As API life cycle maturity in the enterprise grows, new pain points are emerging as companies seek to manage multiple APIs and retrofit organization-wide standards and API design practices into their existing API portfolios. ProgrammableWeb spoke with Apiary founder Jakub Nesetril and new enterprise lead Andrew Brown about how Apiary for Enterprise aims to provide consistency in API design for larger companies.
Earlier this year, Accenture introduced a road map for industrial-strength API strategies. It noted that for many companies, APIs are introduced on the basis of a specific use case. This use case may expose particular data assets or business functions and becomes a success within its business unit. From there, other business units may start creating APIs as well, sometimes even drawing on the same assets or exposing other parts of the same business functions. It is at this stage that Accenture recommends a move toward a more scalable approach: away from creating APIs based solely on individual uses cases and instead starting to organization and plan for future API developments.
API documentation tool provider Apiary believes it has created the ideal toolkit — Apiary for Enterprise — to help companies manage the move toward an industrial-strength API strategy: one that can build consistency and scalability into the management of multiple APIs across an enterprise.
Consistent API Design in the Enterprise
Brown explains how the new product came about:
I joined Apiary from Apigee. That’s where I first knew that this is an underserved market. Apiary does the design life cycle better than anyone else, and what I saw was that there is a real problem for customers that have multiple developer teams and multiple APIs, particularly companies with a lot of merger and acquisition activity. They are looking at a lot of their APIs and trying to transform themselves into an API-driven company. But little inconsistencies across the APIs they are managing are driving developers crazy, killing the adoption curve and creating really expensive problems.
So there is a need for a layer of visibility in these API designs. There needs to be a shared language in the API designs. API Blueprint is great for interteam collaboration. For example, business users can get a real sense of what the API does from the markdown, so API Blueprint is really excellent for building this type of architecture.
Growth Patterns Among API Teams
With over 100,000 APIs being described in Apiary, Nesetril is seeing API growth mirroring a fairly standard pattern: As developer teams reach around 20 members, a product manager is introduced to help corral all team members into using consistent nomenclature and data formats in their API development. Apiary provides Apiary for Teams to service this market. As businesses grow, teams recruit and numbers of APIs scales up, a new toolset is needed. This tends to mirror the recruitment of an API architect to oversee the API strategy within an enterprise.
API Style Guides
Apiary for Enterprise seeks to support the API architect and his or her team members by encouraging a focus on creative, innovative code, rather than consuming time double-checking consistencies or referring to PDF documents that might list organizational standards, such as which date format should be used or how customer or payment data should be described across various APIs.
In the past, a style guide has been created, basically as a text document. The team makes decision around best practices. For example, if you do a delete, it should return a 204 with no payload. Those sorts of decisions get decided. Then this gets described in a PDF and you need to create APIs that match the guide.
But having the API architect checking the differences is a very laborious, very brittle process. What Apiary for Enterprise does is we are taking all this manual documentation and taking the complexity out of it. Based on knowing how the enterprise’s other APIs are described in Apiary, whether that is 35, 50 or 100 APIs, as you go through designing an API, we are creating suggestions, derived from the style guide. So an enterprise API designer can be pretty sure they don’t have to go back and change things. It is catching anomalies early in the design process, which can save a whole lot more money than if QA catches it.
Apiary for Enterprise is available to larger developer teams at a price of $29 per seat/user.