The commoditization of technology has reached its pinnacle with the advent of the recent paradigm of Cloud Computing. Infosys Cloud Computing blog is a platform to exchange thoughts, ideas and opinions with Infosys experts on Cloud Computing

February 27, 2014

Is your service ready to be 'API'-fied? (Part 2)

In my previous blog, we looked at the data and security aspects that might hinder an internal service from being API-fied. In this conclusive part, we will look at the other two important aspects that needs to be addressed before internal services can be certified for API exposure.

 

Scalability is the next key area to talk about. Exposing APIs for external consumption can quickly lead to explosive growth in traffic due to genuine or rogue usage. Will the back-end applications, databases and infrastructure be able to scale as traffic swells? APIs exposed to external consumption usually have stricter service level agreements and financial implications to adhere to.  But that should not come at the expense of the internal consumers. Imposing usage quotas and throttling limits is just one way of managing growth in API traffic. A complete discussion on API scalability however merits a dedicated blog.

Last, but not the least, is service design. Service granularity is a tricky subject and in many cases consumers of internal services have to make several calls to the back-end to complete a transaction or achieve a functionality. While this might not be a big challenge for internal consumption, when it comes to externalizing these APIs, it makes the consuming apps unnecessarily "chatty".

Internal services are also often infested by the 'pass-me-back' syndrome i.e. sending pieces of data absolutely irrelevant to the consumer but required to be passed back by the consumer for future calls. The problem creeps in during early service design for the ease of processing and lives through internal consumption without much fuss. However, when the same services are exposed for external consumption, these design issues may be barriers to API adoption.

API Management products that are available in the market provide a lot of capabilities especially in the area of security and traffic management. But as you can see from this blog series, it takes a lot more than just a product to make an API strategy successful. There's no one-size-fits-all solution.


February 12, 2014

Is your service ready to be 'API'-fied? (Part 1)

A question that I come across pretty often, especially with clients who are pretty early in their API journey, is "Can I expose my internal service as an API?"  The answer unfortunately is not a simple Yes or a No. Even though APIs are supposed to build over SOA, something that the industry has been doing for quite a while now and many have mastered, there are several considerations that should be looked into before an 'internal' service can be 'API'-fied (A new word I just coined J - meaning "exposed as an API"). In this 2 part series, we take a brief look at these aspects which are key to answering that question.

To begin with, examine the data being exposed through the service. Since internal services are meant to be consumed within the organization, data security and governance in most cases are relaxed. However, when it comes to exposing the service to external entities, the equations change.  It is therefore important to carefully review the service and ascertain the type and sensitivity of the data being exposed and make sure that you are ready to expose it to the external world.

Security is the next key aspect that must be delved into. Internal services mostly have none or not enough security built into it for external consumption. Even those that do have might have a proprietary security mechanism back from their early SOA days.  All these are dampers for APIs. The API economy is meant to be open. Hence it is important both to have a robust security architecture and one that conforms to commonly accepted industry standards (e.g. OAuth). It is also important to abstract security out of the service. Security should be managed by experts through policies. That will free the service developers to focus only on the business logic.

In the next part, we will look at how scalability and service design play a key role in answering the question.


October 24, 2013

Riding the Band Wagon for Enterprise APIs - the Technology Leadership Dilemma (Part 3)

This is the final blog of this three-part series discussing the challenges facing technology leadership of traditional businesses in their API adoption journey. In my first part we had talked about the importance of APIs and API economy. In the next part, we had explored more on the unique challenges of enterprise APIs and the importance of an enterprise SOA strategy. In this blog, we will see how API Management solutions come to the rescue, but, more importantly, we will also talk about where such solutions might fall short.

