Last January I wrote a State of the API Economy 2019 blog. Going into this year it was not my intention to write another, but there were a few new observations that extended last year’s content that I wanted to share. So, let’s take a look at what is going on as we enter 2020…
“API” Definition is Growing
I have never liked the terms “API” or “API Economy” for the capabilities and results that these terms are meant to imply. The term API is confusing since it has previously referred to all application programming interfaces of any sort. But this is not the intent of the newer, sometimes called, “Business APIs” or “Web APIs”. I wrote about this in the blog titled, “The Biggest Impediment to API Economy Growth is…?”
Why do I bring this up in a blog about the State of the API Economy? As we head into 2020, we are now seeing a need to expand our definition of API. Historically APIs were REST – period. This led to an acceptance of the term API and an equivalence to this technical implementation. But, as I have been attending the API conferences – APIdays, API World, and Nordic APIs I am seeing many speakers broadening the technical implementation definition of what can be called an “API”. At a minimum the speakers include GraphQL (which has become very popular) and SOAP/XML. Lately the discussions have also started to include Events and Asynchronous APIs. But many are also including Web Sockets, RPC, and even files. Yes, FILES!
This is an important shift. Where previously APIs were strongly associated with the underlying technical implementation, this is going away. What we see now is that the value proposition for an API is what is important, but not the underlying technical implementation. What is the API value proposition? This has not changed. It is speed, ease of consumption, security, and analytics. Bringing these new technical implementation choices into the definition expands our API tool box and allows the value to be obtained across a wider range of scenarios.
I still wish we had a different term than API – which implies technology. But that train has left the station. So, we continue to use the term API, but the definition is becoming broader.
Trough of Disillusionment
Gartner publishes a yearly “Hype Cycle” report* which graphs expectations over time. Each Hype Cycle drills down into the five key phases of a technology’s life cycle:
- Innovation Trigger: A potential technology breakthrough kicks things off. Early proof-of-concept stories and media interest trigger significant publicity. Often no usable products exist and commercial viability is unproven.
- Peak of Inflated Expectations: Early publicity produces a number of success stories — often accompanied by scores of failures. Some companies take action; many do not.
- Trough of Disillusionment: Interest wanes as experiments and implementations fail to deliver. Producers of the technology shake out or fail. Investments continue only if the surviving providers improve their products to the satisfaction of early adopters.
- Slope of Enlightenment: More instances of how the technology can benefit the enterprise start to crystallize and become more widely understood. Second- and third-generation products appear from technology providers. More enterprises fund pilots; conservative companies remain cautious.
- Plateau of Productivity: Mainstream adoption starts to take off. Criteria for assessing provider viability are more clearly defined. The technology’s broad market applicability and relevance are clearly paying off.
If you are a Gartner client you can obtain the latest report covering Application and Integration Infrastructure.
Looking at the report you see that Full Lifecycle API Management is in the Slope of Enlightenment. According to Gartner, this technology is “climbing the slope”. Microservices technology is in the “Trough of Disillusionment”.
In my view, this is all good. We are now passed the hype phase and can get down to useful implementations of APIs that benefit businesses.
Last year I spoke of several Macro-trends: Multi-/Hybrid-Cloud, Agility, Standards and Regulations, etc. Also, of some challenge areas: Business involvement, Monetization. And, finally on a focus of higher-level initiatives that use APIs. All of these are continuing into 2020.
The changes that I am seeing moving into 2020 involve maturation. The growth of the definition of an API is in response to the needs of the API consumers for more models than just REST, but with the same value proposition as promised by an API. The “slope of enlightenment” is happening as the business is becoming involved in initiatives and core strategies such as digital transformation are driving a need for stability, availability, scalability, and all the other quality of service “ilities” in projects that are built using APIs. 2019’s observations are still moving forward, and I expect 2020’s observations to continue beyond this year as well.
To understand more about IBM’s thoughts on Digital Business and the API Economy visit the IBM API Economy website. IBM API Connect is IBM’s complete foundation to Create, Secure, Manage, Test, and Monitor APIs. You can find more information about IBM API Connect at the API Connect website. And you can also experience a trial version of API Connect.
If you have questions, please let me know. Connect with me through comments here or via twitter @Arglick to continue the discussion.
*Source: Gartner, Hype Cycle for Application and Integration Infrastructure, 2019
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Gartner Hype Cycle, https://www.gartner.com/en/research/methodologies/gartner-hype-cycle