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The value of API management

Web APIs are multiplying as more retailers, media groups, governments and financial services firms start exposing them. At the same time, many companies are still resistant to API management, according to Paolo Malinverno, research vice president at Gartner. The problem with that, he said, is that using APIs is increasingly at the center of what goes on at the “nexus of forces,” Gartner’s term for the convergence of social, mobile, cloud and information. As a result, lack of management could mean serious loss of value.

“It is a fact that the number of APIs grows by the day and, with the explosion of mobile applications, APIs will be used more and more in the future,” Malinverno told a crowd at Gartner’s Application Architecture, Development & Integration Summit this week in Las Vegas.

He noted that daily API calls have skyrocketed into the billions for many well-known companies. Facebook, for example, saw 5 billion API calls per day in October 2009, while Twitter had 13 billion per day in May 2011.

“These companies better know who is calling,” cautioned Malinverno. “They better know how many calls per second they have to field, and they better know what sort of elasticity they need to demand from their cloud platforms to ensure that whoever uses their API is able to use it properly.”

API management is the way to do that, he said. Without it, businesses may lose out on value in their services and their APIs.

“API management is about making an API available on the Web for everybody that you want to use the API—enabling them to call it and get the result they want,” he explained. “Not everybody feels they need API management, but they do. The assessment of the value of the API is a part of API management.”

Malinverno also noted that SOA governance and API management are very closely tied—perhaps even the same. He said SOA governance is “the ability to link a specific intent of your business strategy to the way you develop and operate services.” He advised his audience to build a strong SOA governance strategy together with API management, to create what he called “application services governance.” -Stephanie Mann

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