There has been a lot of buzz around the increasing need for APIs, especially around “free” and “open” APIs.
As Dion Hinchcliffe writes in his latest blog on ebizQ, (Open APIs Mature Into a Next-Generation Business Model and Is the Future of SOA Open Source?), APIs (or the lack thereof) are the biggest obstacle for developing next-generation business applications and SOA interoperability.
Why? First, the APIs have to be available, but they also need to be simpler (for example using REST) and easier to consume by BI tools, agile application environments and mashup builders.
Dion describes how more and more companies are providing open or free APIs to their data as an important part of their business model. These APIs are supplemented by a new line of companies, like StrikeIron and Xignite, who provide APIs to other’s data through an easy data-as-a-service (DaaS) model (check out this article in WSJ, The New Information Goldmine).
This is well aligned with the Open Government Initiative and the new US government data site data.gov where more and more government data will become available. You can read more about this initiative in this article about Digital Democracy.
But can we realistically wait for all relevant data to become “API enabled”?
With more than 5 billion websites today, there is a vast amount of growing, relevant data that is not going to have an API any time soon – if ever. Add to this data locked internally in legacy applications and at your business partners and you can see how unrealistic it is to have APIs for all this data.
Web Data Services allow business analysts and agile application developers to instantly create APIs where none exist. The only prerequisite is that you can navigate to and see the data in a normal web browser like FireFox, IE or Safari. This even includes data behind secure, password protected sites, and data on very complex websites powered by AJAX and Flash.
With the powerful combination of open APIs, free government data and the ability to rapidly turn any web application into an API on-demand, we finally have access to any data we need.
This lays the foundation to a new way of working, where business analysts and other decision makers can spend their time building better algorithms, better data visualization, and better analysis because the most critical ingredient behind any business decision today, the data, has become so easily accessible.
By: Stefan Andreasen