When it comes to integrating a third party’s services with your own, APIs are often the way to go. And with good reason, APIs provide an interface for different pieces of software to talk to one another and they specify how software should interact. In short, they help developers to leverage existing software for use in their applications instead of having to reinvent the wheel every time. Then of course there are software development kits (SDKs) that allow developers to interact directly with APIs in their code of choice. SDKs can offer a number of advantages over direct interaction with the API in some use cases. So how do you make the choice between using an API and an SDK? Priyesh Jain recently offered his views on the reasons why sometimes it makes sense to use an SDK.
Jain makes the claim that SDKs are often easier to integrate into an application. SDKs are kits that provide the necessary programming tools, libraries, documentation, sample code to be able to easily create software applications. Since they are meant to get users up and running quickly, SDKs don’t require an in-depth knowledge of the product. This comes in handy when implementing processes such as creating authorization workflows or parsing SMS messages.
This brings up point number two which is that the ease of integrating with an SDK means that they may be the better choice if speed to market is a consideration. As a developer, you want to focus on what differentiates your app from others in the market. You don’t want to have to spend either the time or money to code an OAuth workflow or figure out the various tax rates for the places you accept orders from. That is where an SDK comes in. With SDKs the functionality for what you are trying to accomplish is built in along with best practices. All of which frees you up to spend time on putting out the best product.
Security should be top of mind when developing your app. From Panera Bread, LocationSmart and countless other examples, we’ve seen apps with subpar security get compromised. To build a system that adheres to be best security practices isn’t easy however. It takes experts in the space, which aren’t always easy to find, to build in security at every stage of the app’s development. SDKs allow you to integrate services, built by such experts, in order to add core security functionality such as storing user data or authenticating users.
Jain also touches on the potential for cost savings and reliability as reasons why an SDK may make sense to use. In the end, SDKs make sense when you don’t have the resources to build out the many features that a modern app needs. APIs can give you a more customized solution, but to get moving quickly SDKs can be hard to beat.