Flaunting Maturity: The How and Why of APIs
March 30, 2016

Matthew Hines
CA Technologies

One of the most critical aspects of modernizing the software factory within the context of DevOps clearly lies in advancing management of APIs; significant evidence of this already exists.

Beyond the near constant chatter around evolving best practices, industry analysts point out that organizations are investing billions on related projects. For instance, Forrester has predicted US companies alone will spend nearly $3 billion on API management over next five years. That figure speaks for itself.

However, while everyone gets "it" – that optimizing applications across a complex landscape of web services, mobile apps and open data, notwithstanding the IoT, demands far greater reliance on API architectures – few up to this point have published hard data around the current pace of adoption or appreciation of related benefits.

Enter Freeform Dynamics, which has been conducting significant research in the DevOps arena of late and recently published a new data set aimed at further illustrating the maturation of API management.

So what does Freeform's "Exploiting the Software Advantage" report tell us about the ongoing evolution of these practices? Based on a survey of roughly 1450 practitioners, the research bears out just how organizations are formalizing various aspects of the API management framework, and precisely where those efforts are paying off.

Firstly, as with its other recent DevOps projects, Freeform researchers highlight that a specific group of advanced API management adopters, dubbed "Digital Disruptors" are way out ahead of the curve, and appreciating subsequent gains. Of those surveyed for this report, most respondents broke down into three capability groups – advanced (313), basic (305) and limited (302).

In general, related to the manner in which best practices are being applied, leading adopters are 2x more likely than their peers to leverage APIs for internal development optimization, and 2.8x more likely to use APIs in working with third party developers. Among the measurable benefits being enjoyed by these organizations, Freeform researchers said, are gains in market share, customer acquisition, revenue and profits, among others.

So, the implication is that the more committed you are to API management, the greater the overall returns. On a related note, leading adoption prevails in verticals including telecom and consumer electronics, while the healthcare and consumer products markets still lag behind.

In terms of where these efforts are focused across so-called disruptors:

■ 82 percent have already embraced API management as a tactical manner of exploring new business models

■ 85 percent are leveraging such practices for delivery of new and better customer experience

■ 84 percent are seeking to streamline their supply and demand chains

On the results side, related to increasing operational efficiency, 84 percent of these leaders claim that they're already achieving faster delivery of revenue enhancing apps, with 85 percent citing lower IT costs and risks, in general.

Uptake of formal API management is spread across a wide, yet predictable set of use cases, according to the report, including:

■ back-office systems integration (79%)

web applications development (78%)

■ mobile apps development (76%)

■ 3rd party developer enablement (74%)

■ use of 3rd-party services (73%)

Given this wide range of emphasis, Freeform recommends that organizations moving to embrace API management further should adopt a guiding framework and infrastructure that can support multiple, evolving scenarios.

Another set of benchmarks tracked in the report include adoption of lifecycle support tools, security methodologies, run-time environments and operational management solutions. For instance, among the organizations surveyed:

■ 82 percent have deployed API development and publication systems

■ 83 percent are using API portals for discovery and access

■ 81 percent have adopted tools and processes to prioritize and track API investments

Related to all-important API security matters, advanced adopters have also clearly focused significant time and resources, with 70 percent of those organizations have deployed capabilities to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks that intercept legitimate transactions, among other efforts.

For those seeking greater detail on how to most effectively build-out their API management programs as a whole, Freeform has also provided an extensive checklist that earmarks many of the core processes and capabilities that it contends are critical building blocks for success.

As DevOps continues to evolve and mature, and organizations seek out best practices that help them to accelerate applications development and delivery, it's clear that the API-focused piece of the larger puzzle is one area where there will continue to be growing emphasis.

Matthew Hines is Principal Product Marketing Manager, DevOps, at CA Technologies.

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