API Management solutions go a long way to address many of these concerns. They abstract out a lot of operational aspects like security, API publishing, traffic management, user onboarding and access management, usage tracking and health monitoring, so that the technology teams can focus on the actual business of the API functionality.  With the big players (the likes of Intel and IBM) entering the arena the market is heating up and there are tall claims on what an API Management platform can do for the enterprise. For the enterprises it would be a slightly bigger challenge. One challenge certainly is to find the right API Management solution to suit their needs. Currently none of the products in the market seem to address all the concerns of API Management. Admittedly products are evolving fast and it would be just a matter of time when the market will see products which will cater to most of the needs in some ways or the other.

However, there are certain other aspects that need to be tackled by the business and technology leadership before they can take the leap for enterprise APIs. Most enterprise APIs need support from other processes/systems in order to complete the functionality being exposed through enterprise APIs. Some examples are audit control, transaction traceability, reconciliation reports, customer service, batch integration with partners, etc. And these may not be able to be supported in the fast forward manner that APIs can be developed and exposed.

It is important for organizations to realize that just putting an API Management platform in place will not put them in the driver's seat. They have to take a more holistic view of their particular needs and ensure that all the supporting teams are able to join them in their API journey. It is not only a matter of just riding the bandwagon. It is also important to take all your stuff along to ensure you don't have to jump off the bandwagon half-way through.

October 22, 2013

Take your business where your digital consumers are - on the cloud! Part3

In my first blog, I spoke about the consumerization of IT with cloud and in my second blog, I spoke about how enterprises can leverage cloud and big data for pervasive intelligence. In this blog let's talk about how cloud can be enable consumer responsiveness. 

Cloud is also becoming a distinct enabler at improving reach and responsiveness to consumers. Consumers today demand a high responsiveness for their needs. Dealing with such aggressive demands is possible only with features of cloud such as on-demand scaling, agility and elasticity. For instance, manufacturers use Cloud to manage direct and indirect sales channels, giving them instant visibility into field intelligence. The most significant revelation is that the tremendous time and cost savings driven by Cloud-based customer service has created high Cloud adoption levels within the industry (3).

It isn't surprising, then, that luxury car brands such as Mercedes and BMW take it one step further - investing in Cloud technologies to accurately track the digital footprints of customers and update contact information to stay in touch with their customer base. They also keep track of maintenance information of their cars even if they are serviced outside the primary dealer networks. Significant facets like buyer perceptions, brand loyalty, buying patterns can be also charted out while studying markets to develop consumer focussed products.

Ultimately, enterprises need to scale and meet or even exceed the expectations of the digital consumer to be able succeed in their marketplace. That will be possible through superior and real-time analytics applied to help sell and service the digital consumer better - every day, every hour, and every minute. Nothing can be more powerful than leveraging consumer behaviour to tailor products Cloud offers an excellent platform to do this and Big Data based analytics becomes the core engine to do it. Big Data streamlines your massive data while cloud helps you optimize your resources efficiently. Cloud has the potent to blur the lines of physical and online space by integrating potential opportunities with existing data.

To conclude, by scaling their businesses to the cloud, enterprises equip themselves to succeed by taking their business to the digital consumer and winning in the marketplace. 

 

October 17, 2013

Riding the Band Wagon for Enterprise APIs - the Technology Leadership Dilemma (Part 2)

In the previous blog we had looked at the importance of APIs and the API economy and had outlined the challenge that the technology leadership of traditional businesses face.  In this part we talk about the nuances of Enterprise APIs and what makes them more challenging to be exposed by traditional businesses.

Traditional businesses are a mix of different technology platforms and legacy systems are still a reality for most financial, health and travel industries. While most distributed teams can easily adopt agile or rapid development methodologies, it is a bit more difficult for legacy systems to take that leap. Additionally enterprise APIs presents unique challenges in itself, challenges that are very different from those of consumer APIs. Most enterprise APIs deal with Personally Identifiable Information (PII) or company confidential data. Consequently, there are higher security, compliance and regulatory needs. Many of the enterprise APIs are also transactional in nature requiring heavy integration with multiple back-end systems. Hence delivering such APIs comes with the additional baggage of being able to ensure transactional handling capabilities, complete audit, traceability and non-repudiation characteristics.

