An API management platform can greatly assist in the digital transformation efforts of most businesses, especially after the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which is creating devastating political, economic, and social crises.
The challenges arising from the pandemic are boosting the use of new and existing technologies as millions of people go into lock down, employees are forced to work from home, and consumers change their everyday habits.
What’s more, the rapid adoption of digital technologies during the pandemic has boosted the consumption of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) across many sectors.
However, as organizations adopt more APIs to meet this growing demand, it has complicated their administration. This has led to poor integration of APIs and an increase in API management costs, which impede digital transformation efforts.
In this article, we’re going to talk about how an API management platform can assist in digital transformations, particularly following the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been an unexpected catalyst for tech adoption.
Here are the topics we’ll talk about:
- APIs and digital transformation
- The increase in API usage during COVID-19
- Challenges of managing APIs
- Need for an API management platform
- How Rakuten RapidAPI Enterprise Hub can help
Let’s get going…
APIs and digital transformation
Today, digital transformation is essential for businesses to meet the needs of the constantly-evolving tech landscape. And, APIs are proving to be vital for supporting digital transformation initiatives.
As the connective tissue linking most digital ecosystems, APIs enable enterprises to integrate useful functionalities with fewer resources, develop profitable relationships, and wedge new pathways for growth and innovation. Businesses that understand how to incorporate them can reduce costs, enhance efficiency, and help the bottom line.
Gartner, the renowned global research and advisory firm, emphasizes that APIs are the heart of any digital business. According to the firm, APIs can assist in reducing the friction usually caused by adopting a ‘bimodal’ IT strategy—in which legacy applications are deployed together with innovative, flexible digital solutions. With APIs, this friction can be minimized, which can significantly assist an enterprise’s digital transformation efforts.
APIs are capable of unlocking profitable digital business models and assisting enterprises to stay competitive in the current dynamic marketplace. According to the 2018 Connectivity benchmark report by MuleSoft, a U.S.-based software company, enterprises that use APIs to build new integrations or projects realized a considerable increase in productivity (at 58%), innovation (at 48%), and employee engagement (at 43%). Those enterprises also witnessed a significant reduction in their operational costs.
Furthermore, according to a recent study about the state of API integration in 2020, 83% of the surveyed respondents view API integration as a critical aspect of their business strategy, mainly because of digital transformation efforts.
This demonstrates that APIs are no longer considered as a one-off development challenge but a vital tool for gaining a competitive edge in the marketplace. Without APIs, it becomes difficult for organizations to transform their businesses to meet the demands of the digital era.
For example, let’s say a company wants to add a click-to-call functionality to its mobile application. With this new addition, the application will gain a competitive edge to overtake a rival application that has outperformed its own for several years.
However, including over-network voice communication capabilities to the application without an experienced team is costly and demanding. Furthermore, getting approvals from a complex network of phone carriers is equally challenging to realize.
In such a situation, getting a suitable voice API can make adding this useful feature faster, cheaper, and easier. With such an API, the company can harness the advanced capabilities of a technology powerhouse without bothering to create their own solution from scratch.
APIs hide the complexities and inner details of systems, allowing developers to integrate powerful features without the need for plunging into ground-up development.
API usage has increased during COVID-19
The new coronavirus pandemic grounded the economic and social activities of millions of people around the world. The effects of the pandemic compelled governments and societies to resort to digital technologies to respond to the crisis.
With social distancing restrictions and lockdowns implemented in most countries, more people turned to the Internet to work from home, communicate with others, and perform everyday tasks virtually.
In fact, according to some preliminary statistics, the pandemic pushed up Internet usage by between 50% and 70%. For example, in the U.S., studies revealed that Americans spent more of their lives online.
Here is a chart that shows the increase in the number of users accessing some popular websites in the U.S.:
Similarly, as the virus accelerated the use of digital technologies, APIs, which are the connective tissue linking most digital ecosystems, played a vital role in supporting this growth.
During the crisis, organizations turned to APIs to transform their processes quickly and reach their customer base faster. In such difficult times, APIs offered the best means of supporting the digital transformation of businesses and ensuring they meet the changing needs of customers.
API Management Challenges
API management refers to the process of creating, implementing, monitoring, and managing APIs. Without effective API management, enterprises may fail to realize the benefits of modernizing their infrastructure using APIs.
As the pandemic accelerated the use of APIs, it brought another challenge: poor management of APIs, especially to enterprises that did not have sufficient measures in place beforehand. The rush to build and consume APIs resulted in a mess, which could cancel out the potential benefits of tech modernization.
With increased API usage, enterprises are usually faced with four main challenges: lack of a central control, addressing changes in scale over time, orchestration challenges, and security challenges.
Let’s dig deeper into each of the challenges.
1. Lack of a central control
As most API programs experienced an increase in usage due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it revealed a deep-rooted problem that had been hitherto whisked away: lack of a central control system.
Some APIs are often managed by diverse teams with a variety of points of view, experience, and styles. This complicates the process of maintaining consistency across all the teams, especially if there is increased usage, and something needs to be changed quickly.
2. Scaling challenges
Usually, what works with most API programs during normal times doesn’t scale as the usage requirements grow. Since these APIs were designed to meet the usual traffic demands, in case of any changes, managing them becomes difficult.
Furthermore, as the API matures because of increased traffic, it complicates governance. Without sufficient policies that stipulate how an API should be used, and the best practices developers are to follow during consumption, problems are likely to ensue.
