In the early stages of a digital transformation initiative, there are many decisions to make, including which new technologies to implement, what applications should be moved to the cloud, and what processes should be redesigned.
However, many organizations find that the further they go in their transformation planning process, the more they realize they need to connect.
Everything as a Service (XaaS), the Internet of Things (IoT), and mobile require effective integration for you to get the most out of your investments in your current systems and any new technologies you acquire. Also, achieving your business objectives often depends on connectivity and real-time communication between systems that previously existed in silos.
However, the traditional ways of integration won’t work for the rapidly-increasing number of endpoints and the constantly changing IT landscape. Adopting API-led connectivity and application networks helps organizations meet these challenges head-on, providing a critical enabler to digital transformation.
The New Digital Landscape
IT leaders today are tasked with managing a slew of digital transformation initiatives, from mobile payments to expanding customer touchpoints to connected sensors. Business users expect IT services on demand, with the ability to log in from anywhere and access necessary data. Customers want real-time information at their fingertips, and business partners want to connect to systems for mutual benefit.
The problem lies in how many systems need to be integrated so they can share information and drive organizational agility. XaaS, IoT, and mobile devices, along with legacy on-premise systems, are all a part of the digital landscape today, and not all the endpoints lie within your organization.
For example, omnichannel order orchestration and fulfillment involves various online marketplaces, mobile apps, multiple retail locations, distribution centers and warehouses, shipping and fulfillment partners—and even partner companies that carry inventory in their shops.
Adding to the complexity is how often systems and the data residing within applications change. Endpoints need to be able to access the data within quickly, no matter how rapidly applications and data changes. Point to point connectivity between all of these systems and partners is financially unsustainable, and traditional service-oriented architecture (SOA) often is poorly implemented. Often, companies would implement top-down initiatives, resulting in a heavyweight approach that can’t scale to changing business needs. Too little time was spent on discovery and consumption of services.
Leveraging API-Led Connectivity
However, API-led connectivity and application networks can take the best principles of SOA—namely well-defined services that are easily discoverable and reusable—to integrate disparate systems, leveraging existing investments and unlocking new business opportunities. It builds upon them to connect and expose assets to the appropriate parties—securely.
According to MuleSoft’s “API-led Connectivity: The Next Evolution in SOA” report, it calls for a building block that includes three distinct components:
- The interface, which presents the data exposed by the API
- Orchestration, which applies logic to the data
- Connectivity, which provides access to source data from physical systems or external services
These work together to allow parties to access data, binding them by an acceptable use contract and securing and managing access to that data. API-led connectivity is more than an API; it requires orchestration and connectivity to avoid the problems inherent with point-to-point integration.
When used properly, API-led connectivity allows businesses to leverage IT as a platform. Individuals from different lines of business can self-serve and access the data and services they need. They can build their own connections, processes, and applications, while IT handles access, SLAs, and data quality.
IT can better predict and ensure delivery against code changes, avoiding significant impact on the rest of the systems. It also allows for re-use of basic building blocks, saving time and money in developing new APIs.
Also for IT, an API-led connectivity approach recognizes that a one-size-fits-all strategy works for no one and lets the team address issues in small pieces. It lets IT operate on separate layers: for example, layering API tiers to allow for different governance of user-facing systems and core ERP systems.
Utilizing Application Networks
Application networks build upon API-led connectivity by connecting applications, data, and devices. The new IT landscape, full of mobile, IoT, and EaaS, requires it. These application networks allow different applications to be plugged into the overall IT network, facilitating information exchange.
They allow people inside and outside the enterprise to access business data and makes it easier to create a useful application, data use case, or API for a particular purpose.
Reuse is critical for these application networks to reach their potential. Application networks must enable the reuse of content and components via the connection to the network. API management tools enable this by providing control over who has access and how the data flows between endpoints.
Application networks also cater to the self-interest of each endpoint, providing the data that meets the needs of the data consumer. Ideally, the application network keeps some data, services, and APIs private while exposing the specific assets that would benefit the intended users.
To serve the needs of business users, partners, and customers, application networks need to be:
- Clearly defined
- Discoverable to those that will be using it
- Agile, able to accommodate rapidly changing business needs
- Scalable to introduce applications easier and faster
To learn more about API-led connectivity, application networks, and how Lightwell can help you with your digital transformation, contact us today.
About the Author
Lori Angalich is the VP of Marketing at Lightwell. She loves exploring new technologies and business models, learning how things work, solving problems, and developing new ideas with others. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and an MBA in Marketing, and she enjoys applying her knowledge from both each and every day. Lori has a passion for travel, art, wine, music, wildlife (including her two dogs, who are a bit on the "wild side"), and most of all, creating great memories with her family.