Today, MuleSoft has launched a major upgrade to its Anypoint Platform for APIs, aimed at assisting businesses in taking a design-first approach to their API strategy. ProgrammableWeb spoke with Uri Sarid, CTO at MuleSoft just prior to the launch.
"The Anypoint Platform helps API-fy the whole enterprise, or allows a company to mobile enable a particular part of their business," Uri Sarid, CTO at MuleSoft told ProgrammableWeb on the eve of the announcement (Disclosure: MuleSoft is the parent company of ProgrammableWeb). "We wanted to make sure we offer a complete service for those who want to externalize or expose their APIs, we provide them with all the tools they need to succeed. As a subscription-based business, we only survive on our customers' success and success means our customers are able to design APIs for their consumers, validate the APIs, build them in a scaleable way that encourages consumers to use them... these are all pieces necessary for success. The Anypoint Platform provides all of these services in a way that they can be used as standalone or as a full service suite for API management."
While the Anypoint Platform for APIs has been a key service offering from MuleSoft for some time, the current launch adds new features:
- Anypoint API Portal - embeds a design-first approach to API creation, with tools that automate discovery and uses RAML to document the APIs
- Mule Studio with APIkit - an Eclipse-based graphical design environment that can implement RAML API designs and that will automatically generate the workflow to connect an API with backend applications and services for implementation
- Anypoint API Manager - a new feature aimed at providing full lifecycle governance of an API, letting the user set policies on rate limiting and throttling, manage contract keys, and monitor analytics.
"We lay down the good rails to succeed but you're not restricted. We can proxy existing services, for example, we can help you change from SOAP to REST, and if you want to create APIs from scratch, we can help you," Sarid said.
Sarid - an API design-first evangelist - says the Anypoint Platform approach enables businesses to create and implement APIs "as fast as possibly can be done." To ensure businesses are creating high quality APIs, the Anypoint platform encourages users to start by creating APIs for specific use cases:
"When you manage to design for the specific use cases in mind, you are more likely to meet your intended goals. You can do A/B testing of your APIs. We use RAML to create the APIs so they are very clear, very manifest, and very repeatable. When you have nailed the design and expressed it in RAML, then we offer both a gateway to proxy access to your APIs, and a toolkit to integrate your APIs with your backend services."
Building B2D relationships during API design
Sarid acknowledged that there are multiple ways to build the strong business-to-developer relationships needed between an API creator and their consumer-developers. "If personas help you, great, or if modeling business objects is your preferred approach to identifying specific use cases, that's great too. We are big believers in putting something out there and letting your consumer-developers play with it. Then you can quickly publish [your trial API], perhaps even creating APIs for two or three different groups of developers."
While Sarid acknowledges the benefits of working with early adopters, he also notes the difficulties in going too wide too early: "There is no way to avoid that once you have a Version 1.0 of your API, you will need to maintain that. So with the console environment in the Anypoint platform, you can put a trial API in the hands [of early adopter consumer-developers] and design it then and there with the developers simultaneously.
API monetization opportunities
The Anypoint Platform also assists businesses in clarifying the monetization potential of their various API releases: this can be done at both the design stage (when collaborating with consumer-developers around how they will use an API) and when monitoring usage (to help set service levels and attach pricing plans as relevant). Sarid explains:
"Using the monitoring and analytics tools of the Anypoint Platform, you can set monetization levels and throttling limits by setting service levels. We also see a lot of enterprise users using the analytics with internal APIs, where it may be necessary to arrange chargebacks between various business units. Anypoint lets you set different SLAs and match to those tiers and set a pricing strategy [both internal and with external API users]."
(While the Anypoint Platform can define service levels and track usage according to the end customer's permitted subscription plan, Sarid confirmed that actual financial transactions to manage API service subscriptions do not go through the platform and must be coordinated with a separate payment gateway service.)
Overall, Sarid believes using the Anypoint Platform's API design-first approach will more easily encourage businesses to alter their mindset towards a 'composable enterprise' paradigm. "It's kind of up to you. You can choose to take a specific line of business and begin creating APIs, or you can roll it out across the whole company. It is quite a transformative thing across the company, so we do recommend an incremental approach."
By Mark Boyd. Mark is a freelance writer focusing on how we use technology to connect and interact. He writes regularly about API business models, open data, smart cities, Quantified Self and e-commerce. He can be contacted via email, on Twitter, or on Google+.