API is an abbreviation for application programming interface. Any single API is code that defines and automates how two or more software components share data, specifying what kind of request can be made and how the request will be fulfilled.

Although APIs connect software components, you need API integration to connect two systems — whether on-premises or in the cloud. API integration enables the seamless exchange of data in real time, allowing both experts and laypeople to add to and organize their data structures. While integrations can and do happen without APIs, APIs fuel integration efficiencies that help improve and accelerate communication and lead to better user experiences and business growth.

How APIs work

Think of APIs as messengers. A user or computer program makes a request, then the API translates the request into a language understood by the target device, collects the requested data and delivers it to the point of origin.

These API calls follow carefully defined parameters to fetch and send data. The bidirectional synchronization of APIs means that a change in one system results in a change in the other. A request is made; an answer is returned.

APIs are integrated into internet searches, weather and game apps, social media sites and business-critical applications like CRM, CRP and HRM. Because, without API integrations, people wouldn’t have easy access to application data.

APIs serve as building blocks for any program development

API code is reusable, which means an API can be repurposed as a building block to add functionality to an application. Using existing APIs helps simplify complex coding needs, ensure application efficacy, conserve resources and reduce development costs.

As an alternative to creating custom APIs, developers sometimes use public (or open) APIs. In fact, among the tens of thousands of APIs in use today, there are at least 24,000 open APIs readily available over the internet. Any developer anywhere in the world can use an open API. Be aware, however, that using an open API can make your data vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Organizations use private (or closed) APIs to improve operational efficiency while maintaining high security and privacy. Private APIs are available for internal use only.

APIs provide flexibility

APIs can connect to any on-premises system or cloud-based system. Because APIs can be tailored to specific needs, they improve usability by improving both internal functionality and the user experience. You can use APIs to customize URLs, assign IP filtering and shorten response times with caching.

APIs enable microservice architecture for scalability

As essential as API integration is for establishing connections between systems and applications, it cannot provide the scalability essential for enterprise business. Applications must be broken down into smaller, separate services called microservices before they can scale on demand. Microservice architecture organizes these smaller services in cloud ecosystems using APIs.

APIs help conserve system resources and promote agility

APIs allow developers to limit coding redundancies, replacing some code with more advanced existing APIs. At the same time, developers can devote their time to enhancing the functionality of a discrete microservice. Since each microservice is surrounded by a distinct API, another development team can work on a separate microservice without worrying about breaking each other’s code, allowing program changes to occur at speed.

APIs allow for secure transmission of data

API integrations connect disparate databases, devices, operating systems and applications, allowing you to exchange data more quickly with less effort. As an entry point into your operating system, each API must be secure.

Private APIs that exchange data through a firewall or VPN authentication provide an extra layer of protection. Secure websites can quickly confirm your credentials when you log in because of API integrations. API monitoring adds a layer of protection by quickly identifying any unauthorized API access attempts and stopping intruders.

A brief look at API protocols

SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) APIs and XML-RPC (Remote Procedure Call) APIs are the protocols upon which other APIs are built. Developers have used these API protocols to connect code within a computer or on-premises system for decades. They provide a solid foundation for distributed computing environments commonly used for enterprise computing systems. These APIs are generally limited to sending and receiving XML documents and are rarely used for websites, smartphone apps or social sites.

In contrast, REST (Representational State Transfer) APIs provide a high level of agility and flexibility. While REST APIs conform to REST rules, they don’t have official protocols. These data-driven APIs send text, video and other media using HTTP protocol — an information exchange that requires minimal bandwidth. REST APIs are stateless, which means they hold all the code needed to execute a request. Nothing is stored on a server; however, they can cache data to expedite transactions.

OData (Open Data Protocol) APIs build on RESTful API principles, but are not bound by URL conventions, media types or query options. OData commonly uses JSON and Atom formats.

Regardless of the API protocol, you can use it to organize and reuse code. You can also use an API protocol to tap into functionality and data from another system.

Explore the30-Minute Guide to Multi-Cloud/Hybrid API and Application Integrationto learn about driving greater access to APIs.

How API integration can help your business

API integration makes it possible for businesses to send automated text messages, verify login credentials, translate content and compile consumer data and is therefore often used in:

  • Marketing automation and CRM
  • Ecommerce and order fulfillment
  • Project management tools with time tracker applications
  • Travel aggregators and airline, hotel and rental car websites

It is also used by healthcare, banking and service industries for everyday activities like:

  • Scheduling and confirming appointments
  • Checking balances and paying bills
  • Accessing records

Without APIs, software components cannot effectively exchange data. As a result, data can be lost, duplicated or misinterpreted. API integration is right for you if you want to:

  • Quickly build and integrate applications
  • Increase the functionality of your website or application
  • Maintain data integrity
  • Enable automation
  • Generate more opportunities or revenue

Learn more about the business benefits of API integration in this blog post:API Integration and iPaaS: The Basics and Benefits.

Informatica solutions support API integration

Some API integration solutions require significantly less time and resources than others. Informatica API integration and management solutions tie systems together with APIs ideal for your business process and are built on:

  • Democratization: No time-consuming code to write or UX to build. Employ APIs with a simple click.
  • Advanced data access parameters: API calls are secure, controlled, throttled and monitored to ease the integration process.
  • Artificial intelligence: APIs use AI and machine learning to automatically discover and describe your data.
  • Documentation: No need to create new or additional documentation for necessary parameters or define what those parameters mean. Informatica’s API integration and management tools automatically generate API documentation. They can also create API documentation and connectors, so you can integrate that API with other APIs.

API integration: The path toward application and business innovation

API integration and management help you connect your lines of businesses, customers and partners to any app, any process, any data, anywhere, at any speed.

As an example, cloud banking leadernCino&nbturned to Informatica for API integration and API management. With pre-built APIs bringing trusted data into Salesforce, the company can process more loans, grow its business and save development costs. Learn more about how you can tap into these benefits with the Informatica Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS).

Easily consume and orchestrate data without writing code with Informatica’sAPI Integration and Management.