What is API? An API is a set of rules that describes how computers or applications communicate with each other. APIs are placed between an application and the webserver and act as an intermediate layer. This layer processes the data transfer interface between the systems.
Table of Contents
- What is an Application Programming Interface (API)?
- How the API works
- Why do we need an API?
- Common APIs
- Types of APIs
- Types of API protocols
- APIs, web services and microservices
- APIs and cloud architecture
- APIs and IBM Cloud®
What is an Application Programming Interface (API)?
Application programming interfaces, or APIs, facilitate software development and innovation through the exchange of data and functions by applications.
An application programming interface, or API, enables companies to share the data and performance of their applications to external third-party developers, business partners, and internal branches of their company. In this way, services and products communicate with each other and use each other’s data and functions through a documented interface. Developers do not need to know how to implement the API. They use interfaces to communicate with other products and services. The use of APIs has increased over the past decade, to the point that many of the most popular web applications today depend on APIs.
How the API works
An API is a set of rules that describes how computers or applications communicate with each other. APIs are placed between an application and the webserver and act as an intermediate layer. This layer processes the data transfer interface between the systems.
Here’s how an API works:
1- A client application requests data recovery to the API. This request is sent by the application to the web server via the Uniform Source Identifier (API) and includes the request verb, headers, and sometimes a request text.
2. After receiving a valid request, the API will contact an external application or web server.
3- The server sends a response to the API based on the requested information.
4. The API transfers the data to the initial application of the applicant.
Data transfer will vary depending on the web service used, but the request and response process will take place through an API. While the user interface is designed for human use, APIs are designed for use by a computer or application.
APIs are securely designed to facilitate operation between two systems – endpoints are the only way to communicate with APIs, and each endpoint has specific formats for requesting and responding. Requests to the API usually have permissions to reduce the risk of server attacks, and an API gateway can restrict access to minimize security threats. Also, when exchanging, HTTP headers, cookies, or query string parameters provide more layers of security to the data.
For example, consider the API provided by the payment processing service. Customers can enter their card details in a store app. The payment processor does not need to access the user’s bank account; The API creates a unique password for the transaction that is sent to the server, ensuring a higher level of security against potential threats (hacking).
Why do we need an API?
Whether to manage existing tools or to design new tools, you can use an application programming interface to simplify your workflow. Some of the main benefits of APIs include the following:
- Better collaboration: On average, a company uses about 1,200 cloud applications (the link is outside of IBM), many of which are not interconnected. APIs enable integration so that these operating systems and applications can communicate seamlessly with each other. Through this integration, companies can automate workflows and improve workplace collaboration. Without an API, many companies will lose connectivity and their productivity and performance will be compromised.
- Easier innovation : APIs, while providing flexibility, allow companies to connect with new business partners, provide new services to existing markets, and ultimately, access new markets, which can generate greater returns. And lead to a digital transformation. Stripe, for example, started as an API with only seven lines of code. The company has since partnered with many of the world’s largest companies and has recently been valued at $ 36 billion.
- Making Money From Data : Many companies offer free APIs, at least initially, to attract developers to their brand and connect with their potential business partners. It took 10 months after AccuWeather launched its self-service developer portal to sell a wide range of API packages, attracting 24,000 developers and selling 11,000 API Keys.
- More security: As mentioned above, APIs create an extra layer of protection between your data and a server. Developers can build API security using passwords, signatures and Layer Security Protocol (TLS); Implementation of API payment gateways; And strengthen with effective management practice.
Because APIs allow companies to access their resources while maintaining security and control, this has become a valuable aspect of modern business. Here are some popular examples of application programming interfaces that you may encounter:
- Login: A popular API is a feature that enables people to log in to websites using their login details on their Facebook, Twitter or Google profiles. This feature easily allows any website to quickly authenticate the user using the API of one of the popular services, thus eliminating the hassle of creating a new profile for each web service. .
- Third-party payment processing : For example, PayPal payment, which is now ubiquitous and found on e-commerce websites, works through an API, allowing individuals to disclose information without disclosure. Sensitive or unauthorized access to pay for products online.
- Compare accommodation booking sites: Travel booking services review thousands of flights and show the cheapest options for each date and destination. These services work through application programming interfaces (APIs) and allow users to access the latest information about hotels and airlines. APIs significantly reduce the time and effort required to review flights or hotels by independently exchanging data and requests.
