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API server plus services gateway equals REST services integration

Gateway specialist Vordel has added an API server to its array of integration tools for REST and SOA management. A cloud broker is also in the offing.

Driven by mobile and cloud applications, lightweight REST and JSON APIs are proliferating – and they are changing many aspects of SOA. Used to integrate new business channels, some of which are mobile, REST APIs are now starting to require the management and governance capabilities associated with SOA-era gateway products.

A handful of established SOA companies have rolled out API management offerings. For its part, Vordel, which started life as an XML network management company, recently added an API server and a cloud service broker to its application gateway offering, to come up with an API life-cycle package meant to improve the REST and JSON experience.

The rise in REST is bringing JSON and JavaScript to the fore, indicated Mark O’Neill, co-founder and CTO, Vordel. “We are seeing REST, JSON, and OAuth over SOAP and SAML,” he said.

In a way, the phenomena of REST appears to bring together many of the qualities sought in original 2000-era Web services. “It’s the triumph of Web friendly development,” O’Neill said of REST.

What is different about REST?

“With Web services and SOAP you were really exposing objects,” said John Rymer, analyst, Forrester Research. That made things more complex than typical Web undertakings.

“That is what is different about REST,” said Rymer. “With REST you are exposing resources just as with the Web. It’s not the objects.”

Rymer said that Vordel, while somewhat new to “the API game,” seems to have “a lot of useful functionality for the problem of managing APIs.”

“They are managing the life cycle of services,” he said. Moreover, he indicated, it is fair to say that API management now exists as a business.” It is not a trivial task, he added.

The shift underway has other ramifications. A broader community of developer styles must be supported. “With HTML5, things are becoming apps,” said O’Neill. And, in fact, JavaScript, closely associated these days with HTML5 Web page creation, is among the languages supported for API development in the Vordel API server environment.

Channels of delivery are changing too. Vordel’s own research shows that among organization deploying APIs, over 50% report using APIs to integrate new business channels, with a further 25% using APIs for mobile applications.

Security models, certificates and SLAs

An API server can provide the policy governance to ensure APIs are tuned for performance and scalability, according to Mike Gionfriddo, CTO at Safeway subsidiary, Blackhawk Network. Gionfriddo’s firm is a provider of prepaid and financial payment cards, and its business is seeing big changes as the Web grows and as mobile devices are used for redeeming gift cards.

“We have been using the Vordel gateway for about two years and we primarily use it to implement our security policies around inbound and outbound Internet traffic,” Gionfriddo told in an email message. “We have been working closely with Vordel on their new API Management offering and we believe it brings a type of serious management around security and governance with respect to APIs.

“Specifically, we leverage Vordel’s capabilities to help us effectively manage our certificate based security model with respect to our APIs. In addition, we believe that we can use the SLA management function to better govern the SLAs with our partners,” Gionfriddo remarked.

Is Gionfriddo seeing the rise of REST and a decline in SOAP as others have forecast? “Absolutely. I could go into a long diatribe about how SOAP is no better than ONC RPC, but I will spare you,” he responded. “The reasoning is simple,” he contined, asking “ What scales better, the Internet or an ESB?” His answer is “Rest”

“REST simply follows the model of Web,” he concluded.

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