"We are using APIs to innovate and extend the value of our core system. This has been a way to modernize and stay on the leading edge."
Digital River, Inc. builds and manages online businesses for software and game publishers, consumer electronics manufacturers, distributors, online retailers and affiliates. With $10 billion in annual sales, Digital River runs e-stores for a wide range of clients including industry heavyweights such as Microsoft, EA, Adobe and Canon.
We spoke to Eric Roubal, Digital River's director of development, about how Digital River is extending and modernizing its 10-year-old API platform to more easily connect with partners, spur outside innovation, and create a more structured and secure internal development environment.
How is Digital River using APIs?
We've actually had APIs for close to 10 years, out of necessity, to connect with our clients. We currently have a large set of APIs that generate 3-4 million API calls per day. We're now in the process of modernizing and extending our APIs to make them easier to use, both internally and externally. Digital River's in-app API-based commerce platform – our core shopping cart service -- is the first of a new set of APIs, and we are in the process of converting others to REST-based APIs now too.
While we've focused on our shopping APIs initially, moving forward, we're building out beyond that. Our goal is to use APIs for three areas: first, to help our developer partners -- those who are doing business with us -- more easily tie into Digital River using our shopping cart APIs; second, we are building APIs internally to provide a more structured environment for Digital River developers; and third, we're allowing partners who have e-commerce features to build add-ons or plug-ins to our global commerce system.
Why did you initiate this new API program?
In a broad sense, we wanted to outsource innovation, and the way you do that is through APIs. We felt strongly that by enabling external innovation – you can never keep up with everything – innovation will come. We imagine a world where contextual commerce is a reality. And we have a tremendous asset to help make this happen.
More specifically, we wanted to build something that is easy to use. We had a lot of existing functionality with our current APIs, but they weren't easy to use. REST is obviously intuitive, so we're moving in that direction. Our new APIs will deliver more automation and self-service, so that the processes we go through to set up a new client will be no-touch or low touch. We also wanted to make it easier for our internal developers to go in and make a change to our systems, and we know it's a safe change to make by exposing it through APIs. But overall, where we aren't experts, we want to team with people who are, who can easily use our APIs to create new innovations for the Digital River platform.
What APIs does Digital River offer today?
We currently have a lot of traditional APIs – POX- based and/or external XML. But we're now developing a new set of REST-based APIs. Our in-app API-based commerce is the first of new set of APIs. This includes a shopping cart API to enable our developer partners to integrate a robust shopping experience into their apps for transparent commerce..
Who are the primary users of Digital River’s APIs?
The target users of our APIs are Digital River clients, our developer partners and internal Digital River developers. Next generation will allow third parties to innovate in ways we’ve never imagined.
What other benefits have you gained from your API platform?
We are using APIs to innovate and extend the value of our core system. This has been a way to modernize and stay on the leading edge.
APIs will be a multiplier for us. APIs make it easier for new clients to tie into our system, and we want to harness the creative energy of all the developers out there. Even people internal to the company can leverage the asset to make changes to the enterprise IT inside more easily and more safely.
How do you work with Apigee technology?
We use Apigee as a critical layer to help us scale with performance, provide security and track and control our API calls.
The integration architecture we built was already highly robust, but we realized that as our APIs get used more and more, we really needed a caching infrastructure that is global, outside of the data centers we have. We really needed a proxy layer to do remote caching, and Apigee gives us this. Also, I was getting exhausted updating our infrastructure to handle the different kinds of security. Apigee also provides critical security mediation and OAuth transformations.
What’s your vision for your APIs?
We want to architecturally think about how everything plays together. Right now we are focused on the enterprise commerce system and contracts around that, exposing them in a restful way. Other e-commerce services which Digital River provides will also be folded into our portal and evaluated for consistency we’ve established for our REST practices. This way it all fits together. Our enterprise commerce system, our world payments offering, email, affiliate tracking, etc.
What advice would you give businesses that are starting with APIs?
Monetization: it's something that should be considered by those who are advocating it. For us, it's relatively straightforward. But it's something to consider, and there are a lot of creative ways to do it.
The world has changed. Programming is much larger, going across the web. The unit of programming has become the API. We're all maturing, we're all interconnected – the Internet is the transformation mechanism.