Unified APIs or API Standards, The Race is On

Kin Lane, May 2nd, 2011

RESTful approaches to APIs have made them easier to deploy and consume, leading to a recent explosion in the number of available APIs. One byproduct of such growth is there are a lot of APIs offering similar or even duplicate services, but that have very different approaches to delivering their APIs. Cloud computing and social networking are two areas where we’ve seen the growth in APIs.  As the number of APIs grow, the need for interoperability increases.

Since REST is only a style, not a an actual standard, there are many interpretations of exactly what is RESTful, resulting in many differences between seemingly identical APIs.  This can make API integration across many similar service providers a lot of work. For example, when developers want to use multiple cloud computing providers like Amazon Web Services or the Rackspace Cloud, programmers have to write separate code for each provider.  Similarly when developers want to pull social streams from Facebook and Google Buzz, they have to write code for each API.

There are two approaches to bridging the gap between API providers:  build a unified API that funnels different services through one API; or push for common API standards that everyone agrees on.

For example, OpenStack wants to define a standard for deploying cloud infrastructure and associated APIs, and the activity streams project wants to provide a standard for syndicating social activities around the web.

Another solution is a unified API, something like DeltaCloud for cloud computing and Windsoc for social networks.  Deltacloud and Windsoc are both trying to bridge the differences between commonly-used APIs, providing a single API interface for developers to use.

DeltaCloud provides a standard interface across Amazon Web Services, GoGrid, Rackspace and other cloud providers, while Windsoc provides a single interface across Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz and other social networks using the activity stream format.

Although both DeltaCloud and WindSoc provide solutions, API standards are a much healthier approach to this problem.  They provide a standard interface across any API, allowing APIs to be distributed and owned by many providers.   The downside is that standards can take years, and sometimes never gain industry-wide acceptance.

Unified API providers find success by providing a single interface across many APIs, making it easier for developers to access, and can be deployed quicker than an industry standard.  The downside of unified APIs is that they create a single point of entry within the control of one provider, and providers have to stay in tune with all changes made across each API they support.

The race is on:  can API standards evolve fast enough, or will unified APIs meet the demands of the development community?  Or are unified APIs just an interim solution until we can define common standards?

Tags: Issues, cloud
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9 Responses to “Unified APIs or API Standards, The Race is On”

May 2nd, 2011
at 7:59 pm
Comment by: John Thomas

Part of the issue is that API providers want you to use your API and not the other guy’s rather than both

May 3rd, 2011
at 4:38 am
Comment by: Conexão TE » Blog Archive » Realtidbits – basta adicionar uma API

[...] Unified APIs or API Standards, The Race is On (programmableweb.com) [...]

May 3rd, 2011
at 5:56 am
Comment by: Unified APIs or API Standards « Rakesh Mohanta

[...] Unified APIs or API Standards, The Race is On. [...]

May 6th, 2011
at 6:12 am
Comment by: Testing Blog Content « Mercedes-Benz Class

[...] Unified APIs or API Standards, The Race is On [...]

May 24th, 2011
at 12:40 pm
Comment by: Whats Next for APIs? Learning From Social APIs | API Evangelist

[...] talked about unified APIs that allow you to work with multiple APIs through a single interface, and the potential of API discovery services for industry or common API areas, but Qwerly’s [...]

May 25th, 2011
at 12:19 pm
Comment by: Realtidbits – basta adicionar uma API « Enio de Aragon

[...] Unified APIs or API Standards, The Race is On (programmableweb.com) [...]

August 9th, 2011
at 7:27 am
Comment by: Alex

Lanoba is another unified social API worth looking at. There is a free account for those who are interested in playing with it in a sandbox.

November 30th, 2011
at 12:01 am
Comment by: A Unified API for MySQL in the Clouds

[...] in May I wrote about the race for either unified APIs or API standards to bridge the growing number of APIs in specific industries or areas.  Unified APIs are created by a third party provider to bridge [...]

December 23rd, 2011
at 4:47 am
Comment by: British Standards

API expectations refer to the ocean going production, exploration, basique pipe, plumbing, health and ecological issues, some valves and storage tanks. API expectations are the instructions, expectations, requirements, recommended methods, programs, guidelines and technical reports.

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