APWhy? Why a product without an API is not a product at all

In early 2007 a certain Steve Jobs stepped on stage in Cupertino California. In his pocket he had a small device and in his mind one of the greatest product presentations of all time. The presentation, or rather the product, he introduced would go ahead and change the world and turn Apple from being a trendy computer and music player manufacturer to the most valuable (publicly traded) company in the world.

Re-watching the presentation one thing is odd. What is notably absent from the introduction is the App Store. Now ask yourself: “How useful would your smartphone be without the various apps on it?” Imagine the only ability of your phone would be to make phone calls, send SMS and make pretty pictures. Seems strange doesn’t it? One could argue that the main value a smartphone provides is not its “core“ functionality, the product itself, but rather the fact that it provides a platform for other developers to build upon. This platform has since branched out to become an ecosystem offering devices at various sizes and specifications as well as convenient services like payment handling.

As more and more companies move to the cloud we can see the same trends in business applications. With Webex Teams and Webex Meetings Cisco is providing a platform built to tackle every aspect of collaboration. With its various devices and clients Webex is not only a platform, but a powerful collaboration ecosystem. Now this is a nice sales pitch for Webex but what does all of this have to do with APIs and programmability? Through its APIs the entire Webex ecosystem allow developers to add functionality to the platform. Ultimately this allows you to build tailored collaboration solutions that deliver a customized user experience rather then forcing the user into a pre-defined way of using the technology.

You want to control the blinds of your conference room from the Touch10? No problem. You want to have a Webex board displaying an interactive phone book with maps to where your colleagues are sitting as well as the ability to notify them via chat and call them right from the device? Also possible. You want to provide visitors to your website with a chat but don‘t want your customer support to use yet another tool? Our APIs allow you to embed Webex teams as a chat back-end into your website without the website visitor even noticing that they are using a Cisco product.

The list of possible use cases here goes on and on, and if you look closely you will find places where it might be a good idea to customize the tools and platforms you already use instead of rolling out another completely new system.

These use cases also don‘t stop at “consumer facing” products like Collaboration, but also go all the way through infrastructure components. APIs allow you to mass-configure switches with a few lines of code, or let you integrate information about their current status into existing dashboards. This frees up resources to do actual work instead of manually doing the same operation over and over again.

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Marcel Neidinger

Associate Solutions Engineer