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Demystifying the cloud service API

Cloud APIs are crucial for a successful cloud deployment, but they demand careful design and management. Here are some frequently asked questions to help you get started.

A cloud service API is critical are critical for integrating enterprise applications and workloads with cloud environments. There are applications that must connect to various cloud services, and APIs offer a set of protocols that help create a bridge between those workloads and the cloud.

Without APIs' open lines of communication between one application and another, the world of cloud would be a very quiet place.

Here are some API 101 frequently asked questions to help you develop and manage cloud computing APIs.

What are the characteristics of a good cloud service API?

APIs are strategically important to a corporation, so they must be effective and dependable. Every good API is defined by certain characteristics. One important feature of any API is to be available to both Windows and Linux developers, since it should be compatible with multiple operating systems. In addition, API documentation and example clients should be made public so developers know how to use it.

To minimize disruptions caused by a cloud provider's API updates, developers should look for providers who design their APIs with a long-term commitment to features like syntax and function calls.

With so much traffic, cloud computing APIs need to be scalable in order to withstand increased demand. Security is also a top priority, so make sure your APIs use the same authorization and authentication services as other enterprise interfaces. Lastly, for ease of use, any upgraded or new API versions should have minimal changes and be compatible with previous versions.

A simple way to find out if you're using well-designed APIs is to check if the team who developed them is also using them.

What risks does a cloud service API introduce?

Nothing in IT comes without risk, and using APIs are no exception. Cloud APIs have an attack surface that makes them vulnerable to injection attacks. A hacker can attack the API by sending fake API commands to the applications or its components, which can compromise the application. To prevent these attacks, developers should reference public documentation to understand what the APIs should and should not do, as well as how they should be implemented into the application.

Sessionless security practices, including HTTP or token-based authentication, can help prevent attacks. In addition, avoid putting usernames and passwords in simple object access protocol headers. IT pros should also perform frequent security tests on their cloud computing APIs.

What are the drawbacks of using a cloud provider's API?

A common fear when dealing with a cloud provider's API is vendor lock-in. Workloads and applications can become functionally dependent on a provider's API, as developers design their processes to work efficiently with that provider's service. While lock-in can be tough to avoid, cloud governance models and using an open source cloud platform can reduce the risks.

To minimize disruptions caused by a cloud provider's API updates, developers should look for providers who design their APIs with a long-term commitment to features like syntax and function calls. Every update forces developers to conduct the tedious process of updating, retesting and patching their applications. Look at the cloud provider's API update history to see how often they are conducted.

How can I boost my cloud API performance?

Today, every business wants reliability and speed, so cloud service API performance is extremely important. If you are using APIs that receive numerous calls -- or have many users accessing the service -- at the same time, performance can wane and create an unstable API. Minimize disruptions by using management tools to throttle API calls when usage increases.

In addition, look for cloud provider APIs that use consistent design calls. Inconsistencies cause developers lots of headaches, and make the cloud computing APIs harder to adopt and learn.

Next Steps

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Take this quiz on API codes, RESTful APIs and more.

 

This was last published in February 2016

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