Archive for January 2018

Technical Books I’m Reading

A Shelf of Technical Books

I try to keep current on technology. As weird as it may seem, to be an IT industry analyst, you don’t have to know much about technology. You can understand the market without knowing the technology that drives it. It’s limiting but possible.

To really understand IT customers – truly grok them – you need to live a bit in their world. It is my belief that understanding technology provides insights into the market.

More importantly, I like information technology, programming, and and all things geeky. It was my profession for many years before moving to the business side and my heart is still there. So, it is for myself as much as my clients and audience that I continue to go deep in technology.

I have also recently discovered Humble Bundle. They make collections of e-books, comics, and games available for a very low price and donate much of the proceeds to various charities. You can donate as little as US$1.00 and get four or five books. Check them out. They’re awesome.

Subsequently, I have been feasting on technical books on a variety of subjects. Besides my usual array of technology sites and news, here’s what I have been reading.

  • Head First Data Analysis, Michael Milton, O’Reilly – Semi-technical, accessible, introduction to the concepts of data science.
  • Doing Data Science, Cathy O’Neil and Rachel Schutt, O’Reilly – A more in-depth exploration of the process of data science.
  • Think Bayes, Allen B. Downey, O’Reilly – Tutorial on Bayesian statistics.
  • Think Stats, Allen B. Downey, O’Reilly – Tutorial on classical statistics.
  • Mastering Docker 2nd edition, Russ McKendrick and Scott Gallagher, Packt – Both introductory and advanced Docker concepts. Good starter for the budding container enthusiast.
  • Getting Started with Kubernetes, Jonathan Baier, Packt – Introduction and tutorial for Kubernetes.
  • Blockchain Basics: A Non-Technical Introduction in 25 Steps, Daniel Drescher, Packt – ntroduction to Blockchain. The non-traditional style was hard for me to get used to.
  • Mastering Blockchain, Imran Bashir, Packt – More traditional and in-depth introduction to Blockchain and major implementations of it such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. I’m reading this now.

I’ve got a lot of books coming up – I bought 41 of them for something like US$35 – including a set of Java books, and more on Cloud, Data Science, and Blockchain/Bitcoin. There’s a book on OpenStack that looks interesting. R in a Nutshell, Thoughtful Machine Learning with Python, and Java 8 Lambdas are all possibilities too. That assumes that Humble Bundle doesn’t wave something interesting in my face. I almost bought the last Python bundle but resisted. Oh, and I have a ton of Linux books waiting in the wings too.

Of course, the group above tracks my current interests. I’ve been writing code in Java since the 1990s when Java v1.0 was mostly a associated with adding applets to websites. Cloud, Containers, DevOps, Blockchain, and Data Science are top of mind for me professionally and the IT community as a whole. These books talk to the everyday work of developers which is what interests me the most.

So, I’m more than happy to settle in with a good book so long as it’s techy.

As API Management Problem Grows, Informatica Jumps into the Market

IDE Pictures

This originally appeared on the Amalgam Insights website on January 2, 2018

API management is a necessary but boring practice. As developers make use of a mix of public cloud, purchased or open source libraries, and homegrown services, the number of APIs used by developers quickly renders pouring through documentation impractical.

Microservices, usually accessed via RESTFul APIs, cause API calls to rapidly proliferate. Even modest sized microservices-based systems experience API overload quickly. Agile development can exacerbate the problem of understanding and using APIs. The rapid pace of Agile, especially Scrum, leaves little time for proper documentation of APIs. Documentation often takes a back seat to continuous deployment.

There are a number of other concerns with API management aside from simply documenting APIs. Once APIs are in widespread use, they need to be actively managed to ensure that they haven’t changed and are only accessed securely. Access control of APIs becomes especially important when these are exposed to customer, partners, and the developer community, and monitoring of API performance.

For a developer to use an API properly they must understand the following:

  • which API calls exist
  • how the API are used and function
  • what parameters are available and what data structures the API call expects
  • is access to API calls restricted and what controls exist on that access
  • how the API calls are authenticated
  • error conditions and error codes
  • what the expected result sets and data structures are

That’s a lot to remember. Good documentation and reference books exist for major open source and commercial services but not for homegrown and lesser known APIs.

At the heart of API management is a data problem, more accurately a data management problem. The APIs themselves are a form of data – information that tells a developer how to access a service – and the documentation and controls the metadata. Managing APIs, which are sources of services, is not much different than cataloging, exposing, monitoring, and otherwise managing data sources.

It’s not that surprising then that Informatica has entered the API management market, alongside IBM, Microsoft, MuleSoft, and a host of others. Finding, managing, and securing data sources are Informatica’s bread and butter competency. With developers already using their software to manage data sources, it’s natural for those same customers to want Informatica to help them manage the APIs for the services they create to access and manipulate that data.

As microservices architectures become more prevalent and companies need to expose APIs both internally and to their partners and customers, the need for API management will only grow. Sure, it’s dull but so is changing the oil in your car. It’s not good practice to ignore either.