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[Article] Leveraging digital-ready businesses with WSO2 API Manager

  • By Chamin Dias
  • 26 Apr, 2017


Why go “digital-ready”?

In the last decade, there has been a rapid development in the Internet and its infrastructure. As a result, the world has converted into a global village and has had an impact on various businesses as well. Business owners are now able to expand their customer base with the aid of internet and web-based technologies. For example, consider a local shop owner who has a store with a simple website; the owner can expand the business by providing facilities, such as online ordering. Another example can be found in the finance sector; today, most banks offer facilities to handle accounts without visiting the bank. Bill payments, fund transfers, and other internet banking facilities are among some sample use cases. The medical industry too now leverages web services to offer better customer services, such as e-channeling.

Moreover, cloud computing-based solutions too have become increasingly popular as it enables users to consume services hosted on the cloud. What this means is that customers can easily access their data, transactions, surveillance systems, etc. from anywhere in the world. To reap the benefits of this wave, businesses must convert their operations in such a way to be ready to ‘go digital’ fast. This in turn will help the business expose its services to a wider community and further expand its boundaries, all of which will contribute to business growth.


API driven business model and its benefits

In any real-world business, customers and service providers have to negotiate using a business contract. This can be a verbal discussion or a well-structured agreement. This is the same for a digital ready business too. Hence, we need a mechanism to define and maintain this type of contract in any business, irrespective of the nature of the business.

In a digitized business world, an API can be considered as a contract. It acts as a contract between the service providers and consumers. This makes it easier to include an API as a digital agreement between a business and consumers. Services can be exposed through APIs so it can be easily accessed by the community.

Figure 1: Expanding customer base using API driven business model

Today most customers expect access to data anytime, anywhere across a range of devices. Apart from this, in order to serve a wider community, a business needs a stable and powerful interface that resides between service providers (i.e. the business) and consumers. In some cases, customers would like to consume a service in their own way that might differ from one to another. In such scenarios, the interface (which connects the business/service and consumers) should be extendable to facilitate each and every customer. Considering these factors, it is clear that APIs are the best option to tackle the new challenges in today’s digitized business world, while leveraging the competitive advantages.

With the rapid development of networking and the Internet, the world has transformed to an interconnected global village. As a result, many new market segments have opened up in most industries. In order to reach new market segments, business owners should optimally use technology and expand their businesses and provide their services to a wider community.

To this end, APIs have become useful increasingly popular in the business world. APIs are the key foundation of digital transformation that allows enterprises to expose a business functionality to unlock the true value of the digital assets, create business agility, and promote innovation and collaboration. This argument is supported by the findings of a recent survey carried out by Forrester.


Leveraging a digital-ready business with WSO2 API Manager

Now that we’ve established the importance of digitally transforming a business with the help of APIs, let’s explore some key areas that need to be considered in an API driven, digitized business model. We also discuss how these can be addressed using WSO2 API Manager.


Managing digital assets

In today’s business world, technology and people need to work together to provide the required business agility to face competition. In such a situation, it’s important to maintain connections with people (i.e. stakeholders) and back-end services. APIs are capable of modeling that kind of relationship. To take advantage of this, business owners should use a solution that allows them to manage the entire lifecycle of APIs (i.e. the digital asset). It should facilitate designing, creating, publishing, and managing APIs to enable business agility.

Figure 2: Visual representation of API lifecycle in WSO2 API Manager

WSO2 API Manager is capable of managing an API through its entire lifecycle. At the same time, it provides facilities to follow all key API management best practices. The API first design approach, API versioning, and associating service level agreements (SLA) can be achieved by using WSO2 API Manager because it’s a carefully engineered, production ready API management solution. Therefore, WSO2 API Manager is capable of facilitating digital businesses by creating and managing digital assets to reach a wider community via APIs.


Increasing the value of current legacy systems

Some businesses might have existing legacy systems that are deeply embedded into their enterprise; the enterprises would have possibly invested a significant amount of time and money on these too. However, transforming into a digital business does not mean that they need to completely eliminate their existing architecture. The only requirement is to ensure the existing legacy system is API accessible. By doing so, owners can leverage the capabilities and use them for new solutions. Since APIs are capable of encapsulating complexities in the legacy system while exposing functionalities to stakeholders, this won’t be a nightmare. At the same time, APIs will help to overcome the challenges (security, monetization, real-time analysis, scalability, etc.) in the existing legacy system by transforming outdated techniques to latest, user-friendly technologies. Service orchestration and back-end services combination can also be achieved if required.

Figure 3: Overview of capabilities of WSO2 API Manager

With WSO2 API Manager, aforementioned tasks can be achieved without much trouble. WSO2 API Manager is designed to expose services in a secure and controlled manner. Securing APIs
, enforcing throttlingand resource access policies, managing workflowextensions, message mediation and API analytics are some of the major areas that can add value to an existing legacy system, while preserving the current user base.

In addition, it’s possible to expose microservices in WSO2 API Manager too. The benefits of exposing microservices in WSO2 API Manager and how it can be done is described in a separate article.


