BACKGROUND IMAGE: iSTOCK/GETTY IMAGES
Once viewed as only important to developers and software engineers, APIs have shifted from a little-known aspect of development into a business-critical resource. But despite the increased popularity, are businesses ready and willing to make a transition into the API economy?
We spoke with Sassan Saedi, head of channels and partnerships at the API service provider Nexmo, to get his take on emerging API market trends. We explore topics such as who's adopting APIs, the mentality needed to achieve success with APIs and how this relates to the ongoing developer talent shortage.
Where do you think businesses are in their transition toward an "API economy?"
Sassan Saedi: I wonder if it's really a transition we're well within. I don't see any business of any size being able to ignore APIs anymore. [Needed services] that you had to do a lot of programming for are now available through an API. And there are API marketplaces all over the place ... these marketplaces really make the programmers' and the developers' jobs a lot easier.
I think five years ago, maybe it was more of a new thing. But today, any developer that doesn't consider an API, I think they're probably behind. In terms of where it's transitioning, it's hard for me to say ... except that APIs are getting more and more sophisticated.
Are startups often more open to jumping into the API market?
Saedi: For sure. Just by their nature -- not having a lot of resources internally -- [they] embrace it a lot faster. And they're [less] encumbered by old processes and open to new improvements.
But having said that, some of our largest customers are humongous enterprises that are not just starting with Nexmo -- they already have embraced the API economy and are developing their services based around these APIs. So I wouldn't say it's a startup thing, I really say it's mainstream.
For those large businesses, what's the biggest change you find they have to make in order to adopt APIs successfully?
Saedi: So we have a two-factor authentication API, and that's a large part of our business. Two-factor authentication is huge, but companies are not used to these "multi-capability" APIs ... they can't handle that effect [on] their internal processes. We're frequently asked, "Can you change this or that?" And we can't [always] change [a multi-capability] API for just one customer. So a lot of times they have a hard time adapting to these complex APIs versus "single use" APIs that are easy to plug and play.
Sassan Saedihead of channels and partnerships, Nexmo
So businesses playing in the API market almost have to let their guard down a little bit?
Saedi: I think so, and be open to change and the advantages that the new way will bring to them. [Often], they may have six or seven processes internally doing this work, and it can be replaced with one API. It really will simplify their lives, but they're a little hesitant.
It reminds me a little bit of [when] I was building a cloud channel. A cloud simplifies a lot of things for a lot of people, [and] it almost jeopardizes some of their jobs, depending on what the jobs were. So, as these APIs are getting more and more sophisticated, you [can] see [that] it's driving efficiencies inside the company. I wouldn't say any API is replacing anybody's job, but it certainly is making their jobs easier, ... and there's that hesitation sometimes.
Do you think that companies are increasingly turning to the API market as a response to the shortage of developer talent?
Saedi: Yeah, actually, there might be a little bit of that. We've put some effort into trying to improve our developer resources in terms of sample codes, quick starts and integrations with leading packages. We find that, although it's not hard work, [developers need] to change gears and do a few days of some "other" coding that they weren't doing before. It really makes a lot of difference ... removing that extra barrier for these guys, because they're super busy.
Even though API integration like ours is not difficult at all, it's just one more thing. And the easier companies like us make it for them, the easier their job is.
Developers are always in shortage. The list of features a business wants is always bigger than what they can deliver. Thank God APIs are very simple, but still, it's work.
Learn more about API management in our essential guide
Six aspects of API creation that significantly affect production
Five tips for better API versioning