APIs are an essential piece of software that tie numerous departments, functions, teams, consumers and enterprises together. There are a number of different types of APIs, however, each with its own specific functions, advantages and disadvantages. The three main types include:
It’s important to understand how each of the different types of APIs operate to better know which one makes the most sense for your business needs and circumstances.
What is an API?
An application programming interface (API) is a software intermediary that enables different applications, systems or IoT devices to exchange data and communicate with each other without human intervention. APIs are essential for numerous business functions in the current digital economy, but they don’t work unless they are properly integrated with other APIs they’re designed to interact with.
Integration allows APIs to share data in real time, helping end-users save time and money while ensuring shared data is consistent, timely and accurate.
The different types of API
Also known as open APIs, public APIs are designed specifically for consumption by a market of web-based software developers. While public APIs can be built in a number of different ways, it's critical that they’re easily consumable and accessible by a wide range of people. Public APIs are commonly used by Government departments to make statistical and other citizen-centric data to third-party app developers. Some public APIs can be accessed without any authentication or authorisation, there are fair-use policies that would be enforced to prevent misuse. Most public APIs, though documented publicly, require the user to register with the provider and request access to the APIs. It is the API provider’s choice to charge for APIs or offer it for free.
Private APIs are developed exclusively for use by an organization’s own, internal development teams. They are designed to streamline challenges specific to the organization, and therefore should be built with the needs of the internal development team in mind.
The different API protocols
API protocols define the rules by which APIs can communicate and integrate with other systems or devices. There are four main formatting types, including:
Representational state transfer (REST) architecture is among the most popular API protocol formats. REST consists of a client-server architecture that is stateless, meaning client information doesn’t get stored anywhere. Because it is separated from both the back and front end, REST gives extra flexibility throughout the development of the API.
Remote procedural call (RPC) protocols differ from REST in that they encode data to complete actionable requests, as opposed to simply exchanging information between different endpoints. RPC uses either XML or JSON language to function (it can be further broken down into RPC-XML and RPC-JSON).
Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) is perhaps the most extensive of the three main API protocols. SOAP is used to create web APIs, designed specifically for web servers and browsers, and it can communicate across a number of different application protocols.
Protocol Buffers – Protobuf, or Protocol Buffers, is a data serialization mechanism invented by Google, which allows data to be encoded in compact binary format instead of XML or JSON. The advantage of using a binary format is performance as API infrastructure can handle more traffic within a given time window as it optimizes data transport over the network. gRPC defines an interface specification language and is based on protocol buffers.
These protocols, by default, assume synchronous communication between the API requester and the responder. There are additional specifications for asynchronous communication such as Webhooks, AsyncAPI, etc, which will be the focus of our next blog.
Which APIs are a priority for your business?
Determining which types of APIs help meet your current business priorities, requires a comprehensive assessment of your systems, processes, customers and objectives. This is the prerequisite for forming a comprehensive API strategy, which you’ll need before you begin developing APIs.
Through the evaluation of your business, you should identify gaps and opportunities that could be substantially addressed by building and deploying APIs. You should also consider your customers’ needs as the market changes and develops. You can identify new business opportunities that will inform the development of APIs to solve customer problems.
Determining what kind of APIs are the right move for your business is a challenging process. Our team at Torry Harris Integration Solutions can help. As one of the most trusted advisors to enterprises across the world, we work with your team to help you leverage the power of digital access through integration.
Contact us today to get started.
- Set a robust API strategy that covers the integration of all your key IT assets and data
- Design and develop APIs with clear objectives for each
- Efficiently orchestrate API lifecycles while tracking API calls and API monetisation
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