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APIs are the key to integration

The growth in SaaS adoption is driving "a growing need for integration with existing applications and systems", both cloud to cloud and cloud to on-premises.

"It's becoming all about APIs," Oracle vice-president of product management and strategy for Oracle application integration Vikas Anand told iTWire.

APIs provide a way to deliver data services with a good user experience to mobile devices, they create new revenue opportunities, they help build new applications, and they improve operational efficiency.

"A good API solves 50% of the integration," he observed.

Another area where APIs are "very important" is process automation, as there is a need for human workflows to handle any exceptions that arise.

Furthermore, there's the move towards developing applications to run on platforms-as-a-service in order to more easily take advantage of technologies including machine learning and blockchain.

But there are some bottlenecks.

Cultural changes may be required to promote the adoption of Agile, scrum, and related approaches. But this is already being addressed as companies realise the value of following best practices, and digital teams (as opposed to traditional IT staff) are often taking the lead in this regard.

Processes around changes need to become more nimble.

While security can be a bottleneck, there is increased awareness that cloud can be secure, but it is necessary to check that providers have the right certifications and so on.

Sectors in the API vanguard include retail, telecoms, and some parts of the finance industry. They have "definitely done much better than other sectors", said Anand, but others — notably manufacturing — are ramping up their efforts.

This isn't something IT organisations can afford to ignore.

APIs and modern supporting tools can make integration tasks much quicker. Anand cited a case where a project was completed in one-sixth the time and at one-eighth the cost of traditional approaches to integration.

API management can help with design, security and monetisation, he observed.

Integration projects often involve legacy applications that do not expose APIs, Anand warned. However, robotic process automation can bridge these two worlds.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.