AMAZON, 2002

The Famous Mandate

All teams will henceforth expose their data and functionality through service interfaces
Teams must communicate with each other through these interfaces
No other interprocess communication is allowed other than service interfaces over the network
It doesn't matter what technology they use
All service interfaces, without exception, must be designed to be externalizable. No exceptions
Anyone who doesn't do this will be fired

Two points of this mandate are critical to the development of APIs and the status they have achieved today

Point 1
From now on, all teams will provide their data and functionalities via service interfaces (APIs).

Point 5
All these APIs must be designed to be externalizable - without exception.

(Must be shareable with the customer or the outside world)

So Jeff Bezos first dictates to develop APIs internally, according to the company's own needs (which ensures their practicality). In the following, he orders the synergy effects with business partners to design these APIs from the start in such a way that they can also be used externally.

This is THE reason why Amazon is so successful

  • Almost every retailer today also uses Amazon as a distribution channel - via APIs.
  • Many households stream their videos via Amazon and use Alexa as a voice-controlled search engine - via APIs.
  • Whether for the delivery service, music, or your first own Amazon shop, etc. - the connection runs via APIs.

The development of new services, business models and features is much easier in an IT landscape characterized by API interfaces. Companies are thus prepared for the future in the long term and more attractive for employees, partners and customers. However, the prerequisite for the efficient use of APIs is always professional API management.

Cross-industry competitive advantages thanks to the use of APIs

Many companies provide supply chain management APIs to deliver real-time inventory information

 a complete product catalog or current pricing information to their customers. APIs enable customers to integrate this up-to-date information directly into their ordering system.

Utilities are working to deliver real-time

continuous energy consumption to their corporate customers via APIs using digitalized electricity meters that are integrated via APIs.

Consumer goods companies face market giants like Amazon or Wayfair by offering their services through integrated APIs

or even copying their customer experience and range of services to their own web channels.

Banks are providing their B2B customers with high-quality real-time information

on the status of mass transactions received via traditional integration processes such as MFT.

In many cases, the pay-for-use model has replaced the prepayment model

For consumer goods, this can mean measuring usage and transferring the data via an API to a central billing center.

New high-quality, marketable services were created from the reuse

and/or combination of internal data with the internal digital infrastructure.

Information from the point of sale can be provided directly to the manufacturer of the goods as a chargeable service in real time

he manufacturer can then analyze and use this data in combination with consumer information provided via Twitter or Facebook (via API).

Industrial IoT, APIs and Unlimited Possibilities

Providers of large, electronically controlled machines are now able to centrally monitor machine data using APIs. Each machine is connected to the system via its own APIs and transmits various data at regular intervals. Possible malfunctions and wear are detected at an early stage, maintenance can be provided, and spare parts ordered or exchanged when needed. In conjunction with an API-based infrastructure, this data can be directly networked with the ERP system, inventory, employees, etc., providing multiple opportunities for new efficiencies.

However, the scope of APIs goes beyond machine data. In fact, there are literally no limits to the possible applications. From sensors on a highway, to shipping containers to a cargo bay, data is transmitted via APIs to communicate with stops on a supply chain. Intelligent household appliances can be controlled via applications, desktops can be woven into a communicating IT infrastructure, and external partners can be connected and integrated into your partner portal, all via APIs.

The boundaries of APIs are shifting, and creating new opportunities in the digital age.

4. API Integration – to ensure smooth communication

There are literally no limits to the possible uses of APIs. Be it machine data, sensors on the motorway, containers in shipping or railway trains, they can all transfer data and communicate with the outside world via APIs. Intelligent household appliances can be controlled via applications, desktops can be woven into a communicating IT infrastructure, and external partners can be connected and integrated via APIs. The universe of APIs pushes boundaries and creates new possibilities in the age of digitalization.

Yet, how is it possible that all this data can be collected and used from different sources, via different connections and in different formats? The cue is API integration.

In the context of APIs, API integration refers to the translation process for which the interface is responsible. It enables connected functional units to communicate with each other. The target structure of adjacent functional units and data units can differ greatly, which can make mediation difficult. In addition, outgoing responses must also be transmitted in the appropriate format.

All these translation tasks are handled by API integration.

Another factor is the fact that an API does not necessarily have to be associated with only one functional unit. Depending on the scenario and the structure of the infrastructure, it is necessary that the request of an API must be resolved into various request types on different backend systems. Since the respective backend systems can communicate in different ways, multidimensional API integration is necessary to finally provide a unified response.

