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It's prime time for API management

My grandson is just a tot, but he already understands the concept of multisource integration. Chicken nuggets from here, ketchup from there, a fork from, well, somewhere, and you’ve got yourself a comprehensive system. Call it the day-care version of APIs.

For us grown-ups, APIs make the world go round. My standard example is a culinary recipe app that pulls in data from numerous sources — weather, geographic, day of year, time of day, locally available farm-fresh veggies, supermarket promotions, user’s likes and dislikes — to recommend a recipe of the day to the app user. It’s a data integration example I can explain to anyone. And, of course, APIs make it possible.

Last week, Red Hat proved the increasing importance of APIs in app development beyond any doubt with its acquisition of API management tools vendor 3scale. In my exclusive joint interview with Mike Piech, Red Hat’s vice president of middleware, and 3scale CEO Steve Willmott, they explained why everything that developers touch is predicated upon APIs.

Willmott said over the last 18 months he had witnessed APIs becoming the backbone of many infrastructures, but that IT often lacked the means to manage, track, and secure their APIs. Piech agreed, saying that as recently as two years ago, API management rarely came up as a top-level requirement. That has changed as disparate infrastructures and services — on-premises, public and private cloud, software as a service, analytics as a service, data storage as a service, etc. all have to interoperate.

If it can be summed up in a single sentence, Willmott gets the gold medal, “APIs are the glue between on-premises and cloud-based components,” he said. I’ve thought of APIs more along the lines of conduits than glue, but Willmott is spot-on with his assessment.

The message here is not that APIs are hot or necessary. We all know that. What we’ve collectively not done superbly is manage the ever-growing collection or public and private APIs that enterprises purchase, subscribe to, or develop internally. Just as you need to know what keys are on that keychain in your pants pocket or handbag, you also need to know that your keychain is secure. API management is no different.

Cloud consultant David Linthicum is also an advocate of creating and instituting an active API management strategy. “API management should be a priority for any organization using the cloud,” he writes. He’s right.

It’s time for a robust discussion about APIs. What has APIs enabled that you could not do before? Who is testing your APIs for accuracy and security? And, to leverage the message of Red Hat’s 3scale acquisition, how are you managing your API portfolio. Share your thoughts; we’d like to hear from you.