Warakorn - Fotolia

How do you choose between SDKs and APIs for enterprise apps?

Explore the pros and cons that differentiate SDKs and APIs from each other and come to understand what types of applications call for SDKs, APIs or both.

Software development kits, or SDKs, and APIs are tools that help developers integrate two separate applications so end users enjoy a seamless experience. Both tools help developers integrate new features into their applications without having to start from scratch. However, choosing between an SDK and an API can be a difficult decision.

Take a look at both SDKs and APIs and evaluate where and when to use each of them when building your next enterprise application.


As its name suggests, an SDK is a collection of tools, APIs and snippets of code designed to help develop applications with the least amount of effort possible. They abstract the low-level complexities of an application and enable the developer to integrate new features into their application without as much need to understand the underlying nuts and bolts of the new feature. Various software companies offer their own SDKs that help those applications more easily integrate their own applications, including third-party developers' applications. `


A development API, on the other hand, acts as a bridge between two different parts of an application. An API collects tools and protocols that help build distributed applications and integrate third-party features into an existing enterprise application. APIs enable two different components of an application to communicate with each other and make it possible for them to pass information back and forth so the application can work as intended. 

Choosing between SDKs and APIs

SDKs and APIs both have specific advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, the choice between the two always depends on the kind of application and the requirements for that particular technology stack.        

On the other hand, SDKs can be rigid, as they only enable users to add a specific feature to their applications in a certain way. SDKs are a form of opinionated software, and they are often limited to a specific platform, which could be viewed as a limiting factor. 

When developers have to design software to help with the integration process, APIs become the much more flexible and customizable option. However, APIs do require that developers have in-depth knowledge about the application and the feature they want to integrate, perhaps reducing their ease of use to some.

Finally, there are security factors. When a trusted vendor provides an SDK, it tends to offer a bit more peace of mind when it comes to security. However, with APIs, developers need to enable security through third-party integrations.

Making a decision

While APIs and SDKs tackle the same problem, they use completely different approaches. SDKs are toolkits that help developers, and APIs are protocols that facilitate communication between different components, regardless of the technologies used. In many cases, an application will require both APIs and SDKs as they mature and scale.

However, there is a rule of thumb. If you prefer a well-directed, predictable development experience, SDKs are the better choice. However, if you are willing to sacrifice control and work with back-end components in order to freely expand functionality, APIs fit the bill.

Dig Deeper on API design and management

Software Quality
Cloud Computing