API First - but What Next?

API First - but What Next?

Magnus Bakken
Published 11.07.2017

In a previous article on www.apieconomy.com I more than suggested that it makes great sense to build the API with your target partners and developer's interests in mind before you start building the service itself. The argument is that if you expose your data in a systematic and attractive way, then your data will also increase in value.

If you buy this argument, the following question remains – on what platform and in which environment do I build my services and publish my API?

Before answering this it is necessary to make a de-tour via the increasingly complex matter of new IT abbreviations (I am not sure what it is but IT seems to love their code-language). SaaS (Software as a Service) is a delivery model that has become the de-facto delivery for most new software. Many of us use software as a service solutions several daily – whether it is for private mail (Gmail), messaging (Skype) or social engagement (Facebook) – or even in professional use such as online CRM-systems (Salesforce), content management systems (eZ) or accounting software (Visma) to name a few... But Saas is not what YOU need to build your solution. What you need is a PaaS.

The PaaS (Platform as a Service) is a platform and an environment in which developers can build new and exciting web-applications. As part of the PaaS you will also find documentation as to how you can develop, run and manage your application without having to host the development center yourself. Finally, yet most importantly, the PaaS is built on top of a IaaS – yes your guess is right – it stands for Infrastructure as a Service. The services of the IaaS abstract the user from issues such as computing resources, scaling, energy, cooling and physical security. AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and Bluemix are typical examples of the latter, even though they also may lay some claim to being a PaaS.

If you thought cloud based IT was plain and simple – think again!

Now – most companies (in the Nordics at least) seem to prefer using SaaS-services for simpler tasks, like some of those mentioned above. Not many have started making what I would refer to as SPaaS, or Software Platform as a Service (feel free to look it up – it is a thing) – a combination of a standardized software service and an adjacent platform environment for developing custom plug-ins to that same service. An example could be if you used Skype out of the box as a messaging service and then used a public Skype API to build unique messaging services around it. Voila! That’s exactly what Slack does.

The world did not get much easier with the API Economy, but the possibility for scaling and connecting services together to create new exiting services are huge. I am not going to conclude here on whether you should use AWS, Azure, Google Cloud or Bluemix to build your future services. But you need to be aware of the pro’s and con’s with each. Implementing and using a SaaS-service in the organization is easy. Making it a part on your integrated value chain is trickier. This is however where you don’t just save money – but start turning your business into a platform and then the platform into business.

The API-Economy is all about taking bits and pieces of specialized software and making something new and better. It is like Lego actually. You see kids putting together their new Lego-kits in no time – but few stop there. It is not until the model is broken and all the remaining Lego is piled into a box you can go crazy creative. Out of thousands of standardized pieces, great constructions emerge! So – whatever your creation is – make sure you base it on APIs and run it in a PaaS.