The State of API Integration in 2020: Your Burning Questions

By Lindsey Jenkins in Cloud Elements, Cooperative Apps, SaaS Integration, API Industry Trends Posted Apr 22, 2020

During this year's 2020 State of API integration live event, we received many great questions for our presenters/report contributors. As a big "thank you" to those of you who attended and actively participated, we wanted to follow-up with answers to some of the questions we weren't able to get to during the event. 

Didn't make it? Check out the on-demand event recording and slides.

2020 state of api integration live event

Was there anything from the data this year that particularly surprised you?

Brian Busch: "We asked, 'Which of the following integrations do you offer as part of your product?' Looking at the overall responses, 60% said they offer an "Integrated Platform" while 24% said they offer an SDK. However, when we dug deeper to look just at "Enterprise" respondents, roughly 80% said they offered only a SDK and only about 20% said they offered an integrated platform. That reversal was surprising to me and I think speaks to the challenge larger enterprises continue to face in terms of modernizing legacy IT infrastructure in order to "transform" the business. The legacy systems still act like an anchor, or a foreign land on the other side of a river, that makes it hard to move quickly without disruption."

Ross Garrett: "In this year’s survey we asked developers where their biggest technical integration challenges lay - the top answer by far was “orchestration” - ranking higher than previous top hits such as Authentication & Authorization. This is a new data point for 2020, and perhaps signals that much of the integration tooling out there today is focused more on the business user and less on the developer. Certainly this speaks to an opportunity as developers look to improve their productivity and deliver on the ever-increasing demand for application and data integration."

In terms of data standards: What about a core data standard with extensions for more data types so major business tools can integrate? Has this been considered?

RG: "Data standards have been most successful so far in specific vertical markets or use cases - HL7 or FHIR in the healthcare domain. However, standards developed by committee can quickly become bloated and therefore cumbersome for developers, and it’s this perhaps that has stymied the growth and adoption of standards in broader applications. We have seen the emergence of core standards and best practices from major business applications - Salesforce 360 or the Open Data Initiative from Microsoft, Adobe, and SAP are each valiant attempts that will hopefully grow in the coming years. Ultimately, change is one of the key constraints—for many the cost of restructuring their data assets to conform to a new standard will simply to be too great regardless of the interoperability gains available."

Can you further explain what exactly the platform concept entails, and who might be considered as providing a "platform"?

BB: "We deliberately don't define this term in the survey, as our goal is to get a pulse on how leaders in the industry see themselves vs how they compare to some standard that we define. So take these data as 'in the eye of the beholder.' That said, I think there's a lowest common denominator meaning that's roughly 'a platform is something on which others can build.' From looking at the qualitative responses, we can see that when a software vendor offers a handful of pre-built, self-serve integrations for users, they're less likely to call themselves a platform. But for some of the larger, more well-known vendors in their respective categories, not only do they offer a breadth of features but also either integration tooling or a range of productized integrations. Taken together, there seems to be a feeling of 'critical mass' that tips into "platform" territory."

What are your thoughts on API CoE enablements in 2020?

BB: "We didn't ask about Center of Excellence (CoE) or shared services models specifically in this year's survey, so take this with a grain of salt. That said, a lot of the qualitative comments, particularly from 'Enterprise' respondents, talked about the integration challenges that come with scale - "...distributed API gateways," "...better, self-generating API documentation," "...standardized authentication flows," and "no-code app development/integration tools." To me, this echos what analysts like Keith and Massimo from Gartner advocate: the CoE needs to focus on setting standards for the organization (including security and data governance) and investing in the core API & integration tools, but with a focus on empowering ad hoc and citizen integrators throughout the organization to solve the problems they can solve. It's the only way to meet growing demand. But it seems that rather than letting each function or business unit buy their own low-code tooling, it's still better to try to standardize with reusable connectors and reusable patterns where possible, otherwise the maintenance burden is a) higher and b) will fall on the CoE eventually."

What does IoT support for APIs look like?

RG: "Over the past four years producing this report, we haven’t discussed IoT requirements explicitly - but many of the data points we have captured can be applied to this domain. In particular, having “front-end” APIs that are designed for a specific use case, business need, or consumer is fundamental. In the world of IoT, constrained devices have very different requirements than standard web applications. In addition, unreliable networks (the public internet, cellular networks, etc.) can demand unique design principles for your APIs and the approach taken towards reliable or guaranteed data delivery."


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