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IBM tunes up API Harmony with cognitive technology for Bluemix

IBM steps up its API strategy with a new version of API Harmony through Bluemix, and a partnership with The Linux Foundation to promote the acceptance of open APIs.

IBM has doubled down on its cloud-based API strategy, delivering improvements to its API Harmony matchmaking offering along with forming a joint project with The Linux Foundation to create an open API ecosystem.

One of the improvements to API Harmony is the first-time integration of machine learning capabilities. This cognitive technology can better assist user organizations through an intelligent search technology that locates APIs and helps them choose the combination of APIs best suited for a particular application.

The new technology works in concert with IBM's API management software to help IT create, assemble, manage and secure APIs through a portal that allows developers to interact and use already published APIs. The API Harmony service is available through IBM's cloud on BlueMix.

"Developers typically spend huge amounts of time trying to not only find the right API, but the right versions of that API in mountains of code they have to comb through," said Angel Diaz, vice president of cloud architecture and technology for IBM. "But with the new improvements, [API Harmony] can find and intelligently query millions of APIs and, as importantly, millions more versions of those APIs.

"Think of it as a Web crawler for APIs," he said.

The cognitive technologies IBM has infused into the updated version tells developers what they need in order to build a specific application, make recommendations about which APIs to use, display the various relationships among multiple APIs and tell them what is missing.

Offerings like API Harmony will be necessary for larger organizations to get full access to data stored across a wide range of host-based systems and to share it internally and externally, said Dan Hushon, CTO with Computer Sciences Corp. in Falls Church, Va.

"We are always looking at ways to expose information locked inside legacy information, and to do so in substantially more standard ways," Hushon said. "Being able to get that information out to clients with more context can allow them to make better decisions resulting in things like higher user productivity or better communication with business partners."

IBM officials see these offerings as the way forward for organizations wanting to participate in the API Economy, which they said involves the commercial exchange of "business functions and other competencies in APIs." They believe it will be the key driver that spurs much of the digital transformation within and across industries.

Ovum, an IT research and advisory company, predicts the API Economy will be a $2.2 trillion market by 2018, with the number of enterprises having an API program growing 150% over the next two to three years.

"There is a huge amount of energy and potential in this market, and API management is an important subset of it, which is where API Harmony fits in," IBM's Diaz said.

In related news, The Linux Foundation unveiled the Open API Initiative, a collaborative effort with IBM and other standards organizations, whose goal is to standardize and document APIs in a more consistent way, as well as create a shared governance model and community for the Swagger specification.

"Swagger is the way most developers describe APIs," Diaz said. "At the end of the day, we have to evolve Swagger to meet [the] diversity of use cases out there, especially to meet the diversity of enterprise workloads both big and small."

IBM's reference customer, India-based YES Bank, implemented IBM's API Management offering to expose its core business assets and data to its business partners and users. The API Banking platform gives the bank new business channels to establish digital partnerships with existing customers, according to IBM. 

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