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The function of API’s in the integration between the solutions

by | Jan 20, 2021 | BLOG

Digital transformation offers a series of benefits for companies of all sizes and industries. However, the results achieved by this transformation are not obtained without challenges. The new digital age has led to an exponential increase in the amount of data, applications, and systems. And they all need to communicate continuously and securely so that the benefits of digital transformation are achieved. 

The integration of these applications and systems through APIs allows applications to communicate and share information.

Using an API-based integration to create and manage connections between applications is extremely challenging. API integration allows a solution to develop and provide connections between all the applications and systems that your company needs to connect with nowadays. 

Find out below the role of APIs in the integration between solutions and learn about the main challenges associated with this technology.

What is an API?

In general terms, an API (Application Programming Interface) is a set of programming instructions that allows a software application to communicate directly with another. Through this communication, one application can cause the other to perform a variety of tasks, from returning a reply to a specific query to starting a more complex procedure.

Here is an analogy that can help you understand the concept. Imagine sitting in a restaurant and reading the menu. While the menu lists everything you can order, the real ingredients and activities needed to prepare the meal are stored in the kitchen.

To access the meal, you place an order with a waiter or waitress, who takes the order back to the kitchen staff. When the food is ready, they will take it to you. In this way, the APIs are like the waiting team, while the menu and the kitchen are like the different applications.

Where are the APIs used?

The examples of APIs in action are numerous. Did you order a ride on Uber? You can thank the APIs for making this possible. They are the ones that allow the ride-sharing app to communicate seamlessly with Google Maps and any form of payment you choose, so you can select a location, ask for a ride and pay for the service, all in one place.

In the payments industry, APIs allow people to make payments online, check when bills expire, control their finances, and conduct a variety of other payment-related activities. In fact, almost all online activities depend on APIs in some way.

The importance of API documentation

To use the services enabled by the APIs, consumers only need to interact with whatever interface they are using. Take Google search as an example. To successfully search for something on Google, the user does not need to know what is going on behind the scenes, so to speak. They just need to know how to navigate the interface.

For developers, it is an entirely different matter. Consider a developer who designs a new app for consumers looking to control their finances. The software engineer needs to configure the application so that it can successfully communicate with the user’s bank via that bank’s API. To make this work, the software developer needs to know what information the bank’s API requires and what responses (or actions) the bank will provide.

Fortunately for developers, APIs must be properly documented. This API documentation should provide technical instructions on how to connect and use an API effectively, and detail exactly what an application needs to send to the API to make it work and what the possible results are.

The restaurant analogy above can help illustrate the importance of documentation. You cannot order an appetizer by saying something meaningless to the waiter. In addition, the options available to you depend on what is on the menu and what ingredients are in the kitchen. If you start ordering items that are not on the menu or order something that is out of stock, you will not get what you want. Therefore, the menu, combined with knowing how to order correctly with the waiter, serves as documentation.

Challenges with APIs

Going back to the example of a developer who creates a financial management application, the application needs to be able to speak to different banks. Since each bank can have its own API, the developer must be familiar with the documentation for each API. What works for one bank may not work for another.

Other challenges related to the use of APIs for integration between solutions are:

Technological Complexity

The development of a seamless integration module requires extensive knowledge of technology. Finding a highly-qualified and experienced development team, willing to elaborate the integration for your system, is one of the biggest challenges for your project. 

Security Risks

Cybersecurity is a major concern for companies. The results of API abuse, such as breaches and data loss, can affect a company’s reputation and finances, not to mention the damage that can be done to end customers. Data breach methods are becoming more sophisticated, which means that improper integration can become a gift for people with malicious intent. That is why keeping your integration secure with another system requires constant control and improvement. 

Maintenance and Upgrade

When integration between the system is established, this is not the end of the story. You will need IT staff or at least one developer to maintain and update the integration. Otherwise, any functional changes made to the system can disrupt the entire process of accessing and handling data. Besides, your customers can request personalized modifications and improvements at any time.

Systems Diversity

There is a wide range of styles of software and API architecture. Given that each system has its specific logic, each integration has its unique challenges. When it comes to integration with multiple platforms, it takes a lot of time and extensive knowledge to learn each of the systems. Therefore, if you are planning multiple integrations, you should be aware that establishing a connection with each terminal will not be faster or easier than with the previous ones.

Conclusion

APIs are essential for digital transformation and the creation and development of innovative business models. They are the foundation of the application economy, which can be developed faster, better, and at a lower cost.

APIs allow software to be complemented with third-party digital products or services to facilitate development. Also, a good API can help expand your brand’s presence in the market.

Even though, with the increased use of APIs, there is also a great potential for more security holes. The risk is great in most companies because the development team pays more attention to items such as functionality and agility than to the security aspect. 

Therefore, developers need to understand the associated risks to keep customers’, suppliers’, partners’, and employees’ data secure, as well as create guides to ensure that developing their APIs does not create cybersecurity problems.

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