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API Trends in 2021

Jul 12, 2021 8:00:00 AM

In 2020, businesses faced down the challenges posed by successive lockdowns and social distancing through embracing digital transformation. Few could have imagined API trends would have been accelerated so quickly and extensively. The global economic picture has been shaken, and like a kaleidoscope, the patterns are starting to fall back into place. 

Over the next few years, the details will reveal themselves as the world slowly begins to vaccinate its way back to something resembling normality. Yet, one thing is already clear: APIs are integral in this new global economy, driven by data and technology. 

Each year, Google puts together a State of the API Economy report detailing how companies are using APIs to fuel their businesses. In the 2021 edition, the report found two-third of companies were increasing their investment into digital transformation - despite the challenges of the pandemic. 

In one sense, these companies have innovated because of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. Forced to reduce the on-premise workforce and embrace the work-from-home model, businesses have had to become more remote, flexible, and technology-driven. The use of cloud-based solutions is on the rise, and APIs will play an increasingly integral role in the evolution of the digital economy. 

Among the many areas the benchmark report covers include the five trends we should be looking out for. In this post, we will go through the list and explain each trend in further detail:

1. Hybrid On-Premise and Cloud Systems

Companies are increasingly looking to evolve rather than transform their businesses at once. It is an entirely understandable approach that minimizes disruption and allows teams to ease into using new technology. However, it does pose a challenge for companies.  

How do they connect on-premise and cloud systems? 

This is where APIs come in, serving as the connector between the two different systems. With an API management platform, businesses can quickly create customized APIs for specific processes and integrations - at virtually no extra cost. 

The unique ability of APIs to work with multiple systems makes them an integral part of the digitization of businesses. Any overhaul of IT systems can be a headache for companies, but using APIs allows two things:  

  • Transform in stages: Due to APIs ability to work across multiple formats, companies can implement digital transformation in stages - making it more organized and less disruptive 
  • Utilize data from legacy systems: APIs can also support businesses using old data from on-premise legacy software in replacement cloud-based systems.  

In 2021 and into the coming decade, hybrid systems will continue to dominate business operations, and APIs will be vital arteries that connect them. 

2. AI Development

APIs have supported AI development for some time, and now AI is helping to secure API ecosystems. With attacks on APIs becoming increasingly common, companies turn to AI and machine learning (ML) solutions.  

Companies are using AI to detect and eliminate security threats on API management platforms. As attacks become more dynamic, AI-based solutions can react more quickly and effectively than traditional anti-virus, anti-malware programs.  

What AI can do that other solutions cannot is detect unusual behavior or patterns that might indicate an attack is coming or at its early stages. These changes can often be microscopic and almost impossible for a human to detect. Having an advanced warning can potentially save businesses millions of dollars in damages. 

With APIs being a prime target, AI and ML technology are emerging as advanced security solutions. 

3. API Governance

Our recent articles have extensively covered API governance because of its rising importance. As businesses undergo rapid digital transformation, there is an increased focus on data protection and API security.  

API governance covers the following: 

  • API management: With small-to-medium-sized companies using an average of over 90 APIs, it’s essential to keep on top of API management. This ensures standards are being met and issues are quickly identified and resolved. 
  • Data security: Governments worldwide are implementing regulations around data security, primarily focused on personal data. The EU’s GDPR is one of the more famous and far-reaching examples. Meeting those regulations not only ensures businesses stay on the right side of the law, but it also protects business information like contracts and intellectual property. 
  • Usability: The usability and effectiveness of APIs is a critical element of any governance policies. This involves devising and implementing a set of standards that all APIs within an organization need to meet. Without usability and easy access, then the ability of APIs to transform businesses would be limited. Having a core team and guidance notes on APIs would place any company in a strong position. 

These three points are just a few of the key areas companies need to consider when it comes to APIs. The key is to build a coherent ecosystem with an advanced API management platform. 

4. Increased Analytics

One of the positive side-effects of strong API governance and data management is carrying out in-depth analysis. Companies are using API analytics to align the processes with business and leadership goals.  

For instance, a goal could be to speed up time for a product to reach the market. In-depth analysis using an API management platform can inform and shape a strategy where APIs can be optimized to deliver the desired results. 

The analysis of API performance needs to be carried out with such goals in mind. Companies that utilize the power of analytics stand to gain a competitive advantage. 

5. API Ecosystems Drive Innovation

A common thread throughout the State of the API Economy 2021 report is the fact API ecosystems are driving innovation and digital transformation around the world. Companies that embrace APIs are more likely to be ahead of the curve when it comes to digital maturity. 

This leads to automated business processes and greater flexibility, enabling those businesses to use innovation to get ahead of their competitors.  

The very nature of APIs, which supports greater integration across multiple platforms, means companies can be more fluid and responsive to new technologies and opportunities. 

The API Economy - Driving the Real Economy 

The big takeaway from the State of the API Economy report is how much of a role it plays in driving the global economy. The last year or so has posed enormous challenges, particularly with social distancing, supply chains, and people working from home. The solution has nearly universally been cloud-based software.  

Remotely accessing platforms has kept the economy moving, salaries to be paid, and vital medical supplies to be distributed. And at the heart of it all? 


Peter Edlund

Written by Peter Edlund