API: definition and challenges

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API definition and challenges

Key elements of modern software architecture, an API allows different application domains within the same system to communicate, and ensure different systems communicate with each other. At the dawn of Web 3.0, these exchanges are becoming crucial in terms of security and confidentiality, and are the framework for many innovations.

API: definition

API stands for “Application Programming Interface”.

An API is an interface required for two applications to communicate. Instead of having to copy/paste information from point A to point B manually, with all the risks that this implies, an API standardizes the exchange of information between two applications.  

We can think of an API as an airport: a city with an airport sees planes from other cities take off and land. Each plane knows the protocols and the communication system of each airport. In the same way, an API defines the communication standards between applications, an indispensable prerequisite for making information exchanges possible.  

The different types of APIs

There are several types of APIs, depending on how they are used: 

  • Open APIs, which, as their name suggests, are publicly accessible. Open APIs allow anyone to use them to develop new uses.
  • Partner APIs, which only work in the presence of an authentication key. Partner APIs allow controlling the access and the data used by the API;
  • Private APIs, which are for private and internal use. These APIs are developed for specific processes and needs and to complement an organization’s systems.

APIs: examples

For example, let’s say your sales team uses primarily four applications: 

  • A CRM such as Salesforce or Hubspot to store prospect and customer information;
  • A VoIP (Voice IP) application that allows them to call customers around the world from their computer;
  • A mailbox;
  • An online calendar to record phone and physical appointments.

How to make sure every email is recorded in the CRM? Or how to ensure the CRM information can be easily used in an email? How to reflect phone appointments in the CRM? How do you get the VoIP application to call the sales rep at the time of the appointment to connect with the customer?

All these interactions are possible thanks to APIs. They define the standards for exchanges between applications. Orchestration tools such as Marjory will then allow this information to circulate. 

APIs: what are their use cases?

The API simplifies the interaction between systems because there is no need to worry about an application’s functioning or complexity. The latter will define, through its API, the expected input parameters to provide the requested information. 

An orchestration tool such as the Marjory solution can query a source and send the information to another system, thus interconnecting them in an automated manner.

The use cases are practically infinite. Any task or operation involving multiple applications, servers or databases that offer APIs can be automated.

In business, this saves time, money and human resources daily. Whether it is a question of repetitive or complex tasks, it is a gain in convenience at several levels of the organization.

The non-technical end user is more satisfied and more efficient. On the other hand, the technical user or IT manager has a tool for optimizing the workflow and is thus able to focus on more essential elements of their business

API: how does it work?

We have seen that an API can be described as a set of protocols on how to exchange data between two applications. From a technical point of view, it is not only a data flow.

The information transmitted by the sending application must be correctly interpreted and accepted by the receiving application. The API must therefore manage the exchange of requests between the applications and the correct information structure to be transferred.

APIs can use two types of architecture:

  • SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), which uses the XML format and receives requests by HTTP or SMTP standard;
  • REST (Representation State Transfer) is an architecture aimed at standardizing APIs without adding format constraints. For the web, JSON is the most common format.

APIs don’t just transfer information, they format it and interact with the invoked services. They do it respecting the format form expected by the latter.

APIs: challenges

Given the explosion in the number of SaaS tools over the last ten years, the number of APIs needed to ensure they talk to each other is massive. Assuming you need a different API for each application or system, and given the vast number of software programs used on average by an organization, we rapidly find ourselves with an unmanageable quantity of APIs.

Solutions such as Marjory exist to avoid being overwhelmed by a massive number of APIs to manage. 

API orchestration tools are an optimal way to simplify management, implementation and development. Rather than developing each connection, Marjory offers off-the-shelf connectors. Not only does this save time, but it also ensures reliability, as they are tested and validated, which is essential in terms of security.

IT: how to easily integrate APIs?

Reading the API documentation, choosing the endpoints to be integrated, managing them in code, testing them during the different stages of development and then in production are the different phases of the intricate integration process. Integrating APIs represents a significant workload for an IT department. Hence, using a low-code solution such as Marjory makes it easy to interconnect different software bricks

With interfaces that can be managed by non-technical users or those who have been trained in low-code, it becomes much easier to intervene when necessary.

The benefits are a greater degree of flexibility, ease of management, time saving and security. The end-user has a smooth experience, while the developer is not disturbed in his work.

This optimization represents a real leap forward when it comes to building new applications, deploying new features quickly and gaining agility.

Integrating new services is done either through the catalog of applications already integrated by Marjory or through the App Builder to interface with a specific service. In both cases, the configuration of low-code flows will considerably reduce the time-to-market without requiring advanced expertise in development

Marjory’s strength is that we already know what the APIs you want to integrate expect in terms of data and what they return. We can then automate the requests between these APIs, schedule and monitor the calls. In short, we offer you automated flight plans between two given airports ! 

And while Marjory allows you to connect APIs with each other, we also offer our own APIs, where each API brings together several services. So, you can simply integrate an API and access dozens of APIs from service providers in the blink of an eye. The result? Less integration time and less maintenance! 

With Marjory, complex connections are simplified and workflows are automated! Want to know more? Contact us!

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