The dilemma of the technology leadership for such traditional businesses is formidable. On one hand they have to deliver to continue to remain relevant and competitive while on the other hand they have to take care of the various facets of the enterprise APIs that they are exposing.

Enterprise SOA readiness plays a key role in the ability for the enterprise to deliver such APIs. Organizations which have got their act together in gaining SOA maturity will definitely find themselves a few steps ahead in their API journey. Trying to fix a broken SOA strategy with a new API strategy might not be a promising idea.

In the last part of this three-part series, we will discuss how API Management solutions can help address some of the concerns for these businesses and where such solutions fall short. 

October 11, 2013

Take your business where your digital consumers are - on the cloud! Part2

In my previous blog, I spoke about how digitization is taking place these days in all realms with cloud. Enterprises have started embracing the new phenomenon of "consumerization of enterprises" for business. In this blog, I will share some thoughts on how- cloud and big data can be two pillars for an organizational strategy.

 

My essential tenet is that Cloud and Big Data are interdependent on each other - as more and more information resides on Cloud, it will become easier to access and analyse information, providing valuable business intelligence for companies. In fact, Gartner predicts that 35% of customer content will reside on the Cloud by 2016, up from 11% in 2011 (1).

 

Customers are leveraging this easy and instant access to rich data to make smarter decisions. Many in-store shoppers tend to use their mobile devices to compare product prices on online channels such as Amazon or eBay. Retailers who have the capacity to track this action can immediately offer customers a better package/ deal, thereby delighting the customer and closing the sale instantly.

 

To achieve such pervasive intelligence and instant actionable insights, one should be able to sift through large amounts of data pertaining to each customer in quick time. Businesses will need to verify whether the information they gather about their customers is accurate. Coupled with all this, there are large scale technology related changes, and costs, that need to be considered. And this elasticity of compute at an affordable cost is quite possible when you leverage the cloud effectively.

 

Information that resides across multiple locations can be collated, accessed, analysed, and verified for accuracy at much lower costs on the Cloud. Further, through Cloud-based media, brands can track consumer opinion as well as follow critical consumer behaviour actions/ changes. Take for example the manufacturing industry. Cloud can drive shorter product lifecycles and faster time-to-market as well as enhance their product design, development and marketing campaigns (3).

 

In my next blog, I will talk about how consumer responsiveness can be accelerated by cloud.

October 10, 2013

Riding the Band Wagon for Enterprise APIs - the Technology Leadership Dilemma (Part 1)

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) assume a lot of significance in today's enterprise digital strategy. However, as businesses rush towards the API economy they often overlook certain subtle aspects that are key to success. In this 3 part series, we take a technology leadership view at the challenges that dare traditional businesses in their journey towards establishing their digital identity.

This part will talk about how APIs are shaping the IT landscape.

The pressures of time-to-market have been ever increasing. Traditional software development cycles measured in months are no longer the reality. The expectation from technology leadership now is to be able to deliver in a matter of weeks. 'Drive innovation and drive it fast' seems to be the mantra.

The API economy presents a unique opportunity to remain agile while driving revenue and innovation and businesses across the globe are quickly realizing it. The API economy has given birth to an entire generation of newbies whose business models revolve completely around their APIs and apps (think Twitter, Siri). Traditional businesses have also tried to catch up with the newer generation API-centric businesses in realizing new ways of customer engagement and new streams of revenue. The impact of the API economy has been such that it is now being compared to what internet was in the 90's.

As traditional businesses push their limits to ride the API bandwagon, it presents a fundamental challenge to the technology leadership of these organizations - How to deliver agility at the speeds expected for Enterprise APIs? The demands from business and pressures from industry peers have to be balanced against the ground realities.

In the next part we will take a look at how enterprise APIs differ from consumer APIs and why is it a bigger challenge for the traditional businesses to expose such APIs.

