Why are APIs in the cloud so important for developers?
Modern developer teams are demanding one essential process: they need to synchronize their system infrastructures with the features of different service providers in the cloud. APIs make this integration possible, where interoperability is key.
One of the great recent revolutions in technology is data management in the cloud. Not only for large volumes of information, what we know as Big Data, but also in relation to platforms or services for end users, such as a customer or a company’s employee. The result of this effort is embodied in hundreds of tools and features for managing information in the cloud: from office automation like Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive to storage of personal images and videos through applications.
The greatest challenge for companies and developers is integrating their own system infrastructure with these cloud-based platforms or services, often with third-party providers, and improving the entire experience deriving from that strategic move. APIs are the real key in all this process. We have already mentioned two giants in the sector: Google and Microsoft. But there are many others, such as Amazon or Salesforce.
Four possible scenarios for companies
Sometimes the IT infrastructure of companies is made up of what is known as legacy systems, in other words, outdated services or platforms that are being used and cannot be replaced easily. In order to make this decision, development teams can follow several paths, to a great extent conditioned by the services or platforms they need to integrate into their own service infrastructure, usually linked to certain providers:
- PaaS APIs: Platform as a Service APIs provide access to the different features of a cloud-based service. For this to be possible, the service has to be integrated with the initial infrastructure's own elements. This connection is always done through APIs.
- SaaS APIs: Software as a Service APIs facilitate the connection between cloud-based software/functionality and the entire system infrastructure underpinning the source platform. For example, a typical example is using APIs for connecting to a cloud-based CRM or CMS platform (content editor) to connect them to the entire underlying system infrastructure.
- IaaS APIs: Infrastructure as a Service APIs enable the resources existing in the cloud-based service to be managed easily.
- Several providers of cloud services: The most common scenario in companies today is to coexist with several providers in the cloud, where each one offers services with very varied engagement concepts, from Platform as a Service or Infrastructure as a Service to Software as a Service. APIs are the most effective way to manage increasingly complex models. They are the keys that open all the doors.
Interoperability, the essential element
As a company's services in the cloud grow and, therefore, it starts to feel the need to create a service provider network in the cloud, its need to ensure true operability grows exponentially. Otherwise, it can become too reliant on a single provider. As the different services cannot coexist, the most obvious technical solution is for a single provider to provide all the services. But this obviously has clear risks for the future of the company and for its own business.
Some market players have been making interesting moves for some time to force the entire set of cloud providers to accept a number of requirements that would ensure that the service models could always coexist and thus ensure interoperability. One example is the OpenStack Foundation, which is laying a firm foundation for using services in the private and public clouds with many providers on the market. The standardization work of the OpenStack Foundation goes in two directions:
- Basic services that are common among cloud providers: The most obvious option is for cloud-based service providers to offer a set of basic services where interoperability between platforms and the different types of cloud is completely cross-cutting, with no specific features by provider. This, for example, would enable an application to be written once irrespective of the provider or the future service changes made by the original system infrastructure owner. In the end, OpenStack made the decision to incorporate public-domain code into its products, which in some way is forcing providers to combine own elements in the private cloud with those in the public cloud. And this results in the model called for by companies: hybrid cloud services. Some of these providers are HP, IBM, Rackspace, Red Hat, Suse and Canonical.
Federated identities: Federated identity is one of the solutions that makes it possible to manage users irrespective of the companies. It is ultimately a process that synchronizes the user's ID details and the entire access management process. In the case of OpenStack, the federated identity management system is called Keystone, an authentication (AuthN) and high-level authentication service (AuthZ). This user identification process at each OpenStack provider is done through its identification API. Many companies have already joined this identification mechanism interoperability project: Cisco, HP, IBM, Red Hat, Oracle, Mirantis, Stratoscale, Raclspace or Ubuntu.
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