How the (Other) API Economy Empowers the Enterprise

Lori MacVittie Thumbnail
Lori MacVittie
Published January 05, 2017

There’s been a lot written about the API economy. That’s the ripple effect of any popular service opening up its digital kimono via public APIs. Doing so encourages development of apps, web sites, and other tools that make life easier not just for market consumers but corporate ones, as well.

This is particularly true in the underbelly of the data center, in the network. It may not be exciting to most folk when a major infrastructure vendor offers an API, but to those who have operational responsibility for “the network” it’s music to their ears. This growing, “other” API economy is important not just because it means automation and orchestration can move forward with greater alacrity and probability of success. That’s one benefit, but it’s not the only one.

You see, infrastructure APIs are the means by which organizations are afforded the freedom to choose their own path toward that more automated and efficient data center. Without them, organizations would be forced to choose from among those options that provide pre-existing integration between solutions at the vendors’ whim. That’s the way it used to be in the network, where strategic partnerships meant integration into network management systems, app monitoring toolsets, and ultimately, with each other. There was a time when the movie Heathers would have been an apt analogy of the nature of infrastructure and network vendor partnerships. Customer input regarding which vendors should support each other was solicited and factored in, of course, but market dynamics were just as weighted in the equation that decided who would be integrated with whom.

APIs change that dynamic. The nature of APIs today is such that as long as the infrastructure is API-enabled, it can be almost certainly be integrated with whatever toolset, framework, or system you’re using. De facto industry standardization on HTTP REST and (typically) JSON as a payload have dramatically expanded the other API economy to ensure that generally speaking,  you can automate and orchestration and integrate just about anything.

That’s not just perception. We asked a lot folks around the globe in our State of Application Delivery survey their view on how important it was that their infrastructure be API-enabled. Overwhelming, it’s important. In our 2017 survey, 56% said it more or very important, while another 32% said it somewhat important. Only 12% shrugged and said it really wasn’t that important to them. In 2016 when we asked the same question, only 31% said API-enabled infrastructure was more or very important. Those who said it wasn’t was nearly double that of this year, with 23% in 2016 saying APIs on infrastructure just wasn’t that big of a deal.

That’s an astounding change in direction, and indicative of the growing importance of DevOps as a tactical if not strategic response to scaling operations in modern environments. With a significant percentage of organizations planning on investing in private cloud in 2017, this attitude toward the other API economy should be unsurprising. The abstraction of infrastructure and network services required to implement a truly automated and orchestrated cloud-like environment necessitates API-enabled everything. Even if it were not the driving factor behind the changing perspective on API-enabled infrastructure, the growth in apps requiring even the most basic of network services  (firewall, load balancing, DNS) demands a change in the way data centers provision, scale, and manage the devices that provide those services. That means automation and orchestration. Because throwing more people at the problem does not actually improve operational efficiency or throughput. Automation and orchestration, on the other hand, does.

The other API economy is incredibly important in that it is affording organizations the freedom to mix and match and build a world-class architecture and empowering the enterprises experiencing growth to efficiently scale operations through automation and orchestration.

As much as we like to point out that organizations are undergoing a digital transformation with respect to the way in which they interact and service their customers, it’s also happening in the data center, where traditional operations are being digitally transformed by APIs, templates, and algorithms.

Viva la API.