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APIs abound, but challenges remain

Thor Olavsrud | April 20, 2016
Most organisations use APIs to build mobile and Web applications, integrate back-office systems, enable third-party developers, and incorporate third-party services. But IT departments face many challenges, ranging from infrastructure to suppliers to strategy and objectives.

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Businesses are now widely using application programming interfaces (APIs), but despite widespread use, a recent study has found most companies are struggling with challenges ranging from getting infrastructure in place to finding suppliers to simply setting strategy and objectives.

"APIs can add tremendous value to a business, but simply having them is not enough," says Rahim Bhatia, general manager, Developer Products, CA Technologies. "Like products, they have to be properly created, managed, monitored and secured or bad things can happen, as we saw in recent connected car incidents or the Snapchat breach two years ago."

API management specialist CA Technologies sponsored the study, APIs and the Digital Enterprise: From Operational Efficiency to Digital Disruption, conducted by IT industry analyst firm Freeform Dynamics. The study was based on an online survey of 1,442 senior IT and business executives in July 2015. The respondents represented larger organizations across 16 countries and nine industries. The survey was augmented with in-depth telephone interviews with key industry executives.

Putting APIs to work

Freeform Dynamics found that organizations are using APIs to build mobile and Web apps (76 percent and 78 percent, respectively), integrate back-office systems (79 percent) and to enable third-party developers and incorporate third-party services (74 percent each).

"This indicates there is no one starting point from which organizations begin their API usage, as every organization has different initiators for their projects," the report concluded. "Given this, it is important to recognize that whatever the start point, API usage is certain to expand over time to embrace new areas of the business. There is therefore a requirement to put in place a management infrastructure that can support expanding use cases and business scenarios."

The management infrastructure must address a number of requirements for the safe, efficient and effective use of APIs, Freeform Dynamics found. One of the most significant requirements is the need to secure APIs and their associated back-end systems, as well as to manage API performance. Because one of the most important attributes of APIs is their potential for reuse, performance and security must be monitored and managed on an ongoing basis as usage patterns change.

The top current and future drivers for using APIs included customer experience (85 percent), faster delivery of new apps (84 percent) and extending digital reach (84 percent).

But despite the strong drivers, respondents in the study indicated that overcoming API challenges is a work in progress. Freeform Dynamics created a segmentation of the study called the API Capability Index, which was based on feedback from the 920 IT respondents who participated in the study.


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