API Development & Integration: A Concise yet Critical Guide

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Every time a business chooses to digitalize its operations, it strategizes each and every move in such a way that it can reap maximal benefits. Developing a simple software program with no regard for your internal systems, operations, processes, or other existing applications can prove to be detrimental in the short and long terms. That is why APIs are essential to all kinds of software apps.

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There are several reasons why a client may want to go for custom API development or system integration services, besides the fact that it is a critical task that needs perfect attention to detail. If you have some basic understanding of what an API is and does, you can skip the next section. For those who do not know, we will give a brief introduction to APIs before we move on to the major focus of our write-up.

What Is An API?

APIs are the glue that is capable of holding together your entire digital infrastructure and architecture. 

The abbreviation API stands for Application Programming Interface. The API is a tech mechanism that is critical to the software development process. An API consists of a set of a few to many lines of code that come together to form a mini program that can perform a given task. It can do this within the software application that it is a part of or for other software applications that it communicates with. Thus, an API essentially provides interconnectivity between systems.

Let’s try to understand the working of an API with the help of an example. Let us suppose you have come up with an app idea for a ride-hailing mobile app that offers some sort of unique feature that has never been offered before. Now, if you were to sit down and develop each and every part of the app yourself, you would also have to figure out the location and maps module right from the beginning. However, thanks to existing APIs such as the one offered by Google Maps, you can simply re-use existing code and perhaps tweak it a little to your needs to fulfil location and navigation tasks within your ride-hailing app. Instead of creating a whole new map by yourself, you can allow users to search locations on your app interface, send their requested search queries to Google Maps via its API, fetch relevant data from it, and display it on your app for the user. This way, you can also focus more on the other more important features of your new app.

The Three Basic Types of APIs

Most APIs can be sorted into three broad categories. These labels are quite self-explanatory, but let us briefly go over each of them.

Public APIs: A public API is available for use by anyone. Public APIs can be further divided into two kinds; they can either be open or commercial. Open APIs are those that are free of cost. Anyone can obtain the code for an open API and experiment with it, modify it, or use it as is as part of their API development project. In contrast, commercial APIs come at a price. They could be sold at a one-time cost or on a license basis. The monetization model for such APIs depends on the publishers or the API development companies that own the rights to them.Internal or Private APIs: These are the polar opposite of public APIs. They are only available to be used by a certain organization for its internal processes or systems. They are not made accessible for the public at all but are used by one organization for intra- or inter-departmental communication. Thus, people outside the organization might not even be aware of the existence, much less the inner workings, of such APIs.Partner APIs: Let us suppose that Organization A and Organization B have decided to collaborate on a special project. When an API is used to make the systems in Organization A communicate with systems in Organization B, such an API would be called a partner API. These are also privately held in that they are not available to be used by the general public. However, the original developer might be open to monetizing them by offering API integration services to its business partners.

Why API Development and Software System Integration Are Important in the World of Digitization

One of the core benefits of using APIs during a typical software development cycle is that you are able to achieve efficiency within and boost the productivity levels of the development team. APIs are recyclable code pieces that help programmers save time by not having to recreate certain functionalities from scratch. Their reusable nature allows developers to focus on other parts of the project that require more attention and effort, markedly improving the development process. This also reduces the overall time-to-market for the product owner or client and can end up giving them a head start and an edge over their competitors by providing them with the opportunity to go for an earlier launch with a better product. Using third-party APIs also lowers the cost of app development incurred to the app owners since lesser effort and time are required to be put in by the development team.

Sometimes, it is difficult to find the right APIs for projects with unique requirements. In such cases, API development companies may have to write their own custom APIs for their clients according to their needs. The advantage of developing your own custom APIs is that you can now reuse them if a similar need arises in the future. It is a one-time effort and investment. Another advantage is that as the owner of the API, you can offer it to third parties and use it as a brand new source of revenue and profit.

In either case, it is important to remember that the API, whether pre-written or newly developed, must be properly integrated within the system or across multiple systems so that it serves its key purpose of communication and data transmission.

Availing top-notch system integration services guarantees value addition to existing and new software systems. Integrating relevant APIs within current and new applications provides a superior experience to users, directly resulting in higher customer satisfaction.Properly executed software system integration complemented by APIs can also empower product owners to tap into previously undiscovered markets involving all the latest technologies such as Internet-of-Things, artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI & ML), and various cloud computing services.

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