3. Orchestration challenges
Managing a simple set of API endpoints is easy. However, when you deploy APIs on an extensive scale and run several API endpoints from multiple API services, it becomes difficult to orchestrate all these moving parts.
That is why, in case you want to use dozens of APIs, you should depend on a level of abstraction to manage and orchestrate collections of endpoints to realize a more flawless integration with their clients.
4. Security challenges
According to a recent study by ISACA, the global association focused on IT governance, the COVID-19 outbreak resulted in a significant increase in cybersecurity attacks across the world. Cybercriminals took advantage of the sudden shift in the way people work to penetrate IT systems and exfiltrate sensitive data. Almost 60% of enterprises knew that attackers were exploiting the pandemic to target their IT infrastructure, including APIs.
Without instituting sufficient API security measures, an enterprise risks making itself an attractive target to attackers. Since an API exposes the digital assets of an enterprise, failing to apply robust security measures is a recipe for disaster.
Need for an API management platform
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the significance of digital readiness, which lets life and business to continue as normal—as much as possible—during a crisis. Developing the right IT infrastructure to support the latest developments in technology will be critical for businesses to stay competitive in a post-COVID-19 world.
As explained in the earlier section of this article, APIs are playing a crucial role in accelerating this digital transformation. However, to make the most of APIs and minimize their administrative complexities, it’s essential to have an API management platform.
Typically, an API management platform makes the tasks of managing APIs in your enterprise much streamlined and leaner. It abstracts most of the day-to-day administrative pain points of managing APIs, resulting in increased productivity and efficiency.
According to a 2019 study that was conducted around API adoption and digital transformation, whereas most organizations have already launched APIs and are benefiting from using them, only about 60% have implemented an API management solution.
Unfortunately, the organizations that have not incorporated APIs, and their corresponding API management solutions, into the core of their long-term IT strategy will encounter huge difficulties in meeting the demands of the digital era.
Here are some benefits of using an API management platform.
1. Provides centralized visibility
An API management platform allows you to deploy your published APIs and third-party APIs in a unified interface. With a centralized lifecycle management solution, you can know what’s going on with your APIs and identify weaknesses that your developers can address.
Furthermore, in case you need to find other APIs to add to your pool, you can use the platform to get suitable APIs that fit with your business needs and project requirements.
This centralized visibility is what you need to maintain consistency across your APIs and maximize their performance.
2. Assists in API analysis and monitoring
How is the performance of your API traffic over time, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you know your top developers? At what time of the day is the API response time fastest? Slowest? Geographically, where do most of your API traffic come from?
With a comprehensive API management solution, you can answer such types of questions. This way, you can enhance the deliverability of your APIs, attract the right developers, discover anomalies, and, eventually, optimize the value of your APIs.
Typically, API management platforms come with visualization dashboards, reports, and tools to assist you in making the most of the data that move across APIs. Gathering this information in today’s dynamic API economy can be useful in proactively managing risks and making informed business decisions.
3. Enhances API security
API security is another vital aspect of a robust API management platform. If APIs are not safeguarded from unauthorized threats and access, they could expose a company’s sensitive backend systems and bring them to their knees.
By design, APIs are more transparent than other web applications. This is because they provide programmatic access to data and services. As such, without sufficient protective measures, APIs tend to be a more attractive target for hacking attacks.
With an API management tool, you can mediate and secure the traffic flowing across your APIs and ensure that only legitimate users can access them. Besides authenticating and authorizing users, you can use the tool to stipulate a set of policies that prevent malicious users from making API calls.
4. Improves API governance
API governance allows you to define the standards of your APIs so that they are reusable, consistent, and discoverable. You can use an API management platform to carry out various governance tasks, such as setting quotas and rate limits, establishing spike arrest capabilities, and monitoring usages.
In the world of APIs, it is essential to make focused decisions and implement insightful routing based on the prevailing circumstances. For instance, a decision to implement dynamic routing can be based on evaluating the headers, content of the messages, or other functionalities.
An API creator may also decide to develop new services by combining several APIs or services. With a robust API management tool, governing such orchestration and dynamic routing processes becomes easy.
With proper API governance, you’ll ensure every API program is designed proactively and addresses a specific objective that brings value to the overall business.
How Rakuten RapidAPI Enterprise Hub can help
Rakuten RapidAPI Enterprise Hub is a one-stop solution for enterprises to manage APIs and accelerate the digital transformations of their businesses, especially beyond COVID-19 when APIs play a crucial role in the adoption of digital technologies.
The Enterprise Hub provides a centralized platform that allows you to gain visibility into your APIs and derive useful insights about their performance. It comes with lots of features for reinforcing the security of your APIs, monitoring and analyzing their performance, governing their consumption, and more.
A wide variety of enterprises—from disruptive start-ups to established conglomerates—use the Hub to ensure the smoothness of their connected digital experiences for employees, partners, and consumers. This is what a digital business is about.
APIs are critical for the success of any digital business. What’s more, APIs need to be analyzed, secure, scaled, and managed; otherwise, it may be difficult to realize their benefits. That’s what the Enterprise Hub is all about: it allows you to abstract the day-to-day administrative pain points of adopting APIs.
The Hub is built with the needs of today’s digital business in mind. It’s what you need to stay competitive in a post-COVID-19 world and take your digital pursuits to the next level.
If your organization needs help in setting up a comprehensive and robust platform to manage APIs, send us an inquiry right now.