Know what the first step is in building a house? It’s not clearing away the bush or felling logs or mixing concrete. No, it is having a plan of the house you want to build drawn by an architect. It is from this drawn plan that the builder produces a house of log and concrete. Now, technically, you could wing it and just add rooms as your whim dictates. But which do you think would look better? A house built following a plan or one that was just built on the fly?
Same thing when setting in place a structure for API integration in your application development infrastructure for a modern web enterprise. To successfully implement an effective strategy for API provision and consumption in building your applications either from legacy systems or microservices, you need to provide the right API architecture. Having the right API architecture goes beyond providing a good API gateway or portfolio. It encompasses the architecture of the entire digital enterprise including the API clients and all the other components of your application development ecosystem.
In this article, we’ll explore the concept of API architecture and the value of having the right APIs in the right places. Feel free to skip ahead with the table of contents below:
Table of Contents
What Is API Architecture?
An API architecture is defined as “the process of developing a software interface that exposes backend data and application functionality for use in new applications.” Let’s expand that. Typically, APIs are designed as data communication interfaces. The ability to take data from disparate systems, however, and integrate them into a single stream that translates into useful information is the bedrock of the modern digital enterprise. And that is why having the right API architecture is so valuable and important. Previously, when legacy software systems could handle the volume and rate at which data was being produced, there had always been the problem of inter-software translation. Essentially, how do you interface data from one system to a completely unrelated one so as to build a complete data picture? APIs came to solve this problem and this led to the rise of the microservices ecosystem.
With the explosion of data-driven initiatives in the software space, monolithic legacy systems have begun to give way to the distributed applications of the microservices ecosystem, which is completely dependent on APIs. According to Programmable Web, there are over 22,000 APIs currently functioning on the internet. Therefore, to build a modern digital enterprise, your first priority is to invest in the right API architecture. With an API-first structure, you can create modular suites of applications that are reusable. This means that every time that particular functionality is required, you don’t have to rebuild it. You just need to plug in your API and the functionality becomes available to you.
Also, in building, testing, and deploying APIs in your digital enterprise, there are certain API-building blocks and management functionality that need to be reused for every API in development. Having the right open API architecture in place during the development means that you can easily use these building blocks and functionalities in your already-launched APIs to enable the development of new APIs instead of starting from scratch every time.
How to Talk About an API Architecture
So what exactly are the structures we are talking about when we say “API architecture?” APIs are the plumbing mechanism that connects the different parts of your digital enterprise to each other and to external systems. Therefore, your API architecture has to take the form of connecting layers that span the entire enterprise. Here are the four strategic layers of a proper API architecture:
- Information management layer: This is where your data lives. As a digital organization, your company runs on data, and you need a reliable mechanism to get this fuel to the right engine structures when needed. Therefore, you need increasingly advanced data management systems with interactive capabilities. This layer of API architecture is what ensures that data queries to your database are processed on time and the requested data served properly.
- Application layer: This layer is the base for the applications that run your business. For most companies (and probably for you), these applications take the form of legacy systems that were built for multiple functions. And it is not entirely realistic to aspire to transform or replace these legacy application systems with more recent alternatives like the distributed applications of the microservices ecosystem. This will cost too much time, effort and resources that are probably not available. APIs in this layer allows your systems to communicate in-house.
- Integration layer: This layer houses the enterprise service bus (ESB) and enterprise application integration (EAI) platform. Your integration architects and developers spend their time here, exposing core functions from your legacy application and data via APIs.
- Interaction layer: This layer is where your business systems and applications interface with those of your consumers. Seeing as there vital inter-application functionalities that can no longer exist alone in a single monolithic system, there is a need for API gateways that can consume services from other applications and aggregate these functions to create a suite of APIs that serve modern application systems.
Also, to successfully create a viable digital enterprise, you need a hybrid infrastructure layer to hold up the entire enterprise which means distributing your applications between the cloud and on-premises. These distributed applications still need to be connected though, which makes APIs very necessary in that layer too.
In summary, your digital enterprise has 4 layers through which data interact before it gets to the consumer. The information management layer, application layer and integration layer serve as the backend while the interaction layer is the frontend. APIs carry data from the database and sometimes interface with APIs in an external data source to extract data. Then they pass it down to the APIs on the frontend who interface with the APIs in the consumer application to provide value.
The Value Of an Effective Web API Architecture
So what happens when you have successfully implemented the right open API architecture for your modern digital enterprise? What is the value of well-designed and well-placed APIs in a company undergoing digital transformation? Let us look at some of the benefits of APIs to your digital organization:
Real-time data analytics: APIs allow you to access and analyze data directly from its source in real-time. Being able to access data in real-time comes with so many benefits: faster reaction time to events, enhance user experience, get on consumer complaints faster, etc. Using real-time data for your business intelligence allows you to craft business strategies that are completely data-driven and optimized to work with data that is relevant.
Lower time and workload for the development of new applications: With the way APIs can transfer functionality through data from one system to another, developing new applications is simply a matter of having the right APIs. Your developers can focus exclusively on developing a single product and adding more functionality to it through APIs. This way, your developers don’t have to build everything from scratch every time they need to launch a new service.
Easier access to data: APIs also make it easier for you to access data, especially outside your own systems. By communicating with APIs from external applications, they can help you extract data that you do not have in your database.
Access to costly software infrastructures: APIs also make it possible for developers to access functionality from expensive software like satellite systems or data mining software. While sometimes you might need the type of functionality that systems like these offer, you cannot build your own. Therefore, you need APIs to allow you to access them. A good example of this is the Uber app. The ride-hailing service has a real-time mapping function in their app that shows you the real-time location of your driver as he approaches you. Rather than launching their own satellite, they simply pay Google for access to Google Maps API.
Ecommerce applications: One of the aspects of online business where APIs serve the most important functions is in eCommerce. As an eCommerce business owner, it is quite reasonable to assume you will not have a catalog like Amazon’s or a database like Walmart’s in the next couple of years. But you don’t need to. With APIs, you can access the inventory of these shopping giants and use it to update prices, monitor competition, write better product descriptions, and even build better products.
Enabling Your API Architecture With Scraping Robot’s API
Most times, to have a complete inventory in your API architecture, you need to be able to link your APIs to an external API that serves as a source of data from the outside. However, since you cannot depend on only one source of external data, this might necessitate having several APIs perform this function. Or you could just use Scraping Robot’s web scraping API.
At Scraping Robot, we have developed an innovative service that combines web scraping capabilities with API functionalities. With our public scraping API, you can set up a data pipeline that is fueled by data from our scraping service which can extract publicly available data from any website on the internet. And our API interfaces with any and all software systems, making it easy to interface with your own APIs. Together, they will form a data funnel that will keep you sustained with only the most relevant of data to drive your business strategies.
We make use of proxies from our partner company, Blazing SEO, to provide web scraping services at the fastest possible speeds and lowest possible prices. A single scrape at Scraping Robot costs only $0.0018 and you even get 5000 free scrapes when you sign up.
Having the right API architecture for your digital business enterprise is much like having the plumbing for your house properly done. It might be invisible but its absence or any problems with it would be sorely felt. With Scraping Robot’s web scraping API you can set up a data funnel into your API architecture that will help your digital enterprise thrive.