Making effective decisions based on reliable insight

In today’s competitive business environment, organizations should try to provide a better customer service and use their resources in the most optimal manner. In order to achieve both of the above, they must make strategic decisions from time to time based on reliable information sources about resource utilization and user experience. At the same time, taking proactive action at the correct time is a key factor of a successful business. It will help organizations to offer a better customer experience while exposing their services in the most optimal manner. Hence, if the business needs to be productive and efficient, decision makers should use a solution that’s capable of providing facilities related to gaining knowledge from statistics/analytics via real-time analysis and batch analysis.

Since API is the main “digital asset,” in an API driven business model, service providers should monitor APIs closely. With WSO2 API Manager analytics model, this can be done easily. The WSO2 API analytics model facilitates a wide range of options to monitor API related activities. These options include monitoring API usage, resource usage, API latency, usage across geo locations, faulty invocations, and managing real-time alerts related to various aspects. Moreover, it provides a mechanism to analyze logs with its log analyzer capabilities as well. In addition, the WSO2 API Manager analytics model facilitates real-time alerting as well. The alert management system is capable of triggering alerts for different purposes based on real-time analysis. With this alerting model, it is very easy to get notifications when the required action is triggered. Therefore, WSO2 API Manager + Analytics setup can be considered as a complete and reliable dashboard for decision makers.

Figure 4: Some statistics shown in WSO2 API Manager

There is a separate article about generating insights with WSO2 API Manager Analytics, for further reading.


Latest technology support with improved user experience

Customers today expect to have access to their data, transactions etc. from anywhere in the world using different devices. Therefore, if a business needs to stay retain customers and stay ahead of competition, they must be able to facilitate such requirements. As mentioned earlier, cloud computing and cloud-based service models are becoming increasingly popular. Hence, customers like to use those trending technologies to make their lives easier.

WSO2 API Manager can be hosted on the cloud as well. It is publicly available for evaluation purposes. Anyone can try it for free and evaluate its features and use WSO2 API Cloud as their production environment. Using WSO2 cloud has its own advantages, such as lower operating costs, ability to expose any web service as an API, accepting subscribers, and API monetization, among others.

In some cases, customers might use different languages/platforms to consume a service that’s exposed via an API. In such scenarios, WSO2 API Manager provides a facility to consume the service across various software platforms using SDKs. It will enable support for a wide range of software and applications.

Figure 5: Multiple language support using SDKs

Software application developers can use the provided SDK as a toolbox and write code/application to consume the service by just calling the methods with the respective parameters. More information is available in a separate article.


Security and access control

Today, security is a key concern in any IT application. This has the same importance for an API driven business model as well. Irrespective of the nature of service, security is one of the most critical factors when you consider a digitized business.

With WSO2 API Manager, API publishers will not need to worry about the security of their APIs because WSO2 API Manager has in-built support for API security, mainly based on OAuth 2.0. API consumers should obtain an access token to consume the subscribed APIs, which is handled by the in-built key manager component of WSO2 API Manager. It is possible to extend the key manager interface if needed as well. WSO2 API Manager supports the four most common authorization grant types and you can also define additional types. The grant types are used to authorize access to protected resources in different ways. Moreover, WSO2 API Manager can be used to facilitate fine-grained resource usage and access control related to API management if needed. This is powered by scope management feature in WSO2 API Manager. Refer to this article for more details about scope management with a real-world example.


Promote, advertise, and socialize services

Social media platforms have a widespread network and the ability to reach a large audience. As a result, enterprises are increasingly using social media sites to promote their products and services. It’s clear that the use of social media can help organizations to boost their brand and possibly expand revenue too. In an API-driven business, socializing APIs is important to generate more revenue to service providers who are exposing their services via APIs.

Figure 6: Some community features in WSO2 API Manager

Community features in WSO2 API Manager are useful for this requirement. These community features can be found in the API Store as this is where the APIs are presented to the outside world. Rating APIs, commenting, discussion forum, searching, sharing on social media, and API widgets are some community features that can be useful when promoting digital services via social platforms. Accordingly, we can see that community features in WSO2 API Manager is an effective method to promote the services provided in an API driven business model.


Conclusion

The world has transformed to a global village due to recent development in IT and communication technologies. This has affected many businesses in different dimensions. In order to succeed in today’s highly competitive environment, businesses need to expand their boundaries by transforming digitally. To this end, going digital will facilitate their efforts to expand their consumer base, globally. In this context, APIs would be very effective for the digital transformation process of businesses because API-driven business models have many advantages not only for owners, but for consumers as well.

WSO2 API manager can be used in API driven, digital business models. It’s a complete, enterprise-ready solution for managing APIs across the entire API lifecycle; organizations can use it to take competitive advantage and expand their API driven businesses while using the latest trending technologies, such as cloud computing, API-based web services, etc.

Applies to

  • Version 2.1.0 and above

About Author

  • Chamin Dias
  • Software Engineer
  • WSO2
Chamin is a Software Engineer at WSO2. Prior to joining WSO2, Chamin worked at KPMG (Sri Lanka) as a Trainee Business Analyst (Intern) where he and his team was responsible for system reviews at leading banks and finance institutions. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. In addition to that, he is a passed finalist of the examination of the Association of Accounting Technicians of Sri Lanka.