Manfred Bortenschlager: ”APIs are an extremely effective and elegant architectural way to exchange information”

29 July 2017 |

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Our series of interviews with API experts is spinning up and today API2Cart wants to present you an interesting discussion with Manfred Bortenschlager (@ManfredBo on Twitter) who is an API enthusiast and works for 3scale – delivering API Management solutions.

His job involves educating markets about the value of APIs and how to implement effective API programs. Manfred also curates and writes articles about API strategy and technology for the API Magazine (@API_Mag on Twitter).

Manfred, you have a great experience in IT sphere and especially in Mobile development. What do you enjoy most in your work? Could you share with us some bright milestones of your career path?

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MB: I am very passionate about APIs. For two reasons: First, I think the idea of using programmable interfaces will lead to a far-reaching transformation in how businesses or individuals exchange information. Second, I am convinced that APIs are an extremely effective and elegant architectural way to achieve that.

What I enjoy most is explaining these concepts to people and see more and more people coming on board leading to impressive growth of the API economy.

When has your passion to API started? Disclose your thoughts on your first acquaintance with Application Programming Interface.

MB: In programming software you use APIs all the time. In principle, there are two types of APIs: local APIs (all the functionality that is used via local libraries) and remote APIs (functionality that is invoked remotely via some sort of communications network). The second type is nowadays also often referred to as Web APIs because most of them are based on Web standards.

In that sense, I was exposed to APIs early on when I learned programming in college. My interest in Web APIs specifically started when I was developer evangelist for Samsung Mobile where we had several SDKs that wrapped access to Web APIs. I then worked in the space of carrier APIs. Later I noticed I can influence the API space more by changing to a company that supplies solutions for API management, which brought me to 3scale.

Now, you work at 3scale, and basically focus on interpreting the value of API and peculiarities of its effective implementation. Could you tell our readers more about your work at this company? Does it inspire you to the new API horizons investigation?

MB: The reasons that convinced me to join 3scale was that I was exposed to several API management solutions as a user and 3scale’s solution had many benefits. Even more important for me is that 3scale does a lot to drive and help the whole API economy to grow. We run many initiatives for developing this market.

We are organizing one of the most influential, vendor-neutral API Strategy and Practice conference together with the API Evangelist Kin Lane twice a year. We support, invest and contribute to industry standards like the API representation framework Swagger, API specification standards like API Commons, or the open-source API search solution APIs.io.

We also produce a lot of thought leadership articles on our blog, via guest blogs with other renowned experts, or ebooks like Winning in the API Economy which is one of the reference works in the space.

What, in your opinion, an API management is? Is it really crucial to have the platform for managing an API?

MB: Not having any sort of API management is like not having a door to your apartment.

All your valuable things are inside and without a door you don’t know who enters when or does what or may even take things away. You have no visibility and no control. API management is like the door. Now there can be very simple doors but also very sophisticated and expensive ones. You can buy a door and let it be installed by an expert or you can build your own door. In any case, I am sure you would feel very uncomfortable if there would be no door at all.

Whenever an organisation decides to expose its assets (data or services) and regardless of the scope (public, partner or internal), I would always strongly recommend to use some sort of API management. At least to have basic access control, usage policies, and analytics, which will give the organisation some essential control and visibility.

You have been writing quite a lot about API strategy and tactics, lifecycle of an API and its adoption, etc. What are the biggest mistakes API developers make while creating it? What do you recommend as a roadmap for crafting an Application Programming Interface?

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MB: In order to make an API program successful, the most important thing is to be clear about what objectives should be achieved. These objectives need to be in line with the overall strategy of the business. All the rest derives from that. We wrote about that extensively in the article Building Effective API Programs.

The other thing I would recommend is to understand the various stages of the API lifecycle, which, in fact, starts with thinking about how the API program aligns with the organization’s strategy. This methodology is based on agile principles. So API builders will probably iterate through the cycle various times and implement their learnings in each cycle.

Can you please complete the sentence: API Economy is….

MB: ...about to transform the way how organisations, companies, or individuals provide and consume information.

At its core it is based on the idea of machine-readable interfaces – the APIs – which allow direct programmable access to data or services. This is a very powerful idea. Just like Web pages allow humans to consume data or services, the API economy makes it possible for machines to do the same with transforming effects.

Nowadays, there are lot of talks around online business transformation and its necessity. Do you consider API a driving force? How do you think API effects e-Commerce in particular?

MB: I do not think that APIs are a driving force. Driving forces are benefits that businesses or organisations of all sorts aim to achieve. Examples include: create new sources of revenues or revive existing ones, achieve a wider reach, foster and leverage innovation, or increase efficiency.

The beauty of APIs is that they are an underlying technological concept, which is a very effective means to achieve all of the above.

The same principles apply to e-Commerce. I think today we don’t have to discuss about the value of e-Commerce. That is well established. e-commerce just totally lends itself to be based on APIs. I would even recommend an API-first design approach, which will bring significant system architecture benefits.

To put the finishing touch, can you tell us some predictions about API evolution in the future?

MB: A great summary of the current trends can be found here: http://www.3scale.net/2015/01/api-predictions-2015/

I personally think that the most important trends will be:

  • APIs will become more mainstream and pervade areas (verticals) more where we have not seen too much API growth so far.
  • API design will become more important, especially regarding security aspects.
  • API search and discovery will remain a key challenge.
  • Related to becoming more mainstream is the requirement of scale and availability. Solid API operations will be key to achieve that.

API2Cart Team would like to thank Manfred Bortenschlager for sharing his profound insights about API and allocating the time for answering questions.

P.S. If you are still wondering how API can add value to your profit-making, don’t hesitate to schedule a FREE call with API2Cart representative. Find out how access to 30+ shopping platforms will expand your business possibilities as never before.