Driven by the proliferation of mobile apps and cloud services, API management is the enterprise need to heed today, as evidenced by Dell Boomi's new API management release on May 7. Recently, two other major players in enterprise computing -- IBM and Oracle -- added similar capabilities to Cast Iron and Fusion Middleware, respectively, and Intel, CA and MuleSoft announced acquisitions of API management tool vendors.
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Application programming interface (API) management tools automate management, distribution and other functions of APIs that link to specific types of applications. Interest in APIs has been booming lately due to the increasing need for interconnectedness in the business world, said Carl Lehmann, industry analyst at 451 Research. API management is needed, for example, in commerce markets where several websites will frequently partner together in an affiliated marketing relationship. "APIs are the driving technology that enables that to happen," Lehman said.
"The move to API management was bound to happen because it's not really about traditional integration anymore," said Ovum Senior Analyst Saurabh Sharma. "It's about connecting different parts of a hybrid IT infrastructure -- including social, mobile and cloud."
While Dell Boomi chose to build API management capabilities internally, three other large computing services providers chose to acquire smaller companies with an existing specialization in API management. On April 17, Intel let slip the news that they would buy Mashery Inc; CA Technologies announced on April 22 their acquisition of Layer 7 Technologies; MuleSoft announced their acquisition of ProgrammableWeb on April 23; and it's worthwhile to note that IBM Cast Iron and Oracle Fusion Middleware also offer options for API management.
Intel has entered into an agreement to purchase Mashery, but is keeping mum on the details. Mashery will join Intel's software services group, said Agnes Kwan, Intel spokesperson. "We see huge potential in mobile and cloud services, and assuring compliance in API management is a critical area for providing those," Kwan said.
Security in API management is the focus of CA's acquisition of Layer 7 Technologies. "APIs are driving a change today and helping fuel the cloud, mobile and 'Internet of things' opportunities and initiatives of organizations today," said Mike Denning, CA senior vice president and general manager. "But those opportunities don't come without risk."
In Denning's view, public APIs are used to build on the opportunities created by Web applications and online commerce, but they also open the possibility for further security risks. "APIs add an increased level of risk as they expose proprietary, sensitive data to external communities that must be managed and secured," he said.
Target markets are the key differentiators in the API management moves of Intel and CA, said Layer 7 Technologies Co-Founder Dimitri Sirota. "Intel's interest stems from consumer and cloud offerings for home and small businesses, and Mashery will likely help them build out a developer community to support that," Sirota said. "Whereas CA has a more secure focus, and that fits in well with what we've been doing at Layer 7."
MuleSoft takes a community-focused, open source approach to API management. Acquiring ProgrammableWeb will build on CloudHub efforts, which were built on top of the pre-existing MuleESB community, according to Chris Purpura, vice president and general manager of CloudHub at MuleSoft. With the addition of ProgrammableWeb's audience and community, MuleSoft's APIhub (an extension of CloudHub) is intended to "become the Yellow Pages for APIs in the cloud," he said. "It should be the place for developers to go to publish and engage with APIs." ProgrammableWeb will continue as it is now, according to Purpura, and APIs published there will soon be available on APIhub and vice versa.
Use of API management processes and tools may become a minimum requirement as cloud ecosystems become more complex. The value of an integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) provider lies in a decreased time to value on each point-to-point integration project, which is an immediate need for many businesses, he explained. Integration processes that took days with traditional on-premises SOA techniques can take only hours on iPaaS.
"Businesses, particularly small- and medium-sized businesses, don't have time to do integrations that take two weeks to set up," Sharma said. "They want an architecture that is good enough for now." If the point-to-point nature of cloud integration templates grows unmanageable in the future, features such as API management may quickly lose their competitive advantage.