API Days Paris 2015: main challenges and solutions for API providers

apidays

 

The API Days Paris event was taking place these last 2 days, and I just came back from it with a lot of very interesting insight about the current state of the API-related ecosystem, the relevant attention points which startups and bigger companies should take into consideration, and also about what the near-future holds regarding this strategic topic.

Program

The event offered both technical and business tracks, thus clearly stating that this topic is certainly not meant for developers only, but that it is also of vital importance for decision-makers who need to deal with customers, partnerships and communities. Besides the 3 keynote talks of the first day, here are the talks which I decided to attend :

  • “Panorama of APIs security workshop” by Nicolas Masse
  • “A Pragmatist’s Guide to Hypermedia” by Jason Harmon
  • “Simple Servers, Clever Clients – Hypermedia APIs that make sense” by Ruben Verborgh
  • “Go Small to Go Big : Scaling through Microservices” by Ori Pekelman
  • “Document-API-topia: The path to the Documentation and API symbiosis” by Arnaud Lauret
  • “Break Your API : Adapting Unit Testing Frameworks to API Integration Testing” by Bonnie Matson
  • “Automating API production lifecycle” by Jakub Nesetril
  • “Building Successful APIs Overnight!” by Nik Wakelin
  • “The State of Web API Languages” by Jerome Louvel
  • “The Fury Road to Scale your API Worlwide” by Julien Lemoine
  • “APIs et métiers. Blockchain, réaction en chaîne ! Rupture et désintermédiation sectorielle ?” by Michel Khazzaka
  • “Bold Predictions for the 2016 API Economy” by Neha Sampat
  • “Top wrong common beliefs about Enterprise API implementation” by Antoine Chantalou and Mohamed Kissa.

A vision of the current API strategy challenges & solutions

Based on all these talks, I kept from the event a vision of different challenges and solutions for the implementation of an API strategy, which I summarize below:

Main challenges Main solutions
  • Choosing an efficient design approach
  • Ensuring developer experience (« DX »)
  • Providing multi-audience documentation
  • Choosing a DevOps & versioning strategy
  • Preparing for scalability on the long run
  • Enabling state-of-the-art security
  • Choosing a pragmatic testing strategy
  • Hypermedia
  • Containerization & Micro-services
  • Modern standardized tooling
  • Consumer-centric integrations
  • OAuth2 and Open ID Connect
  • Open Source
  • Data analytics

Hypermedia for instance, a cuter short-name for the « HATEOAS » principles, was often presented by different speakers as a significant stage for today’s mature APIs. Properly done, it allows to empower the API consumer with features such as pagination, querying, access-control, fewer consumer-side configuration, etc. The promise of self-documentated APIs which would enable consumer-side responsability and thus reduce the required work and load on the server side, is becoming more and more a reality. Each problem and solution would probably require a dedicated blog post, but the inspiring speakers brought to light some very relevant key points which are important to detail a bit.

Containerization & Micro-services were also mentioned a lot, both from design and scalability perspectives. This kind of architecture seems now to be a must-have for a sustainable API strategy and much be anticipated in the very early days of technical development – although very few frameworks, protocols and middleware examples were given during the talks.

Modern standardized tooling is clearly a must-have as the market is now very mature regarding API specification, development and exposure based on REST conventions. The 3 major specification formats, which are Swagger, RAML and Blueprint, became standards in some sense. These come with powerful tooling to design, build, share, document or test related APIs. Moreover, it is expected that these 3 formats continue to evolve and converge in the future, making standardized tooling choices and adoption even more simple for the different audiences.

Consumer-centric integrations are about taking care of the « DX » (Developer Experience), by providing a smooth and productive experience. It is about having a clear documentation of course, but also about providing ease of integration with off-the-shelf client libraries and SDKs. This is also a good practice in order to achieve best performance, as these client-side stubs can manage time-to-live, request retries, etc.

To conclude

All speakers mentioned above, whom I truly thank for their precious insight, insisted in different ways on the importance of being pragmatic and enabling things step-by-step, while anticipating the long-term situation. Indeed, it took years to implement all the provided examples of efficient and sustainable APIs, and that is something new players should not forget when starting their own API journey in 2016.

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Alexandre ESTELA

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