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API integration becomes an enterprise priority

To gain the agility required of multi-cloud and mobile computing, enterprises will invest in agile API integration platforms, as well as event-driven integration.

More organizations are looking for strategies that enable faster -- and cheaper -- connections between internal and external multi-cloud, hybrid cloud and on-premises application environments. Experts say API integration and event-driven integration will play a key part in those evolving strategies.

Widespread adoption of cloud and mobile applications creates an urgent need to connect standalone applications and services. APIs come in handy here, as each API provides code that enables communication between software programs. API integration is one way to connect internal enterprise cloud, mobile and on-premises applications, as well as with partners' and customers' application environments.

Investments in integration technology platforms, which include software licensing, maintenance and cloud services subscriptions, reached $12 billion in 2017. This marks a double-digit growth spurt from the previous year, said Massimo Pezzini, a research fellow at Gartner. By 2022, revenue is predicted to hit $19 billion.

The fastest-growing segment is API integration technologies, which are typically delivered via API management, integration platform as a service (iPaaS) and hybrid integration platforms. While SMBs will use the first two of those platforms most often, at least 65% of the largest organizations will implement a hybrid integration platform by 2022.

Spending on traditional point-to-point integration enterprise application integration platforms will see only single-digit percentage growth for the next five years, Pezzini said. Even so, don't expect a mass exodus from legacy integration platforms, said Forrester analyst Randy Heffner. Forrester's research shows that only 16% of developers who work in cloud computing environments regularly use public cloud-based integration products. Of that 16%, only 45% say they run or intend to run more than 90% of their integration flows in a cloud-based integration platform.

Most of these developers will augment traditional integration practices with pre-built integrations delivered in API management platforms.

"One should have strong architectural layering between the two," Heffner said. "Plenty of firms have both -- and the layering is a best practice -- even if there is some incidental overlap between selected products."

Why API integration?

"As new applications come in and are being introduced to consumers, adoption can skyrocket quickly to tens of millions of users," said Matthew David, emerging technologies digital product owner at QBE Insurance. "With API integration, your delivery team can react quickly to make your applications available to them."

While API integration is new to some companies, the technology behind it is seasoned and mature, David said. The technology in APIs has its history in web services, so there's solid API technology that allows you to create services that you can share across systems. Now, API management platforms can automate API integration tasks, create API catalogs and more.

Matthew David, emerging technologies digital product owner, QBE InsuranceMatthew David

The pre-built integration templates in API integration products bring quick connectivity between previously siloed cloud applications. These packaged integrations also help with self-service deployment for line-of-business employees, increasing the speed and reducing labor costs of integration.

Those attributes led Humantelligence, which offers an AI-driven recruiting and culture-analytics platform, to adopt API integration. Juan Luis Betancourt, Humantelligence's CEO, sought automated integration capabilities to connect the company's app environments with customers' cloud and homegrown apps, particularly their applicant-tracking applications.

After evaluating five products, Betancourt implemented Jitterbit Harmony iPaaS. This API integration platform helps his company quickly connect SaaS, on-premises and cloud applications. "The iPaaS solution provides the built-in integrations and automated tools we need to navigate the complexities of API integration," he said.

Without API integration, Betancourt's team had to build integrations with customers' homegrown on-premises and new cloud applications. With a staff of only five developers, doing just one such integration projection would freeze company development and certain operations for two weeks or more. Customer-support improvements, feature-release planning and other critical functions had to be put on hold.

"It was really crippling for us to do integrations ourselves," Betancourt said.

Extend APIs to event-driven integration

Massimo Pezzini, VP and Research Fellow, GartnerMassimo Pezzini

About 50% of managed APIs will support event-driven IT by 2020, according to Gartner. These event-driven APIs are part of the technology mix that will help a business achieve a competitive advantage with real-time integration. "Event-driven integration technologies help businesses sense and respond quickly to what's going on with customers, the industry [and] the market," Pezzini said. Event-driven APIs will supplement and not replace RESTful API request-and-response technologies.

Developers will continue to build increasingly event-driven API models, notably using a call-back model that gives an API an address for where to deliver a result.

"Being able to handle business events more effectively and more expediently is a critical process in solution architectures," Heffner said.

In event-driven integration, systems communicate to recognize events and respond by instigating actions in other systems and applications.

Randy Heffner, analyst, ForresterRandy Heffner

A typical example is closing an airplane door, which Chatterjee called "both a business and a technical event." Via integration with systems' APIs within the airline, air-traffic control and other entities concerned, this event can trigger delivery of data about flight timelines.

"When a business event gets captured, it immediately triggers the business rules through an API," Chatterjee said.

If there's a flight delay, for example, the event signals APIs for the re-scheduling and re-rostering of staff on connecting flights -- activities that will get pushed to central computing and then to notification devices, such as smartphones and tablets. This was done with messaging services in the past, but can be more effectively done via API-based systems, complex event processing engines, in- data and messaging services.

Integration is a transformation project

As businesses craft more flexible application integration strategies, they should recognize that integration is not just a technology play. Instead, an enterprise integration strategy is part of businesses' digital transformation initiatives.

"Look at how to use integration capabilities within the organization to fuel growth and transformation rather than being more like an underpinning of technology," Chatterjee said.

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