2 Aug, 2022 | 3 min read

How to Innovate Fast with API-First and API-Led Integration

  • Samuel Niraj
  • Campaign Specialist / Senior Growth Marketing Officer - WSO2

Photo by Cesar Carlevarino Aragon on Unsplash

First published on The New Stack .

How can you innovate quickly with APIs? Most companies are already implementing them, and some have success stories to share. But even enterprises that embraced APIs and were able to deliver their first ones quickly struggled over time as the extra work that went into managing, reusing and maintaining APIs became so intensive that it slowed down innovation by the time they reached hundreds of APIs

This paradox of continued innovation slowing you down is a situation that more and more organizations are likely to find themselves facing as the majority of global 2000 companies continue to add more APIs and as demand for APIs and DevOps continues to skyrocket.

Estimates peg the global API management market to grow to $5.1 billion by 2023, up from $1.2 billion in 2018 — a compound annual growth rate of 32.9%.

Furthermore, the fourth State of API Integration Report states that API integration is essential to 83% of businesses and IT infrastructures. These stats show how important APIs are for digital businesses.

Some of these challenges are:

  • It takes too long to deliver new APIs, integrations and services or to even make changes.
  • API dependencies are slowing us down as it becomes harder to coordinate across larger groups, backend systems and consumers.
  • API portals are hard to use, or somehow consumers aren’t finding, trying and reusing APIs as they should.
  • Maintenance costs are rising, in part because of the dependencies and other tasks that must be performed after the first release.
  • Security is an issue. It’s not that most APIs have security problems, though there are some. It takes more time to ensure security is adequate.
  • Governance is slow. API governance isn’t bad, but slow, manual governance processes, added after development, end up giving governance a bad name.

A Platform for Building and Managing APIs

For all these reasons, development team leaders in IT organizations across industries are seeking different approaches to improve productivity and time to market as they grow, without sacrificing security and governance.

Many have assembled their own technologies as they have tried to deliver a more productive, cloud native platform-as-a-shared-service that different teams can use to create, compose and manage services and APIs. They try to combine integration, service development and API-management technologies on top of container-based technologies like Docker and Kubernetes. Then they add tooling on top to implement DevOps and CI/CD pipelines. Afterward comes the first services and APIs to help expose legacy systems via integration, for example.

When developers have access to such a platform within their preferred tools and can reuse core APIs instead of spending time on legacy integration, it means they can spend more time on designing and building the value-added APIs faster.

At best, a group can use all the capabilities because it spreads the adoption of best practices, helps get teams ramped up faster and makes them deliver quicker. But at the very least, APIs should be shared and governed together.

Support Multiple Developer Frameworks and Tools

When delivering value-added digital solutions, many heterogeneous frameworks must be used. In this context, there must be a proper way to support multiple teams, frameworks and tools as they all contribute to the successful delivery of the product. While you should make it easy to use the complete digital platform to create new APIs, you also need to make it easy for any team to just use the digital platform for reuse, collaboration and API management. If you support them well, they will come.

Provide Simplified DevOps

Part of the goal of a shared digital platform is to manage all APIs, integrations and services, in part to increase reuse. This, in turn, helps shorten time to market and, in part, ensures secure APIs that consumers can trust. The other goal is to make it easier for everyone to deliver APIs and innovate fast. Many groups cannot do this alone. They prefer all the infrastructure provided to them, along with simplified developer tools that hide a lot of the complexity and automate many of the steps.

Integrate a Shared-Service Catalog into All Tools

Everything that needs to be reused must be easy to discover, learn, adapt and change over time. That requires a developer portal at the very least. But ideally, you should make it easy to reuse any component — an API, microservice or integration — in different environments. The easiest way is to let them be consumed as APIs, regardless of whether they are public or private.

Build In Governance from Security to Life Cycle Management

One of the most important changes you can make to improve productivity and time to market is to make security and governance processes a part of core DevOps and streamline or automate them as much as possible. Governance is often seen as a bad word, but only bad governance — governance that is added after APIs are developed and done as a highly manual process — is bad. If you build in the right API discovery, design, security and life cycle steps into the development process, you will increase reuse, accelerate the development of new APIs, lower the amount of rework and cut out the manual processes that happen afterward. Additionally, you will deliver much faster, and the security of your API and development operations will also improve. By providing consistent and repeatable API security and governance processes, organizations can adhere to a variety of security standards and reduce the risks associated with being out of compliance.

To find out more about how you can help developers improve productivity for business success, we encourage you to download a copy of our e-book today.