AT&T: Using APIs to Help Developers Build Great Apps Quickly
AT&T Inc. is one of the world’s leading providers of IP-based communications services, with $128 billion in consolidated 2013 sales. Like many telecoms, the company faces competition from a range of non- traditional players, many of whom are using the company’s network to offer their own over-the-top (OTT) services.
Challenges and opportunities
AT&T recognized the challenge of taking a sprawling, purpose-built network infrastructure and increasing agility and the pace of innovation. The company wanted a way to enable hundreds of thousands of developers to build great apps for its network, and ultimately deliver those new experiences to its customers.
“The transformation that is underway here is about unlocking the value of our platform and delivering new capabilities to our customers faster than ever before,” said Jon Summers, AT&T senior vice president of apps and services infrastructure.
AT&T had a vision of “breaking up” its infrastructure and decoupling the layers of its network in a way that opened it to developer innovation. It turned to Apigee Edge to help accomplish this.
With Apigee, AT&T developed working prototypes of its initial APIs, which it introduced at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show. A year later, the telecom giant launched its API Platform, leveraging Apigee technology.
AT&T’s APIs are now available as web services, and the developer on-boarding process has been reduced to as little as a few hours. In addition to messaging and billing APIs, the company now offers a payment API for in-app purchases and a suite of speech recognition APIs.
AT&T deploys Apigee Edge on-premises and deploys open, partner, and internal APIs to innovation inside and outside the company—among internal and external developers, as well as partners. It also employs Apigee Mobile Analytics for stability and performance at the device end.
"We operate at a scale that is fairly unimaginable to most people, so we need a company that most importantly can grow with us ... and understand both the cultural mandate change as well as the technology aspects.
The technology has to scale; the partner must grow with us on those dimensions. Also, the partner must be able to work with different business units that have very different mandates: the mandates of an internal API reuse are very different than that of an external developer exposure engine."Abhi Ingle, AT&T vice president, ecosystem & innovation, on why AT&T partners with Apigee
With the AT&T API platform, which runs on the Apigee enterprise API management service, the telecom has a rapid deployment method for powerful mobile applications, many of which are designed by developers that previously didn’t have the opportunity or resources to work with AT&T.
With Apigee, AT&T’s developer on-boarding time has shrunk from months to days, and sometimes hours. This has helped the company notch productivity gains of as high as 25%, in part because APIs enable code reuse, rather than requiring a fresh start for every new project.
Similarly, exposing systems through APIs has shortened the time to get a new app up and running by as much as 30%.
All of this has added up to some remarkable transformations in AT&T’s service delivery. The number of API calls, for example, increased 15x to 4.5 billion, in the first two years of the program. By the end of 2013, the number of APIs on AT&T’s platform grew to 1,455, compared to 78 just six months earlier.
According to Ingle, working with APIs has sparked cultural changes at AT&T: internal teams now compete with one another to see whose business has been the most “API-fied.”