API Integration: What Is It and How Does It Enhance IT Flexibility
By: Alan Seal on November 19, 2019
Innovative software applications are hitting the market so quickly that it can be difficult for organizations and their IT departments to keep up. Business success is also often accompanied by a level of infrastructure growth, as new service offerings require new platforms and applications. Even day-to-day processes like managing payroll have been taken over by software, further expanding the number of systems a company may need to utilize.
Sooner or later, the challenge of making these systems work together in a coherent fashion falls to the IT department. Fortunately, API integration makes it possible for these departments to streamline operations and enhance IT flexibility.
What is API?
Although the concept has been around for many decades, application program interface (API) didn’t really become commonplace until the early 2000s saw a massive expansion of remote network infrastructure. That’s because APIs play a pivotal role in allowing different applications to communicate with one another. The proliferation of mobile applications over the last decade have made APIs even more important for organizations looking to integrate their IT systems with external, third-party applications.
At the most basic level, API is code that governs the access point for a server or application. When an external request is sent to a server, the API works as a translator of sorts that both makes the request intelligible to applications hosted on the server and allows it to respond.
This functionality is a critical aspect of modern internet infrastructure. With so many distributed systems operating simultaneously, they need to be able to communicate with one another and exchange information quickly. Otherwise, users would be forced to juggle a multitude of applications, each one performing different functions. Transferring data between these systems would be massively inefficient, limiting a business’s growth potential and flexibility, not to mention creating a terrible user experience for consumers.
What is API Integration?
The process of API integration involves taking two or more distinct software applications and connecting them to one another through an API layer that allows them to communicate, exchange information, and perform a joint function. Organizations typically build their own API solutions or turn to third-party API integration platforms, especially if they’re connecting to major cloud services.
API integration helps to establish how data moves between applications and under what circumstances. Generally, APIs operate on the backend of software and allow developers to incorporate additional functionality without having to go through the tedium of building new data libraries or applications. For instance, one of the most popular examples of API integration is the way many websites and programs incorporate Google Maps functionality or allow users to sign in to services using Facebook or Google. In these cases, an API integration fetches the relevant information from those programs and uses it to execute the relevant action.
The Need for IT Flexibility
Today’s organizations utilize a variety of cloud applications to meet their business needs and deliver innovative services to their customers. Managing data across those applications can be a challenge, even within a hybrid or multi-cloud environment. While organizations sometimes opt for a single vendor to meet their cloud needs, many of them adopt a best-of-breed solution that incorporates multiple vendors. A sales department, for instance, will typically require a platform with completely different functionality than the marketing or finance departments. In many cases, though, data must still be able to transition between those systems seamlessly.
In most cases, it falls to the organization’s IT department to create a unified network architecture that meets these diverse needs. This requires IT professionals to navigate a variety of applications and explore creative options for integrating them into something resembling a unified whole.
How API Integration Enhances IT Flexibility?
With API integration, IT departments can greatly improve their flexibility and streamline their infrastructure. Rather than setting up distinct systems for different functions and constantly switching between them manually, API integration can consolidate systems by making it possible for a single application to serve as a hub that pulls vital data from other applications. The organization may still be using several systems in this case, but they only need to actually access and manage one of them.
Take, for instance, vXchnge’s in\site platform’s API feature as an API integration example. While in\site allows data center customers to access a wide range of data pertaining to their deployment, some organizations already have an IT management platform in place to monitor their infrastructure. Rather than switching back and forth between the two systems or manually exporting data (which won’t be updated in real-time), in\site’s API makes it possible for colocation customers to use their existing IT platform to pull data from in\site or issue requests. The API functions as a “go-between,” relaying requests back and forth between the two systems. Now, instead of having to learn the ins and outs of a new software platform, the benefits it provides can be delivered straight to an existing system, thereby enhancing its functionality and making life easier for everyone.
As organizations continue to add new cloud-based services and applications to their networks, the need for an easy way to manage them is more important than ever. Thanks to API integration, IT departments can maximize their flexibility and build streamlined systems that are easier to use and manage without sacrificing functionality and performance.
About Alan Seal
Alan Seal is the VP of Engineering at vXchnge. Alan is responsible for managing teams in IT support and infrastructure, app development, QA, and ERP business systems.