API: The Building Blocks of Modern Software Development

Application Programming Interfaces, more commonly known as APIs, are a fundamental part of almost all types of modern software development.

APIs allow developers to connect different services and information sources in a programmatic approach inside an application. They are available from almost every type of data source imaginable and are used as modular components in software applications and services.

“In our trending blog for 2022, I pointed out that if software is eating the world, then APIs are the teeth”, Steve RoddaCEO of Stoplight, said ITPro today. “APIs are now prolific and pervasive across industries, sectors, and locations around the world.”

API usage in numbers in 2022

According to MuleSoft 2022 Connectivity Benchmark Report, the vast majority of organizations (98%) now use public and/or private APIs, up from 96% a year ago. More than a quarter of business leaders (26%) make an API strategy imperative, nearly double the number from 12 months ago.

“People today expect seamless digital experiences that meet them where they are, regardless of the interaction,” said Prashant Choudhary, CTO of MuleSoft’s Digital Transformation Office. ITPro today. “Delivering these connected experiences depends on businesses being able to connect apps and data, and APIs are key to that.”

The RapidAPI 2022 The state of enterprise APIs report revealed strong adoption trends. In fact, in 2022, 68.4% of all developers expect to use even more APIs than in previous years, according to the survey.

“One of the biggest surprises in the business survey was that nearly 98% of respondents are either developing an API strategy for digital transformation or have one in place, but many struggle to use it effectively. their APIs,” Iddo Gino, founder and CEO of RapidAPI, says ITPro today. “The data shows what we’ve consistently heard from our customers: that their existing API toolset isn’t built for the scale and scope of APIs companies are building today.”

APIs can be built in different programming languages ​​and delivered through a number of approaches. The RapidAPI study found that JavaScript continues to dominate as the most widely used programming language for APIs at 71.6%.

There is still a perception that APIs only support one Restful request-response model, according to MuleSoft’s Choudhary. However, the modern API also supports other patterns, like gRPC, GraphQLand EDA (Event Driven Architecture), he added.

“This increases the versatility of APIs and allows enterprise architects to choose the right pattern relevant to their architecture,” Choudhary said.

Challenges in Adopting APIs for Modern Software Development

Despite all the benefits that APIs bring to organizations and developers, there are some challenges that need to be addressed.

According to the MuleSoft The top 7 digital transformation trends shaping 2022 According to a report, 73% of business leaders and IT managers warn that specific security and governance issues have increased as their systems have become more integrated, with unified API governance a big challenge.

Many companies are also concerned that by making APIs publicly available, they are giving digital resources and capabilities to anyone who finds them online, said Kin Lane, chief evangelist at Factor. However, the opposite is actually true when developers apply modern platform approaches to producing APIs, he said.

The postman 2021 API Status Report asked a question about the biggest barriers to producing APIs, Lane said. Of the 28,000 respondents worldwide, 45% said the biggest challenge was lack of time, with a third saying it takes a week to a month to design, implement, test and deliver an API in a production environment. API complexity and lack of knowledge were the other two most common challenges for running on APIs.

“It shows the need as an industry to lower the barrier of entry to working with APIs by providing tools and resources for people to learn,” Lane said.

Best practices for managing APIs

There are a number of key best practices that software developers and the organizations that employ them should follow to get the most out of it.

Take a design-driven approach. Taking an API design-centric approach is imperative, according to Stoplight’s Rodda.

In an API design-driven development process, API architects start by writing a specification and involve all stakeholders in the process from its inception, Rodda said. The result of a design-first process is an API product that is complete, consistent, and understandable to both people and machines.

Design-first means developers describe each API in a way humans and computers can understand, all before a line of code is written, he said. “You wouldn’t build a house without a set of blueprints for the design, and the same can be said for your API development,” Rodda said.

Treat APIs like a product. It’s also important to treat APIs as a product, according to MuleSoft’s Choudhary. Developers shouldn’t expose APIs if they don’t know the capabilities and don’t take the time to design the API for consumers, he said. To drive successful API programs, APIs must have clear and measurable business value, he added.

“Not all APIs are created equal,” Choudhary said. “There are different considerations depending on who will be the consumer of your API, whether it’s an internal consumer, a partner, or someone completely outside of your organization.”

Manage APIs with built-in tools. According to RapidAPI’s Gino, organizations need a centralized location to discover and connect to APIs. Only one consolidation layer is needed to find, connect and manage the hundreds of APIs an organization is likely already using, he said.

Gino also suggests that organizations use an integrated set of tools, including API design tools, testing, and monitoring designed with the developer in mind, creating a seamless developer experience throughout the software lifecycle. development.

According to Postman’s Lin, what is very clear is that in 2022 and beyond, APIs must be managed as part of a software development team’s overall strategy.

“The use of APIs has skyrocketed in recent years, but in 2022 and beyond, the biggest change we’ll see is the shift from an ad-hoc approach to delivering APIs to support applications of different types to an API-centric world,” Lane says. “This change coincides with an increase in API-first strategies: a development model in which applications are conceptualized and built as an interconnection of internal and external services through APIs.”

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