How APIs are delivering on technology modernisation

How APIs are delivering on technology modernisation

Digital TransformationTop Stories

The modern CIO is constantly looking for new opportunities to drive the organisation forward. Joel Reid, UK&I VP/General Manager, Axway, tells us why companies should be utilising Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) in order to move forward faster.

In the face of the ongoing adversity seen since early last year, organisations across the globe had to rapidly virtualise, acting quickly to present a newly digitised version of themselves to their stakeholders.

But, embracing new technologies and business models often meant reckoning with outdated legacy systems that were no longer fit-for-purpose and that acted as straitjackets for digital dynamism. Indeed, a recent study published by GetApp found that 31% of organisations intend to replace software due to legacy systems failing to meet business needs.

The problem is, wholesale or even highly focused technology replacement is not always practical. Whether budgets don’t allow or the existing technology is so embedded in the current infrastructure or processes that change is extremely challenging, some organisations aren’t positioned to simply swap out old for new.

This is where APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) can bridge the transformation gap. APIs offer new communicative capabilities for legacy systems and can enable profound opportunities when modern systems are integrated. Not only can APIs work to actively transform IT architecture, but they can also work with a legacy system to minimise organisational disruption.

However, an API is useless unless it is delivered with consistent quality. To deliver on that need, an API gateway is required. This is programming that sits in front of an API, acting as the single entry point for defined backend APIs and microservices (which can be both internal and external).

A gateway is critical to the process because it helps ensure the performance, availability and scalability of APIs by enabling enterprises to initiate delivery with uniform supporting services, including traffic management, transformation and system integration.

In doing so, the gateway acts as a protector by enforcing security while ensuring scalability and high availability. In effect, the API gateway takes all API requests from a client, determines which services are needed and combines them into a unified, seamless experience for the user.

Delivering Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation has become one of those catch-all IT trends that can, in reality, refer to a wide range of activities and priorities. Modernising IT infrastructure is certainly central to where many organisations focus their efforts, but there is more than one way to deliver the right outcomes.

APIs, for instance, offer a proven way to bridge the gap between legacy systems with modern digital technologies, reinvigorating existing services so they more effectively meet the needs of the business and its customers. In practical terms, this might include delivering legacy-based applications via web or mobile infrastructure or by adopting microservices to deploy updated capabilities with agility and at speed.

So, while legacy systems can be a hindrance to Digital Transformation strategies, an API-based solution allows for the best of both worlds: the ability to maintain consistency while modernising operational performance.

So, where should teams begin? Identifying the technologies that fall into the legacy category is the obvious jumping off point – the challenge can be, when has that moment arrived and where can API-enabled transformation be delivered? There are some tell-tale issues to watch out for that can help the decision-making process.

Very high on the list should be any applications that can no longer deliver secure and easy access to data – either internally or externally. Similarly, if they can’t support lightweight APIs utilising common standards such as REST/JSON to present access to data, alarm bells should be ringing that it’s no longer fit for purpose in the modern digital setting.

Teams embarking on this process will frequently realise that it will be difficult to deploy changes at speed without compromising the existing platform. This is another sure sign that the legacy application isn’t up to the level of performance required by today’s microservices strategies.

Instead, APIs can extend the life of legacy systems to deliver transformational communicative capabilities organisations need. In doing so, IT teams can focus on a win-win scenario where their infrastructure can be modernised to deliver on business objectives and with minimal organisational disruption.

The trouble with APIs

While APIs empower organisations to adapt fast to a changing world and deliver a top-notch experience of their ecosystem to employees, customers and partners, enterprises around the world are dealing with the realities of API complexity. According to recent research, enterprises now rely on three different API management vendors at a time and will likely be using four in the next two years.

With increased digital maturity comes increased complexity that creates bottlenecks thanks to API programmes that run in a disjointed or siloed manner in multiple parts of the business. Thanks to the sheer number of APIs, multiple API gateways, a lack of common standards and security, and no common catalogue to index everything, many firms are grappling with the fact that innovation is stalling as developers struggle to reuse assets. This equates to high operational complexity, increased security risks and a worrying lack of centralised visibility and governance.

The key to mastering API complexity

Organisations need a clear API strategy in place that makes it easy to create, control and consume APIs. Just as with modern IT architectures overall, the goal should be to stop building systems and start cultivating ecosystems. In other words, centralise as much as is necessary and decentralise as much as possible. The main focus should be on delivering more value to the business with APIs.

Organisations can create entirely new digital experiences that utilise the best that modern portals and mobile experiences have to offer. What’s vital, however, is that they can do so without the need to painstakingly re-engineer backend legacy infrastructure.

To move forward faster, companies need to find ways to embrace API life cycle management and efficiently manage and govern multiple API gateways, their hybrid cloud IT environments, and other third-party ecosystems. Only then can they leverage the true promise of APIs to unleash value faster and reuse existing investments to drive new opportunities and revenue.

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