IBM Ushers in API Economy With New Products, Services

IBM announces new, intelligent matchmaking technology to help organizations navigate the API Economy.

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Working from the premise that no application is an island, IBM announced new technology, services and efforts to help connect disparate systems via application programming interfaces (APIs) and help organizations navigate the so-called API Economy.

Big Blue delivered an update of API Harmony, an intelligent cloud-based API matchmaking technology for developers, as part of a series of technology, product and services announcements to advance the growing API Economy. IBM defines the API Economy as a commercial exchange of business functions, capabilities or competencies as services packaged in APIs.

It is a driving force behind much of the digital transformation across industries today, enabling businesses to build new ecosystems and monetize core assets, services and products. The API Economy will become a $2.2 trillion market by 2018, analysts estimate. According to Ovum, an IT research and advisory firm, during the next two to three years, the number of enterprises having an API program is expected to increase by 150 percent.

APIs are pieces of software that act as technology glue integrating data and business logic that connect systems from multiple enterprises through apps on any device via the cloud. When core information assets are packaged as APIs and shared or sold, enterprises build awareness, increase customer satisfaction through more personalized services and expand partner networks, IBM said. By offering new services and software that allow companies to get greater use of the API Economy, IBM is laying the foundation for clouds to behave as one, providing for more consistent cloud integration regardless of the cloud infrastructure.

"Applications are not islands; everything is connected," Angel Diaz, IBM's vice president of Cloud Architecture and Technology, told eWEEK. "Our work here helps people connect all those applications and build new ones. The faster you and build and change applications, the faster you can create solutions and get products to market."

IBM's API Harmony uses cognitive technologies like machine learning and graph technology to anticipate what a developer will require to build new apps. It also makes recommendations on which APIs to use, shows API relationships and identifies what is missing.

"IBM's API Economy announcement is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it acknowledges the increasingly important role that business apps and developers play in a variety of businesses and industries," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. "In addition, the initiatives and offerings clearly leverage IBM's strengths in software development and developer tools."

The IBM API Harmony cloud service is available on IBM's Bluemix platform as a service. API Harmony enables developers to use intelligent search technology to quickly and easily find APIs and choose the combination of APIs that will be most effective for a given application. API Harmony connects producers and consumers in an API Economy by anticipating what is needed next. It acts as a matchmaker of APIs for developers and IT managers to facilitate the process of building new applications. This is the first time IBM has infused machine-learning capabilities into its API solutions.

"As IBM builds out Watson's capability it will increasingly need to interconnect and interoperate with other systems in order to control and report on them," said Rob Enderle, founder of the Enderle Group. "API Harmony is an automated tool that makes that process far faster and potentially far more comprehensive, not only pointing out the connections that need to be made but the application gaps that need to be filled in order to complete the solution. This process of interconnecting and completing systems is a major part of applying increasing amount of intelligence to the existing and emerging world around us. This is a critical step to their making Watson a more integrated part of the intelligent system future that seems to be coming so quickly."

Moreover, IBM's API Management software supports enterprise hybrid cloud deployments through both on-premises and public environments, helping organizations assemble and manage APIs by providing a portal to attract and engage application developers, as well as foster the use of published APIs for hybrid cloud deployments. Users can view operational metrics and gain business insights into how apps are performing in the market.

Diaz noted that the new services and solutions complement IBM's portfolio of API solutions such as its DataPower API gateway products for securely deploying and scaling APIs and its newly acquired StrongLoop capabilities for developing new APIs using Node.js.

In addition, Diaz said IBM also will be providing consulting services to help organizations navigate the API Economy. With IBM's API Economy Journey Map, consultants who are part of the company's new cognitive practice will help clients identify key opportunities and gauge their readiness on their journey in the API Economy.