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APIs: The best kept secret for innovation in the application economy

The application economy has landed: an inter-connected, mobile application-based world that sits in the palm of our hand. And it’s spreading fast.

According to CA commissioned research conducted by Zogby Analytics, about 50 per cent of consumers worldwide have used apps in the past six months to engage in social media, shop, research a purchase or watch a video.

Apps are the new point of interaction between brands and consumers. And businesses are working hard to provide superior digital experiences for consumers - and grow revenue streams - using cloud computing, social media and by connecting employees and partners to enterprise data anywhere, anytime. Take social media, for example. When a Netflix member streams a TV show from Netflix to their iPad, they can sign in via Facebook. After viewing a show, members are given multiple ways to provide social feedback. They can rate content, write reviews and share what they watch with friends.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is also stimulating the launch of innovative new app-based services. The IoT is a world in which even a smart meter can be connected to the Internet and invested with some low level of awareness. McKinsey & Company estimate that 50 billion devices will be connected by 2020, and this in turn will drive the total value of the IoT sector to $6.3 trillion (£4 trillion).

Enterprises need to take action. According to research conducted by Forrester Consulting and commissioned by CA Technologies, 94 per cent of business executives said they faced increased pressure to release apps more quickly. But how?

APIs: The secret sauce of the application economy

Application programming interfaces (APIs) are the driving force in the growth of the application economy, and companies are facing increasing pressure to adopt APIs as they digitally transform their businesses.

So what is an API? Essentially, it is a set of rules that determine how one application speaks to another. On the Web, APIs make it possible for services like Google Maps or Facebook to let other apps ‘piggyback’ on their offerings. For example, being able to log into your Uber taxi account using your airline app and book at airport pick-up. It’s fast, simple and convenient.

Software developers creating these disruptive new applications rely on APIs as a short-cut to real time business data. For example, a developer writing a mobile app for a retailer can quickly display locations on a map, enable payment services and allow users to share their purchasing activity through Google Maps and Facebook APIs.

API management positions business for digital business growth

But there’s a catch. To make data sharing via APIs safe, reliable and cost-effective among developers, mobile apps, partners and cloud services, there are critical security, system performance and data adaptation challenges to contend with. API management tackles all of these, by publishing, promoting and managing APIs in a secure, scalable manner.

First, it integrates and exposes existing critical business systems as APIs. That means your services can all talk to one another: Airbnb to Facebook, or your Lufthansa airline app to their reservation system, for instance.

Secondly, API management solutions enable companies to on-board and manage developers to create apps. API management solutions make it simple for developers to access a full-featured developer portal, where they can discover APIs, build and test apps against published APIs. The result? Faster innovation.

Thirdly, API management solutions secure enterprise data to meet tough regulatory standards and manage who can access APIs, and when. API management creates a trusted security layer around APIs to ensure they can only be accessed by trusted applications and users - thereby combating misuse or possible attack on backend systems.

Forrester Consulting research found that API management accelerates the time-to-market for revenue-generating applications that require integration with multiple data sets by 97 per cent. That’s from 90 days to three days. Moreover, businesses reported a 275 per cent return on investment on their API management toolset and payback within 12 months.

As companies look to innovate using APIs, they need to ask themselves, how do we maintain control over corporate data once it leaves the business? API management does all of this, allowing companies to launch new business initiatives quickly, disrupt the market, compete safely and cost-effectively - and thrive in the application economy.

Ian Clark, Senior Director for API Management (APIM) Solution Sales in EMEA at CA Technologies