API 101: What Are Web APIs?

Posted on Tuesday 18th October 2016 10:30

Businesses everywhere are embracing APIs to drive innovation and digital transformation. Web APIs are just one type. You may have heard the term, but do you know what APIs are, what they do and why we need them?

API 101

Web APIs: What They Are and Why We Need Them

Successful modern businesses deliver seamless, convenient digital experiences  to their customers, while less-successful companies fall behind or disappear completely. They develop and innovate quickly to keep up with customer needs and demands, while others don’t.

How do they do it? You guessed it – Web APIs.

1 – What are Web APIs?

Web APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) get apps talking, aiding swift and flexible software development. They are software interfaces that provide frictionless connectivity between different applications and systems, allowing them to communicate and share data.

2 – How do Web APIs work?

Let’s take an example: using a mobile app to book tickets for a movie. How does it work? The mobile app is using APIs.

location-apis One API speaks to Google Maps for info on cinema locations and another accesses the film listings and showing times for the branch you select.
 seating-api Once you’ve chosen the film, another API accesses information about available seating.
 payment-api Next, an API communicates with the cinema’s selected payment platform, allowing you to seamlessly pay for your tickets on the stop.
 booking-api Finally, another API then communicates the details of your booking to the cinema branch’s on-premise systems, so you can pick up your tickets.

 

Each of the different functions in the app are powered by APIs and the data sharing that they provide. The cinema’s on-premise/cloud applications share data about locations and film listings and the mobile app shares info about which seats the customer books.

3 – Why Do We Need Web APIs?

Without web APIs, these different functions wouldn’t work. Applications would need to be developed as stand-alone, relying on different methods of transferring data between them – most likely a manual process. This means increased development and personnel costs, with slower delivery times and reduced opportunity for innovation.

More importantly, many functions – like booking your tickets outside of cinema opening hours – may not be possible.

Today, there is high demand and expectation from customers and partners for fast, convenient communication and services. Without APIs, it would be impossible to meet those expectations, let alone keep a competitive edge.

4 – Should I Have a Web API Strategy?

Definitely. API strategies are a hot topic. According to a recent report from leading integration experts MuleSoft, 91% of IT decision-makers have an API strategy in place or plan to by the end of 2016.

This is because APIs are a huge part of digital transformation – an initiative that 96% of businesses globally are executing or planning to execute right now.

The value of APIs has been widely acknowledged as these reusable resources are key to faster and more innovative software development. There’s a global, enterprise-scale race to deliver the best quality systems and services, at the lowest costs. Nobody wants to fall behind.

When should you start your API strategy? Now.

5 – Where Can I Get Web APIs?

Web APIs are available everywhere, premade by digital service providers (e.g. location APIs for Google Maps). These are often ready to go, with clear instructions on how to make them work with other existing tools.

However, solutions such as MuleSoft’s Anypoint PlatformTM also facilitate the easy creation and management of custom-built web APIs for your specific needs. Tools such as these in the hands of your technical teams makes quick and easy work of composing APIs and integrating them, with minimal impact to your customer services.

For the added comfort of knowing your API strategy is in expert hands, you can also seek the advice and assistance of software consultants and developers.

At Influential, we can combine the best of both with our in-house integration and API specialists and our certified MuleSoft® partnership status. We can help you design, build and implement your API strategy, supported by the incredible power of the Anypoint PlatformTM – technology driven by API-led connectivity.

Find out more about the power of the Anypoint PlatformTM on our dedicated MuleSoft® partner site.

Influential Featured API Projects:

Sales, Customers and Products Data APIs:

taylor__francis_logo_small

Since 2005, Influential has worked with world-leading publisher Taylor & Francis on many projects, including the design, build and implementation of a bespoke Books Management Information System (BMIS) and Inventory Management System (IMS).

In one case, an essential requirement was for the global inventory teams to have real-time access to sales data from BMIS from IMS. To achieve this, bespoke APIs were written to securely expose the data from BMIS, ensuring that BMIS remains the single, trusted source for sales data. Without APIs, the data would need to be duplicated from BMIS to IMS, via some sort of interface, meaning data in multiple locations and potentially different versions of ‘the truth’.

 

Enriched Data API For Reporting:

As part of a block of integration work for a global publisher, Influential ran a monthly data ingestion process of sales, customer and product data from the publisher’s 26 different distributors. This data needed to be validated and enriched with more data from the publisher’s data source and stored within a data warehouse for reporting later.

An API was written to expose the enriched data for consumption by the data warehouse, providing access to the data to facilitate reporting and boosting efficiency. This API layer was part of an overall approach which transformed the length of the process from a week to 20 minutes.

 

Authentication API For Reliable Identity Provider:

Atlas Publishing Intelligence

ATLAS Auth, one of the stand-alone modules of Influential’s own reporting platform ATLAS Publishing Intelligence, controls user access and data security. It’s an interface layer that can allow authentication with local or third party authentication systems, Giving access to user management, tenant management, roles and responsibilities.

The API acts as a ‘middleman’ between ATLAS Auth and other applications, ensuring consistent results, enabling ATLAS Auth to act as a reliable identity provider and/or identity service provider. The use of this API offers seamless connectivity between these applications, allowing ATLAS Auth to be a flexible tool that can work with any system.

 

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