I met a friend at DevOps conference who used to worked for Sabre. He told me about how huge Sabre is and how it drives world’s travel businesses. I went home and researched the company and left it at that. The “Aha” moment happened when I was working on an assignment related to API management. The sheer magnitude of what Sabre was doing and what many others are doing with APIs was huge and I could make sense of it only after looking at it from API perspective. I was fascinated by the economy of APIs and possibilities it offered to businesses. In this post I briefly cover basics of API Economy, show you some cool things organizations are doing and talk a bit about API management platforms.
Real world use cases
- Sabre a GDS company is used by more than 350K travel agents and companies worldwide. When you book tickets through one of the online portals – they are actually hitting one of GDS provider APIs. GDS companies in turn manage the tickets from multiple airlines. So tomorrow if you want to start a travel company – choose one of API providers from GDS companies and get started. Other companies in this space are Amadeus, Galileo
- Netflix handles roughly 2B API requests daily by audience consuming content from various devices. Managing so many different devices, applications and consumers at this scale would not have been possible without sound APIs in place.
- Evernote – the editor I used to write this post has it’s API. You must be wondering what business would you generate by exposing API of a editor to others? Co-creation is the name of the game! Developers and companies out there have created apps which have generated additional revenue for Evernote and potential acquisition targets. GTD apps like SmartTM and many others are built on top of Evernote
- Ordr.in provides API to view restaurants, their menus and order food based on menu items. They give you access to data & a few bundles to get started, building actual customer facing application is done by others. One can build online food ordering apps by using ordr.in apis without having to worry about the data.
- In words of “Peter Moeykens” from TomTom – you might be sitting on gold mine of data and not know about it. TomTom opened it’s internal assets successfully as API products for consumers/organizations to use and leverage.
APIs for Business
- Sell/expose data/service/function to either internal consumers or external parties
- Enable and scale the interaction between multiple systems and devices/device types within organization or/and with partners
- Co-innovate with partners, developers and world at large.
- Use a product/service in ways not imagined by organization- for example GTD app uses Evernote API
- Data: Some form of data which might be valuable is the basic building block of an API business.
- Service/Function: Some sort of service or function which is offered to internal consumers or partners can be opened to wider audience and might be utilized in ways never imagined within organization
- Internal business units/developers: Internal applications, various business units talking to each other, systems integrating with each other.
- Partners/Community: Partners/Suppliers/Vendors/ providing you various services or parts of your product, partners co-creating the products with you, communities working with you on your platform
- Public/External Developers: The world pretty much where developers can sign up your API and build applications on top of it!
API Management : Why & How
- Manage access control on APIs, decide what kind of users get what kind of access and how much they can exhaust the system with requests. Have appropriate kill/disabling switches in place for users exhausting APIs.
- Monitor the usage in terms of which APIs are used most, which are used least, what is the pattern of API usage?
- What kind of devices and application are using API? Which API is working best for end users and who is making unnecessary requests and might be optimized.
- If your API is open – then managing the pricing and plans, managing access based on plans, enabling new users to sign up learn and start using your API seamlessly.
API & Platform thinking
Thoughts & Conclusion
References and further reading
- Slides from API Conference (http://www.apiconference.com) show you many use cases from real world.
- John Musser provides some really great and succint advice on “What makes a great open API”
- A really good article by 3Scale is a good overview of what exactly is “API Management”, what things to look for and how you to implement one (With or without 3Scale – which I really liked for their honesty and openness). The 3rd part covers the API Management while first two parts are summary of John Musser’s presentation in previous link
- On business various models adopted by various API providers, two presentations do a good job – one from EU identity summit and another one from John Musser
- ProgrammableWeb is a great resource for all things API
- I suggest giving a quick read to The Age of the Platform by Phil Simon
Thanks to my colleague Animesh at work for reviewing the article.