October 4, 2013

Building Tomorrow's Digital Enterprise on Cloud - Part 2

In my last blog on Building Tomorrow's Digital Enterprise on Cloud we looked at enterprise cloud adoption trends and how the Digital transformation is influencing Cloud adoption models like PaaS. In this blog, we will look at how enterprises can leverage Cloud to reinvent themselves into a Digital enterprise.

We see enterprises that want to take on this Digital transformation challenge are evaluating and on-boarding new technology and business solutions leveraging Cloud, Mobility and social media. However, enterprises should be careful to avoid merely repackaging old capabilities in new technology solutions. Merely moving applications and not services (lack of service-orientation); Merely moving applications and not business capabilities that can be offered as a Service; Merely moving applications and not exposing API's that allows 3rd parties and partners to build innovative services to enhance consumer experience is like offering "Old wine in a new bottle" that no longer appeals to tomorrow's Gen-Y digital consumers.

Continue reading "Building Tomorrow's Digital Enterprise on Cloud - Part 2" »

Take your business where your digital consumers are - on the cloud! Part 1

The CTO of a leading automaker recently asked me how he could access personal information such as birthdays, anniversary dates, or other significant events in their customers' lives to be able to serve them better. More particularly, he was interested in getting this information in real-time on occasions such as when they approach a POS terminal or an associate in a dealership or merchandise store. He was looking for ways to drive a more personalized customer engagement: mechanisms that could extract relevant and useful insights from multiple sources of customer data to empower the sales team and make highly customized and compelling offers to the customer.

 

Essentially, his question represents an on-going paradigm shift in the mindset of CXOs in today's enterprises - from traditional ways of doing business to leveraging the power of digital channels. And the main reason for this is the rise of the digital consumer fuelled by the big bang of Cloud. In this three series blog, I would like to discuss about how cloud is driving "consumerization of enterprises".

 

High-speed connectivity and information transparency of online and mobile channels has spawned a new breed of Gen Y customers that are well-connected through multiple devices, expressive and ready to engage with an attitude. This changing customer demographic means that enterprises have to find new ways of getting their attention - and winning their trust.

 

Today's customers are sharing and accessing tremendous amounts of data, a bulk of which resides on the Cloud, through social media sites and various other interactive channels. In 2012 alone, consumer-generated content accounted for 68% of information available through various devices (TV, mobiles, tablets, etc.) and channels (social media, videos, texts, etc.). Much of this information is extremely valuable if we can access and analyze it. In fact, by 2020, 33% of the information that resides in this digital universe will have critical analytical value, compared to today's where one-fourth of the information has critical analytical value. This is will be an increase of 7% in 8 years on a total data volume that is growing at 40% year on year (2).

 

In my next blog I would be talking about how cloud and Big Data are driving actionable business insights for enterprises for digital transformation.

September 27, 2013

Building Tomorrow's Digital Enterprise on Cloud - Part 1

IDC in its 2013 Predictions "Competing on the 3rd Platform" predicts that the Next Generation of Platform opportunities would be in the intersection of Cloud, Mobile, Social and Big Data.

My discussions with Client IT executives across industries over the last few months has clearly shown a growing interest for building such a platform to address their digital transformation needs. They realize the importance to look at this strategically from a Digital Consumer engagement perspective and the need to align their internal projects and initiatives focusing on Mobility, Cloud and Social Integration to maximize business value. Consumers today demand seamless access across devices/channels and the ability to integrate into the context of their digital experience. Next generation of platforms need to address this transforming consumer engagement model.

Foundations of such a platform I believe would leverage Cloud-based applications enhanced with API Management at its core to address the needs of Integrating the Enterprise with their Digital Ecosystem and consumers on Mobile Apps & devices, Social Media by leveraging Cloud Services for elastic scaling and Analytics on API usage trends to generate business insights.

In this blog series we will talk about Cloud adoption trends that we are seeing in the marketplace and how this Digital convergence is influencing cloud adoption models and the evolving need for Enterprise API Management on Cloud for value realization.

Continue reading "Building Tomorrow's Digital Enterprise on Cloud - Part 1" »