Application programming interfaces (APIs) are considered the cornerstone of the new integration and data access capabilities in the enterprise. Until recently, the creation of APIs has been undertaken by developers who write code in a specific programming language and manage the corresponding hosting and management infrastructure. This approach becomes a challenge for mobile development, which requires the rapid enablement of APIs to facilitate backend capabilities of mobile apps.
To address this challenge, platforms such as mobile backend as a service (mBaaS) have emerged with ready built APIs immediately available to mobile developers.
Consider a scenario where building a mobile application that accesses data from a SAP instance behind a firewall with an mBaaS platform like KidoZen that comes with prebuilt SAP APIs vs. having to build all the SAP integration APIs from the ground up. It’s obvious which would be the easier and more affordable option. This factor alone has been a catalyst for the adoption of enterprise mBaaS platforms like KidoZen. However, pre-packaged APIs are just part of the solution.
Having access to large collections of APIs can accelerate the time to market of specific solutions. However, most enterprise mobile applications will require additional APIs which expose different types of business logic and components required by the solution. These new APIs typically leverage infrastructure building blocks, such as connectivity, security or integration, which are typically exposed in more enterprise mBaaS infrastructures.
In other words, instead of building entire new APIs from scratch, the new business APIs should leverage foundational APIs that abstract integration and infrastructure capabilities in a consistent manner. Basically, we should be building new APIs by leveraging and orchestrating existing APIs also known as low-code APIs.
What are Low-Code APIs?
Low-code APIs define an API authoring model that leverages existing APIs in order to enable its infrastructure and integration capabilities. Consider a scenario where we are building a new invoice processing API with an enterprise mBaaS platform that includes SAP and Active Directory Authentication APIs. In this model, the new API should provide the invoice processing business logic while leveraging the foundational building blocks enabled by the SAP and AD Authentication APIs.
Extrapolating the low-code API concept in the context of enterprise mBaaS platforms, we can see how new APIs can be authored by leveraging enterprise mBaaS APIs. If we use our traditional enterprise mBaaS API taxonomy composed of business, infrastructure, data access, enterprise systems and mobile APIs, we can see how new APIs can be enabled based on those building blocks.
As illustrated above, we can clearly identify patterns that delineate the authoring of low-code APIs:
- Low-Code Infrastructure APIs: Can be created by combining existing infrastructure APIs
- Low-Code Enterprise System APIs: Can be created by combining business, infrastructure and enterprise system APIs
- Low-Code Data Access APIs: Can be created by combining infrastructure, business, data access and enterprise systems APIs.
- Low-Code Business APIs: Can be created by combining business, data access, enterprise systems and infrastructure APIs.
- Low-Code Mobile APIs: Can be created by combining infrastructure and mobile APIs.
Business Impact of Low-Code APIs
We are moving towards an API Economy where access to data and integration functionality is made available to enterprises ‘as-a-service’. At the same time, the demand for innovative cross platform mobile apps continues to increase from within different business departments such as Marketing, HR and Operations. Low-code APIs will play a critical role in lowering the traditional IT overhead and scheduling challenges faced when launching new enterprise mobile apps.
Low-code APIs are essentially the building blocks for current and future mobile apps enabling accelerated time-to-market (or release to internal users). Enabled through an mBaaS platform such as KidoZen, they act as a broker between the mobile application and the key requirements IT have such as security, auditing and most importantly, access to the line-of-business systems where data needs to be surfaced from. With low-code APIs the business and IT can work toward a joint outcome where IT overhead is low and the business value of mobile apps is high.
Although the concept of low-code APIs is relatively new, flavours of it are emerging in different enterprise mBaaS platforms.