Learn more in our blog: "What is API Integration" and discover the challenges associated with API integration and how they can be met.

5. API Management – how does it work?

API management is the process of managing, regulating, securing and monitoring APIs in a secure and protected environment. It enables you to control the increasing number of internal and external APIs used or provided by an organization. Professional API management addresses the needs of all API stakeholders - API publishers, API developers, App developers and API consumers.

API Stakeholders

The company (or department) that provides APIs for others. It is also responsible for administering the APIs and monitoring daily API usage.

Why API Management: Unmanaged APIs are not secure and cannot be reused efficiently. Their acceptance rate is low. If not properly managed, they put a service-based infrastructure of systems and applications at risk because they are not protected. In summary, APIs, if unmanaged, are the primary cause of business vulnerability and ultimately result in high costs. Our API management infographic illustrates the benefits of managed APIs compared to unmanaged APIs.

API management is the solution to avert this threat to the company!

Learn more about the tasks of API management, how it can be part of the API infrastructure and all the challenges in our detailed blog: What is API management?

API Full Life Cycle Management - the challenges

The more APIs an organization provides and the larger the addressed and actual user base, the better it helps to manage APIs with Full Life Cycle Management. It provides a holistic view for managing all APIs.

The entire process from the design and release of an API to the end is called the API Life Cycle. This API Life Cycle has to be managed, documented, and this documentation needs to be made available to all API stakeholders who use the APIs.

After explaining in detail what API integration and API management is all about, API Full Life Cycle Management is the management and control of APIs throughout their entire life cycle. It is therefore to be understood as a maxim of the API management approach. In order to address this challenge in a professional and future-oriented manner, there are various providers on the market.

In summary, API Full Lifecycle Management handles the administration and organisation of the various phases in the life of an API. According to Gartner, the 5 phases of the API lifecycle are

  • Planning and Design: What are the functions of an API, who has access rights, what is the expected volume, etc?
  • Implementation and Testing: API implementation and test definitions to detect problems early on.
  • Deploy and Run (Basic): Adoption of API documentation in the API catalog and definition of guidelines, among others for mediation, traffic management and security.
  • Deploy and Run (Advanced): Definition of further meta information and creation of reports regarding API monetization, adoption and frequency of consumption.
  • Versioning and Retirement: Decision on the basis of collected data whether an API is deactivated, extended or continued as before.

The API Full Life Cycle Management therefore accompanies an API from design and delivery to enhancement or deactivation.

 White Paper

API Security
A Brief Introduction

Read now

6. The API Solution

The previous sections described the individual components in the universe of APIs and their functions. Finally, we address the questions of how these individual elements are connected as a whole and how you as an organization can best use them for your purposes.

The SEEBURGER BIS Platform API Capabilities are a comprehensive solution to support API-based integration. It covers the entire API lifecycle, from creation, implementation, publishing to use, and supports API protection, API usage monitoring, and identity and access rights management.

The SEEBURGER BIS API Solution includes the following components

BIS API Integration (BIS API/EAI-Lösung)

Enables the development, administration, monitoring and control of all types of integration scenarios. This involves both systematic integration and ad hoc integration. The intuitive WebFront-End makes it possible to implement new APIs simply by configuration, even without programming.

BIS API Management (BIS API Management Solution)

Is responsible for ensuring API governance with the associated components

API Gateway

hosts and executes API proxies that enforce API governance. Checks the access
rights of the requester and routes the calls to internal services or converts them to internal interface calls

API Portal

provides customized role-based functionality for API vendors and API consumers/App developers through a Web-based application, minimizing administration and communication overhead.

API First Strategy Supports New Ways of B2B Sales

OSRAM connects multiple systems via API Management and API Integration to Salesforce and has successfully completed the first phase of its Next Generation Sales project.

Companies that want to integrate APIs into their corporate strategy should therefore establish a clear structure from the beginning. Typically, companies start with a few APIs that are easy to manage. The amount of APIs often grows rapidly, making it more and more difficult to maintain control. The number of systems and people involved can also increase quickly, pushing unstructured solutions to their limits.

What does this mean for you?

Consuming or deploying APIs is only one step in a much larger process. Whether you want to use APIs as the foundation for a new business model, centralize internal data, or make everyday work easier for employees with a clear App, you can do it.

APIs are your key to digitalization!

To target an API solution for your business, you need an experienced partner. SEEBURGER offers an API management solution that enables you to master APIs for maximum results.

7. API Glossary

Do you work in a sector with its own specific needs?

Take a look at the SEEBURGER range of industry-specific solutions