APIs are the linchpins of modern IT. They’re a way for applications to share data and functionality at arm’s length, without merging code. In a cloud-native approach to development, this is important for creating efficient, scalable systems.
Today, APIs are everywhere, connecting components across environments. Remote technology – things like sensors, home-monitoring devices, and doorbells – has extended system footprints into new places. These devices all use APIs to communicate with their mothership, which itself may be dependent on APIs running on multiple layers in the cloud or in on-prem data centers.
It stands to reason, then, that high-quality APIs are a must. As organizations continue to shift their workloads to the public cloud and embrace adaptive development practices, they’ll depend even more on APIs to deliver intuitive, reliable service. And they’ll count on them to be safe and easy to use.
Benefitting the business
‘Quality’ in relation to APIs refers, in part, to the technology. APIs have to deliver what’s expected in a way that meets user needs. They must be resilient and secure, since they’re a gateway into valuable data and services. They need to be capable of scaling to accommodate business and user growth and new demands for their output. And they have to be easy to work with.
Equally important, though, is how well they’re described. Because APIs are effectively ‘contracts’ defining the standards for component interactions, and because people, ultimately, are the ones that code to them, quality is also about clear, consistent, and dependable communication that helps developers easily navigate the domain.
This includes things like easy-to-follow documentation with clear definitions, complete and transparent changelogs, and timely deprecation and end-of-life notices.
Combine technology, transparency, and consistency and you have a powerful asset for business. With high-quality APIs you can:
- Satisfy customers by delivering superior product experience.
- Build customer loyalty by offering dependable services that are easy to work with.
- Establish trust by providing a secure channel for acquiring data and functionality.
- Drive results by ensuring performance meets business needs.
The downside risk of poor-quality APIs is considerable. The most immediate concern is direct loss of revenue – yours and your customers’ – from APIs that don’t meet expectations. An underperforming API is, practically speaking, a broken link in the supply chain. And every broken link has financial and operational costs that need to be assessed as a business risk.
Equally damaging, but harder to quantify, is how poor customer experience can lead to brand erosion. When customers expect services to add value and they don’t deliver, your business and their business suffer.
High-quality APIs are important for running efficient IT teams, too. So many system functions depend on APIs and so much of software these days is designed to use them. APIs enable modular development, allowing teams to surgically build and maintain components and trim the size and length of releases. High-quality APIs help IT teams:
- Work more efficiently by reducing the difficulty in connecting with services.
- Cut costs by making it easier to build applications.
- Improve security by eliminating attack vulnerabilities.
- Innovate by offering reliable access to useful and desirable services.
- Automate tasks by making everything programmable and accessible.
- Save human hours by reliably delivering reusable services.
Organizations have made a big push in recent years to centralize and standardize services for reuse across the enterprise. The “build once, use many” mantra can bring big operational benefits in scale and cost savings, but it’s dependent on APIs that can deliver to the performance expectations of every user. By having high-quality APIs that meet these needs, companies can focus on building core services once – and free technology teams from repeating the effort.
Prioritizing API quality
More companies are monetizing their internal applications, exposing them through APIs. That puts new pressure on them to prioritize API quality as a business necessity, since customers will expect performance and the business will expect scalability and innovation to achieve their commercial goals.
At Cisco, our customers expect quality APIs that allow them to build new experiences and solutions on top of our technologies. We’re committed to an API-first strategy across our portfolio, which means that APIs are built and maintained with developers in mind to help them create great digital experiences.
We have a dedicated group responsible for working across the company to build the best APIs possible. We’ve developed our own quality standards to guide the effort and a framework to achieve consistency across products. Through this ongoing commitment to API quality, we’re fortifying Cisco’s contribution to the building blocks of today’s modern services-based IT.
Read more about how Cisco is focusing on API quality.
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