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As API Management Problem Grows, Informatica Jumps into the Market

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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. Wave May Matter A Lot… Or Not At All.

This week at the Dreamforce event, amongst the all the charity appeals and hugging, alongside the usual advances in Sales Cloud and Marketing Cloud, there was one announcement that was truly interesting. While the other technology advancements were important, especially to customers of Sales, Service, and Marketing Cloud, this one was significant. It’s the new cloud, the Analytics Cloud, which was given the moniker “Wave”. In true fashion CEO Benioff and Company are not just dipping their toes in the waters. They are diving in head first. Wave is a full-fledged business intelligence tool capable of making sense out of the treasure trove that is contained in databases. So much more than simple reporting, which usually only benefits management, Wave attempts to bring relevant information to the small fish in the organization to help them perform better.

For the customer, especially those who are all-in with marketing, sales, and service, Wave will be a boon. Simply put, it’s easy. The data is already in the various clouds, the models are already developed by, and the UI is designed for a typical user/customer. I predict that sales and marketing managers already using products will be attracted to it.

Unless of course you need to import other data in in which case the argument for going Wave is less. Yes, Wave can also integrate external data sources but I can’t imagine data integration still won’t be a difficult. It also means that the decision to surf the Wave will no longer be one that sales and marketing can make on their own. IT will need to get involved and they may have thoughts of their own when it comes to BI tools. For example, IT and legal may not be pleased with pushing operational or product data up into the cloud. Issues of security and privacy take on new meaning when company financial information or supply chain information is placed in someone else’s control. Even if you are only looking to Wave for sales and marketing data, the attraction diminishes when you are not an customer. Imagine the complexity of integrating data from with multiple cloud vendors? If you like Sales Cloud for CRM but are keen on Oracle Marketing Cloud or Adobe Marketing Cloud (yes they all call their marketing suites the same thing), then a more vendor neutral solution would seem safer or at potentially easier.

Wave is a necessary step forward and is done with the usual flourish. For much of the existing customer base, Wave will be a great product with tangible benefits. From the point of view of the sales, service, or marketing team member already using a, Wave will feel like empowerment. For more heterogeneous environments though, Wave probably won’t make much of a difference. Hopefully, the sales force can use Wave themselves to tell when it’s worthwhile to push the new product and when it’s a waste of time.