Open APIs drive the programmable enterprise

  • With the rise of APIs, the entire IT landscape is now programmable.
  • As applications become easier to develop and scale, IT infrastructure will emerge as a true service.

Just about anywhere you turn in IT these days, it seems like there is an application programming interface (API) that has been exposed to make it easier to consume one function or another. Whether it’s an application, a piece of infrastructure, or a cloud computing service, the entire IT landscape is now programmable, thanks to the rise of open APIs.

Of course, having an API is one thing; being able to actually consume it is often quite another. APIs can be notoriously unstable. When changes are made to a service or application, the API exposing it all too often breaks.

For that reason, ecosystems of APIs are emerging out of all the online application stores that have sprung up during the last couple of years. Providers of core IT services are organizing not only their own APIs, but also the APIs that their business partners expose. The idea is to provide directories of APIs that make it a lot simpler to discover an API and really understand the functions it was designed to provide.

An infrastructure for data exchange

Taken together, these directories of APIs are forming the foundation of an API Economy that promises to transform how businesses of all sizes operate in a digital age. Much of this API economy is being enabled by the emergence of RESTful APIs that provide a lighter-weight framework for exchanging data across HTTP.

At the IT infrastructure level, RESTful APIs will give developers direct control over a broad range of network, compute, and storage resources residing locally and in the cloud. Instead of having to wait weeks for an IT organization to manually provision resources, developers can now invoke them on demand. In effect, developers have access to self-service options that fundamentally change the dynamics of DevOps. All of this doesn’t mean that IT operations goes away; it just means that infrastructure resources are being made available programmatically at a higher level of abstraction.

A software-defined infrastructure that can be invoked via an API is clearly where the next generation of enterprise IT is heading. In fact, rather than thinking in terms of invoking an API per IT infrastructure function, APIs that expose clearly priced “pods” of compute, storage, and networking resources in pre-defined units of integrated capacity will be the new norm.

Funding the framework

The challenge most IT organizations will face is trying to fund a forklift upgrade to provide the level of accessibility and quality of service developers will demand. Rather than having developers invoke a raft of cloud computing services on their own, a common framework for providing the services will give IT organizations more control and visibility into how they are consumed.

Obviously, there are significant financial implications once organizations begin to think of IT as an operational expense versus capital equipment they need to manage. But with more applications being developed in the cloud, it makes sense from a development standpoint to invoke IT infrastructure as a true service. The reason for this is fairly simple: The less time it takes to provision and deploy an application, the more applications can be deployed. In fact, in the not too distant future, the notion of an application development backlog may become just the latest IT anachronism.

APIs enable the delivery of highly automated IT services, and perhaps the most important thing to remember is that organizations can now scale enterprise IT in a way that no one ever thought imaginable. In fact, at this point, arguably the only real limitation going forward may be the imagination of the developers themselves.




Michael Vizard IT Editor Freelance About Michael