IBM Looks for Bigger Slice of API Economy

Michael Vizard
May. 14 2013, 08:00AM EDT

IBM has been tracking the emergence of the API economy and likes what it sees. At the recent IBM Impact 2013 conference, IBM unveiled an API management platform that it views as a natural extension of its portfolio of software-oriented architecture (SOA) offerings while at the same time delivering a MessageSight middleware appliance based on the company’s Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT) protocol. According to Mike Riegel, vice president of IBM MobileFirst and WebSphere marketing, IBM intends to bring together the API management technologies that have become popular among providers of Internet services and more traditional SOA middleware platforms as personified by version 8.5 of WebSphere Application Server. At the same time, IBM is moving to unify its API management platform via an IBM Integration Bus with the Worklight application development and deployment platform that anchors the company’s MobileFirst initiative. The core components of the IBM API Management platform are the Cast Iron Software for integrating cloud applications and DataPower XML integration appliance, which IBM acquired in 2011 and 2005, respectively. Long term, Riegel says IBM’s ambition is to allow organizations to manage API and SOA middleware technology residing on premise or in the cloud via a single pane of glass. That will become especially important, says Riegel, as technologies such as MQTT enable a more standardized approach to integrative devices across the “Internet of Things.” While IBM may be late to API economy, Riegel says that IT organization as part of the development of the second wave of APIs are looking for approaches that make APIs easier to manage and secure. At the same time, they want those API management tools to be better integrated with their application development tools, which should make it easier for developers to build, deploy and update the APIs they develop. In many ways, Riegel says advocates of APIs are just now discovering many of the integration issues that traditional enterprise IT organizations encountered when they first embrace SOA. Today, however, instead of thinking of SOA as a religion IBM is urging developers to think in terms of services that can be delivered using multiple formats, including APIs. It’s too soon to say how API management and traditional SOA middleware will come together in the enterprise. But things are clearly heading in that direction, which should make for an interesting mix of light and heavyweight approaches to middleware both in and out of the cloud for years to come.

Michael Vizard

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