All About the API Q&A

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Alon Aug 2005With the All About the API event in the books, it’s a good time to revisit this Q&A host TMCnet sent out for speakers to give their thoughts on the subject. Our EVP/CTO Alon Cohen answered the call. Read on for this conversation:

1. What new business opportunities are being driven by to the growth of the so-called API economy?

Collaboration between companies is becoming simpler. Integration no longer requires R&D effort from both parties, just by the one consuming the services provided by the API. In fact, companies do not have to talk, meet or negotiate to have a full-fledged business relationship. On top of that, the security aspects of any collaboration process are formalized through the authentication model used by the API.

2. Is there a market for APIs you would consider the low-hanging fruit?  Which markets are the next to leverage APIs extensively?

I would say the car industry is showing signs by enabling APPs to be accessed via the CAR UI. As car manufacturer build and open more APIs, developers will be able to offer replacements for all CAR UI practically enabling the creation of a much friendlier UI or even a generic one that can be moved from one car to another and make life simper for drivers.

3. What are the major challenges API developers face?

Some APIs are overly complicated. For example, they might require the developer to write a chain of XML files or scripts to create a series of API function calls rather than simply letting the user call the API functions one after another. Another complication might arise when an API call back functionality does not let give sufficient methods to support a required authentication process.

4. Who, within an organization, should businesses target when marketing their APIs (i.e., business leaders, C-Suite, developers).

CTO/CIOs implementing integration between different business systems in the organization should first make sure they are familiar with the concept of API and REST (as a minimum) and should be the ones we would target.

5. How do you measure ROI of APIs?

API helps vendors to hold on to customers that consume those APIs. Having said that, one measurement that could be done for ROI is by comparing the Life Time Value of API-using customers to non-API-using customers.

6. Who is responsible for security?  Is API security more challenging that securing other applications, hardware, and networks?

The API defines a demarcation point for accessing the data and functionality of the API vendor. Having said that, it is simper to secure that single, well defined interface with different authentication schemas and different rate limiting elements in order to defend against DOS or DDOS attacks and hacking attempts.

7. Which is better, SOAP or REST?  Why?

REST is my choice because I feel that it’s easier for every developer to master. REST is standard HTML and allows many different data formats. I find it to be more versatile.

8. How often are APIs changed or updated?  How is this accomplished while ensuring minimal disruption to users and their customers?

When an API needs to change it is important to keep the existing API running and operational and enable the new API on a different URL. Some minor extensions to an existing API will not cause any disruption as long as the outcome is a new API with backwards compatibility to the previous version.

9. What kinds of standardization are still needed to drive successful mass development and adoption of APIs across verticals?

Standardization is not really that important. If one company wants to follow a leader they can crate an emulation layer on top of whatever API they already have to look like the leader in the space. However building such a layer or building a native but similar API never guaranties 100 percent compatibility. My advice is that when you switch API from one vendor to another, always perform sufficient testing to make sure the new API does what the previous one did for you.

10. How important is building an ecosystem around your API(s)?  Can your API(s) be successful without it?

This is important. The more developers you have using your API the less real-time development support you need to provide. Developers tend to help each other if you give them the communication channel to do so.

11. What differentiates one ecosystem from another?

We are still in the process of building our own, however being in a position where we get requests from existing customers for many different types of integrations, we are happy to provide those project leads to our evolving community of developers.

12. Why should attendees at All About the API make sure to attend your session/booth?

We are offering a true Telephony API which is unique. In fact, many of our users can use our API to create different settings in our system and create a fully functional PBX or call center, but as opposed to other telephony APIs their control server does not have to stay on-line once those settings are implemented.

Our APIs provide high-level control over a fully functional PBX rather than only low-level call control that most others in our space provide.

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