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.
IBM Ushers in API Economy With New Products, Services
To help clients begin to make the most of the API Economy, IBM will offer workshops and digital transformation services that help clients quickly develop and adopt an API strategy. Starter workshops allow developers to leave with a functioning API after spending just four days in one of IBM’s Bluemix Garage venues. Clients will benefit from digital transformation services that provide industry-specific strategic consulting to help organizations with the shift to full adoption of APIs.
“In essence, the initiative aims to make it far simpler for developers to determine which APIs will work best for given projects by using IBM cognitive solutions, including Watson Analytics, and other resources,” King said. “That should help speed application design/development processes and also help enhance the quality of finished apps. Overall, this is a natural focus area that should deliver significant dividends for the company’s customers.”
IBM’s Watson APIs are managed by IBM API Management on Bluemix, bringing approximately 30 cognitive-based APIs and capabilities of ecosystem partners and developers. Cognitive businesses combine digital business and digital intelligence, using artificial intelligence systems that can understand, reason and learn.
“The API Economy opens up new opportunities for innovation in both business model and technology strategy when enterprises participate with digital business services,” said Marie Wieck, general manager of IBM Middleware, in a statement. “To succeed in the API Economy and reach new clients, enterprises need an open ecosystem for trusted exchange and a differentiating strategy for how they monetize those services. IBM is helping guide clients every step of the way into this API Economy as they start their journey to becoming cognitive businesses.”
Meanwhile, IBM is collaborating with the Linux Foundation and leading industry standards organizations to provide an open platform for building, managing, securing and integrating open APIs.
“As a company, you’ve got a choice: Innovate with the world or innovate against the world,” Diaz said. “IBM chooses to innovate with the world.”
Today, the Linux Foundation announced the formation of an Open API Initiative collaborative project to standardize and document APIs in a consistent way. The project’s goal, with IBM as a founding member, is to create a shared governance model and technical community for the Swagger specification, which has the largest ecosystem for API tooling in use today.
The initiative will extend the Swagger specification and format to create an open technical community within which members can easily contribute to building a vendor-neutral, portable and open specification for providing metadata for RESTful APIs. This open specification will allow both humans and computers to discover and understand the capabilities of the respective services with a minimal amount of implementation logic. The initiative will also promote and facilitate the adoption and use of an open API standard.
“Swagger is considered one of the most popular frameworks for building APIs,” said Jim Zemlin, executive director at The Linux Foundation, in a statement. “When an open source project reaches this level of maturity, it just can’t be managed by one company, organization or developer. The Open API Initiative will extend this technology to advance connected application development through open standards.”
Founding members of the Open API Initiative include 3Scale, Apigee, Capital One, Google, IBM, Intuit, Microsoft, PayPal, Restlet and SmartBear.
“While it looks like the initiative starts with Swagger, the collaboration will be most successful if it envelopes multiple communities, including other API specifications, languages and frameworks, to truly find the best common road for API standards,” said Uri Sarid, CTO at MuleSoft. “The industry should focus on innovating and challenging each other in a healthy way to make a meaningful difference and to create significant value for the users. This can’t happen with just one API language. Instead, it should be about working together to get the best from different languages.”
To help facilitate the development of industry standards around open API development, IBM is also announcing its participation in two key standards organizations in banking and health care to ultimately help users quickly and easily integrate APIs into their digital services.
IBM is working with the Banking Industry Architecture Network (BIAN) to create common IT standards for the banking industry, including the creation of common banking API definitions that will standardize application components and simplify and accelerate the creation of APIs.
IBM is also working with the HL7 standards organization on a key health care standard called FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources). HL7 member organizations such as IBM bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the Argonaut Implementation initiative, which is a group of private-sector health care organizations collaborating to speed the development and adoption of FHIR. These programs will help shape the future of API interoperability in the health care industry.