By Mark Sigda

It was 2008, and I’d spent the past five years as a software architect in a mid-sized dev shop.  We had dozens of applications and found ourselves with a lot of organically-grown web services.  Wanting to promote re-use and get some control around our services, we embarked on an SOA Initiative.  We wrote requirements documents and architecture plans.  We had beautiful diagrams and lists of benefits we were sure to see. 

We were going to need some tools, and the vendor parade began.  Wow.  These SOA tools were complicated.  It sure was long way from here to there.  We gave it a shot.

Soon enough, the project withered and died.  SOA was too hard.  Too great a shift.  Management didn’t understand it.  We didn’t have nearly enough people with the right skills.  The benefits were too distant. 

We went back to our stove-piped projects and kept on building more and more web services.  Services made so much sense.  Easy to build, maintain, understand, and share.  Of course, we didn’t really know what services we had, or how much they were used, or who was using them, or how to use them (“go talk to the service developer”). 

Fast-forward to 2013, and the SOA Initiative was back!  The need was greater than ever, but…the SOA vendors didn’t have any SOA for sale.  They were selling API Management

API?  Application Programming Interface?  I had vague flashbacks to the previous century.  You mean CORBA?  COM+?  POSIX?  I remembered how I’d rejoiced when SOAP came along and I didn’t have to use DCOM anymore.

As it turns out, when we say API in 2014, we usually mean Web API.  It’s still web services, but now we’re talking about RESTful services.  Simple HTTP and JSON (or less commonly, XML). 

This matters.  I think of REST as the lowest common denominator.  Just about any platform or programming language can call a REST service.  .Net and Java developers love SOAP, but it’s complex and verbose when it comes passing a lot of data across the web.  HTTP & JSON are just what we need to power an AJAX application.  Or a phone app.  Or a thermostat.  Or a car.

APIs have been evolving toward this for the past several years (think SalesForce, eBay, Google Maps).  Adoption is increasing rapidly and the tools to manage APIs are getting really good.  APIs aren’t just for geeks any longer.  Companies are using APIs as a new business channel.  APIs themselves are key products.  Web APIs are here to stay.

 

Mark is a solution architect in Fort Collins, Colorado.  After a couple of decades in software application development, he’s discovering the new world of API Management with CA Technologies.