By Kirk Bohn
Cloud Services Enablement Leader
There is a lot of industry buzz around application programming interfaces (APIs) and their importance, especially as they relate to cloud, cloud services, obtaining relevant information and utilizing them to break into new markets and scale business. This article provides a good overview and how you can move forward with cloud and APIs.
What Is an API?
The API is a cornerstone of today’s software world and can be used to develop for specific platforms, such as Windows. However, newer platform providers, like Salesforce, Facebook and Twitter, are producing APIs that can help the developer; a specific company; or, in some cases, individuals who don’t even know how to program. APIs can also leverage data and information to help organizations become more efficient and expand into other opportunities.
As the name suggests, APIs are a language that lets one product or service (think Google Maps) talk to another (think Weather Underground) that most likely shares a different code and produces a specific result. Because these inherently different platforms can exchange data, this common language allows you to combine their different capabilities (or just the pieces you need) and even create entirely new products and services.
To break it down, let’s look at the application, programming and interface pieces separately.
- Application: Think about the apps on a smartphone. From basic calculator functions, to email, to games or social media… these are all different kinds of applications.
- Programing: Programing is how individuals, such as software engineers, make the applications we use to play our games or connect to our friends via social media.
- Interface: An interface is a common place shared by two apps that allows communication between the two. This is a common tool, like a laptop or smartphone.
Basically, an API is a common way for people to interface with a certain application, in a certain way that it will understand, on a common device, in a common fashion. Easy peasy!
It’s interesting to think that APIs are a seemingly new idea, but the travel industry has been using machine-to-machine communication for decades. While APIs started relatively early (eBay launched their first API in 2000 and Amazon launched their first in 2002), particularly in the field of e-commerce, they haven’t become truly relevant until they started supporting cloud solutions and mobile tools.
Benefits of APIs
- Businesses create apps with APIs: Many cloud businesses today are creating software and tools that pull certain data from open APIs that can help them run more efficiently, which results in rapid growth and larger profits.
- People in business use apps: APIs are important for business people because they allow software developers to develop cool tools in the cloud that help us more effectively do our jobs.
- Businesses need open APIs: APIs are important for businesses that provide them, because their software developers can build out their own cloud applications that can feature the company’s main product or service.
Four Ways Cloud Companies Can Use APIs
- PaaS APIs: Platform as a Service APIs offer access to the different features of a cloud-based service. For this to work, the service must be integrated with the original infrastructure’s own elements – this connection is always done with APIs.
- SaaS APIs: Software as a Service APIs enable the connection between cloud-based functionality/software and the entire system infrastructure that supports the source platform. For instance, a typical example is to use APIs for connecting to a cloud-based CRM or CMS platform (content editor), which connects them to the entire underlying system infrastructure.
- IaaS APIs: Infrastructure as a Service APIs permit the resources that live in the cloud-based service to be easily managed.
- Multiple providers of cloud services: The most common scenario in companies today is to coexist with multiple providers in the cloud, where each one offers services with extremely varied engagement concepts – from Platform as a Service or Infrastructure as a Service to Software as a Service. APIs are the most effective way to manage increasingly complex models and are essentially the keys that open all the doors.
Learn More About APIs and ArrowSphere
Here at Arrow, we utilize APIs in our ArrowSphere cloud marketplace – an online portal that allows partners to do business with and leverage our cloud vendors. ArrowSphere uses APIs to send bill feeds that our partners can use to automate their MRR billing, automate consumption, make reports available in real-time and even allow partners to build their own white-labeled cloud portal. So, are you buzzing with excitement over the potential of APIs yet?
ArrowSphere is just one of Arrow’s offerings that differentiates us a value-added cloud distributor. If you have questions about how Arrow can help you build your cloud business or want more information about ArrowSphere or APIs, feel free to drop me a quick note and let’s chat – Kirk Bohn. In addition, if you are interested in learning more about APIs, check out this API crash course.