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Strong API strategy matters in growing API economy

The meaning of the term cloud age is self-evident. We're all living through it, after all. But what about API economy? Is it a monetary term, or does it have a wider, more immersive meaning? In this video interview, conducted at the 2017 Red Hat Summit developers' conference, we asked one of the world's foremost API experts, Manfred Bortenschlager, Red Hat's director of business development for API-based integration solutions and API management.

"Like with every other economy, in the API economy, you have suppliers and buyers, and they trade digital goods by using APIs as an interface," Bortenschlager says. "The technology aspect of APIs is what people understand very well." What's new, he says, is that companies now have the possibility to expose services and assets with APIs in a controlled and managed way. Doing so goes beyond mere API economy and necessitates the implementation of an API strategy to manage development, deployment, versioning, security and access.

An API strategy, Bortenschlager says, must be aligned with the overall corporate strategy. For application developers, that means a change in mindset. "We always recommend to think API first. When you design your applications, think how you can expose their services as an API."

One API challenge that is often overlooked is that businesses developing APIs for use by their outside customers must deal with the nightmare of supporting multiple versions of an API simultaneously. Bortenschlager says it is a challenging scenario that happens all the time -- yet another reason to have a strong API strategy.

It's impossible to have an API with changes that never break.
Manfred BortenschlagerDirector of business development for API-based integration solutions and API management, Red Hat

"It's impossible to have an API with changes that never break. It's impossible. That's just the nature of it," he says. "What's important is to communicate changes very well and far in advance." Through API management, it's possible to know exactly who is using each version of an API and obtain usage statistics. "If you know that you are going to change a subset of your API to a new version, you can target the communication to those developers in advance," he says.

Joel Shore is news writer for TechTarget's Business Applications and Architecture Media Group. Write to him at jshore@techtarget.com or follow @JshoreTT on Twitter.

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