- Google Maps: One of the most common examples of APIs is the Google Maps service. In addition to the main APIs that display static or interactive maps, the app uses the APIs and other features to provide users with the desired directions or points. With geolocation and multiple layers of data, you can communicate with the Maps API when charting travel routes or tracking moving items, such as a vehicle.
- Twitter : Each tweet includes key descriptive features, including author, unique ID, message, timed posting, and geolocation metadata. Twitter makes public tweets and responses available to developers, allowing them to submit their tweets through the company’s API.
Types of APIs
Today, most application programming interfaces are web APIs that display the data and functions of an application. Here are four key types of web APIs:
- Open APIs are open source application programming interfaces that can be accessed via the HTTP protocol. They are also known as public APIs and define endpoints and query templates.
- Partner APIs (APIs) are APIs available to strategic business partners. Typically, developers can access these APIs in self-service mode through the public API developer portal. Of course, in order to access corporate APIs, they must go through the processing steps and receive login information.
- Internal APIs are APIs that are hidden from external users. These private APIs are not available to users outside the company and are used within a specific organization or group.
- Composite APIs combine multiple data or service APIs. This service allows developers to access multiple endpoints in a single call. These EPIs are useful in small service architecture and may require information from multiple sources to perform a task.
Types of API protocols
With the increasing use of web APIs, special protocols have been developed to provide users with a defined set of rules that specify the types of data and commands accepted. In fact, these API protocols facilitate the exchange of standard information:
- SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) is an API protocol built with XML that allows users to send and receive data via SMTP and HTTP. With the SOAP API, it will be easier to share information between applications or software components that run in different environments or are written in different languages.
- XML-RPC is a protocol that relies on XML to transfer data to a specific format, while SOAP uses a proprietary XML format. XML-RPC is older than SOAP, but it is much simpler and relatively lighter in that it uses minimal bandwidth.
- JSON-RPC is a similar protocol to XML-RPC because both are remote (RPC), but it uses JSON to transfer data instead of the XML format. Both protocols are simple. Although requests may contain multiple parameters, the results will be the same.
- REST (Representational State Transfer) is a set of API web architecture principles, meaning that there are no formal standards (as opposed to protocol standards). To have a REST API (also known as a RESTful API), the user interface must meet certain architectural constraints. It is possible to build RESTful APIs with SOAP protocols, but these two standards are often considered as competing specifications.
APIs, web services and microservices
A web service is a software that is accessible through a web address. Therefore, by definition, web services need a network. Because a web service represents the data and functions of an application, in fact, every web service is an API, while not every API is a web service.
There are two common architectural approaches to using APIs: service-oriented architecture (SOA) and microservice architecture.
- SOA is a software design style in which features are shared and made available as separate services on a network. Typically, SOA is implemented with web services, making functional building blocks accessible through standard communication protocols.
- Microservices architecture is an alternative architecture style that divides the application into smaller independent components. Using the app as a separate set of services makes it easier to test, maintain and scale. This method has become very prominent in the age of cloud computing and enables developers to work on a component independently of other components.
While SOA is a fundamental evolutionary step in application development, Microservices architecture is built for scaling, giving developers and companies the flexibility to create, modify, test, and deploy applications at the grain level, with cycles Provides shorter replication and more efficient use of cloud computing resources.
APIs and cloud architecture
Providing the right API is very important in today’s world. Development of native cloud applications based on microservice architecture through APIs to share data with external users such as your customers.
Services in the microservices architecture use a common messaging framework, similar to RESTful APIs, to help facilitate open communication on an operating system that does not have any friction caused by additional layers. Additionally, you can abandon, replace, or enhance any service or feature without affecting other services. This dynamic improves the cloud resource optimization style and provides the basis for better testing, performance, and scalability of the API.
APIs and IBM Cloud®
APIs are just part of modernizing applications and synchronizing your organization with the demand for better customer experiences. More applications affect business and information technology activities.
When it comes to responding to such requests, moving to more automation will help. Ideally, it starts with successful small, measurable projects, then you can scale and optimize them for other processes and parts of your organization.
Working on IBM will lead to AI-enabled automation capabilities, including a smart workflow. By making each process smarter, it helps to accelerate innovation.