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API Trends: What to expect in 2013

Sam Ramji
Jan 14, 2013

What can we expect in the API world in 2013?

The following are some of the top themes and trends that we see developing during the next 12 months.

APIs become brand drivers

Powerful brands like Nike, Coca-Cola, and FedEx have already extended their brand experience to their APIs.  Like the Web in the late 90s, APIs are a digital channel that has extraordinary impact when used correctly.  Unlike the Web, APIs are force multipliers for the community surrounding a brand.  Companies and developers that value the brand are empowered to extend it into new digital media, from apps to devices to automobiles.  Brand strength comes from consistency and ubiquity; the scale of the explosion of new types of devices and digital experiences challenges any single company to deliver ubiquity by itself.  Just as no man is an island, in a world driven by apps, no company can solve every problem.  APIs are the bridges from the corporate island, and a well-executed API extends a powerful brand like an island that has bridges to everywhere. 

Prediction: 2013 will see APIs as a standard aspect of branding just as websites were in the 90’s.

Enterprises who embraced APIs break away in their industries

As we saw in the Web era, winners were bigger and losers were more prevalent.  The economic perspective on the Web was that it moved the exponent of the standard wealth distribution function: in the 1900s, winners and losers in most markets fell into a 80:20 distribution, where 80% of the wealth was captured by 20% of the companies.  In the Web, we saw a shift to a 95:5 distribution where companies like Amazon captured more of the market than would ever be possible under a physical business environment.  With APIs, we see 99:1 distributions due to the nature of the indirect digital channel which is generating digital ecosystems.  EBay, Facebook, and Netflix demonstrated these effects and leaders like TD Ameritrade, Accuweather, and Walgreens are showing that they apply to digital immigrants as well as digital natives.

Prediction: 2013 will see widening gaps between leaders in each industry as they establish platform business models and digital ecosystems.

BI loses ground to Big Data

Business Intelligence (BI) evolved in an era where application information was not designed to be shared, and in which we thought we knew the right questions to ask about our business in advance.  Now we have an exploding number of apps powered by APIs that share information by default, and we realize no one is smart enough to know the right questions in advance.  So instead of a fixed view over data warehouses that runs queries against history (BI), we are moving to dynamic views over constantly flowing data that make predictions about the future.  Given the speed of change in the world of business and consumers, and the rate of growth of important but minimally structure data, “big data” will take chunks of the BI market to help businesses get really intelligent about their operations and their ecosystem.

Prediction:  In 2013, BI projects will be seen as legacy efforts, with new insights driven by Big Data platforms.

Self-service M2M from telco

As we see apps and APIs expand on smartphones, tablets, TVs, and even cars, as a society we are prepared to adopt many more smart devices.  A case in point is the Nike Fuelband and Nike+ system for measuring our own athletic activity and performance over time.  The time is right for consumers, but what is holding back a major expansion of connected devices?  The problem is the high barrier to entry for innovators who want to connect new kinds of devices to wireless networks.  The answer to this is self-service mobile-to-mobile (M2M) platforms.  They will include wireless radios that are pre-certified by wireless operators to behave well on the network, and a self-service experience that lets developers use the network on a pay-as-you-go basis.  With this problem solved, we will change how we exercise, manage our health, and even how we play.

Prediction: 2013 will see the emergence of connected play with the first toy-to-toy network.

DevOps gets into the network (SDN)

As developers and operators have taken advantage of programming tools and source control to create a new discipline (DevOps), the emergence of Software-Defined Networks (SDN) will be a huge opportunity for the well-educated operator.  Large-scale network management and automation has been the domain of proprietary solutions from major networking companies, but SDNs expose APIs that enable new, right-sized network apps to solve common problems.  DevOps specialists have had the skills and the need to make networks adapt to the applications that they manage, and with SDN technologies like BigSwitch Floodlight, OpenStack Quantum, and Brocade’s Vyatta, they now have the APIs needed to make the network programmable.  This will create a virtuous cycle between a growing community of technologists and a powerful early-stage technology; watch this space.

Prediction: 2013 will see the beginning of the “disintegration” of network management systems into DevOps scripts running against software-defined networks.

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