Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Mamoon Yunus, Elizabeth White, Mehdi Daoudi

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Agile Computing, @BigDataExpo, SDN Journal

Containers Expo Blog: Blog Feed Post

Your API Requires What??

Stability and predictability of APIs is essential, without those items the toolset will not get used.

If you’ve ever developed for an enterprise IT department, and had to please the end user, you know very well that they don’t care about what your technical limitations are, they care about getting a tool that helps them do their job better. Oh some will commiserate with you about your challenges, and the best of the business side will compromise to get to a product that helps, even if it’s not perfect, but much like everyday consumers, they want what they want, and you either provide it or not. The thing is, in the enterprise, the pool of users is much smaller than for a commercial application, but the users are more focused on what they need, precisely because there are less of them.

On thing that many vendors fail to comprehend is that this “I need what I need and you provide it or you do not” approach applies just as strongly to enterprise developers. While most business to business (B2B) vendors (both hardware and software) understand the need to provide a useful, generally easy to learn user interface or command line, often that understanding does not extend to APIs.

Don’t make API consumers

into this guy.

There is a mentality of “We’re all developers here…”, which is true, but developers have different priorities. Just as the bulk of end users will not use an application that is poorly documented, non-intuitive, and complex, the same is true for the bulk of enterprise developers. They have a goal in mind, are trying to get their job done, and if your API is slowing them down or making their work harder, they will look for alternate ways to achieve their goals.

Oh, for sure there will be a small percentage that dig in and learn the API no matter how confusing and undocumented it is, for a variety of reasons ranging from earning geek cred to project requirements demanding it. But if given a choice, the vast majority of developers will seek an easier way to do what needs doing. They have timelines and deadlines, and will not let something like poor documentation interfere with those requirements.

Yes, stability and predictability of APIs is essential, without those items the toolset will not get used. But without documentation and an intuitive design with predictable types, requests, responses, etc. many developers won’t even get to the stability part. When the tool cannot be figured out in the time available, stability is entirely irrelevant.

So what do you need? Well, I have years of both writing and using APIs, and here are a few tips from me, no doubt others have a lot to add to the conversation:

  1. Cohesive design. Most APIs grow over time, but they need to adhere to standards set by the API docs, so that developers don’t waste time going “what is this completely different thing here…?” Variations need to be clearly documented.
  2. API reference. A quick reference to help developers understand how to make the API calls, what parameters are, what responses will be, standards supported, and requirements to use the API.
  3. A full blown “how to set this up”. Including clear documentation of the things required to use the API. Developers don’t care if you didn’t write part of the toolset – they expect that – but you’d better give them every bit of information they need to configure it for their development environment, including the parts you didn’t write. It’s your API, document all the steps to make it work.
  4. Samples. Not “Hello World” level, though that belongs in the API, but real use-case samples that delve in deep, preferably in steps so developers can learn without turning on the firehose.
  5. Input/output samples. In the world of SOAP/REST APIs, sometimes you just need to see what the final request going out needs to look like, and what to expect in the response document.
  6. High-level APIs. The more mondo-geeky your dev staff, the more likely that they want to expose each little tiny operation your product is capable of as a separate API. But honestly, enterprise developers don’t want to make 50 calls to do one thing common to their industry. It wastes time coding, it wastes network bandwidth, and it makes the application more laggy. To use my utility roots, if “Read a meter” is the command, THAT is what developers want to tell the API. They don’t (and shouldn’t have to) care how many steps that takes, they want the toolset to “just do it”. That is not to say that users do not want access to the individual steps of a process, only that they require one call to achieve one business function. If you don’t have a business layer, go write one. Now.
  7. Rockstar support. Seriously, if you want people to use the tool, then you have to give them a way to get solid answers. Places like StackOverflow are great for things a large number of people are using, but for your highly specialized API, not so much. So you have to provide it – in a community, with tech support, whatever way works best, but when stuck, people need their questions answered, not to paw through docs hoping to find some vague reference.
  8. Cohesive communications and constant feedback. Getting out there via social media, blogging, meetups, whatever, and talking about changes coming to APIs, new uses some customers have found for the APIs, bugs that are in-line to be fixed and workarounds are pretty darned important. Users want to be informed, and silence about the APIs kind of implies a lack of support going forward – whether that implication is accurate or not, it is perceived. And feedback is where the best ideas for improvements come from. The person who just struggled through implementation of the API for the first time has a unique view on what could be better, and needs a communications mechanism to make those recommendations. Meanwhile, the person whose dedicated a couple of years to production use of the API might well understand the real-world implications of the design better than the original analysts who wrote it up. Again, a feedback mechanism is required.

In the end, the point of an API is to get people to use it. Invest in the API, treat it like a product, even if in your business case it is a feature, not a product. It was developed for a reason, give IT the tools to make that reason real.

And save us all a ton of time trying to figure out how to use it, so we can focus on the overall application, not your tiny bit of it.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Don MacVittie

Don MacVittie is founder of Ingrained Technology, A technical advocacy and software development consultancy. He has experience in application development, architecture, infrastructure, technical writing,DevOps, and IT management. MacVittie holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Northern Michigan University, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

@MicroservicesExpo Stories
In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Scott Davis, CTO of Embotics, discussed how automation can provide the dynamic management required to cost-effectively deliver microservices and container solutions at scale. He also discussed how flexible automation is the key to effectively bridging and seamlessly coordinating both IT and developer needs for component orchestration across disparate clouds – an increasingly important requirement at today’s multi-cloud enterprise.
IT organizations are moving to the cloud in hopes to approve efficiency, increase agility and save money. Migrating workloads might seem like a simple task, but what many businesses don’t realize is that application migration criteria differs across organizations, making it difficult for architects to arrive at an accurate TCO number. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Joe Kinsella, CTO of CloudHealth Technologies, will offer a systematic approach to understanding the TCO of a cloud application...
API Security has finally entered our security zeitgeist. OWASP Top 10 2017 - RC1 recognized API Security as a first class citizen by adding it as number 10, or A-10 on its list of web application vulnerabilities. We believe this is just the start. The attack surface area offered by API is orders or magnitude larger than any other attack surface area. Consider the fact the APIs expose cloud services, internal databases, application and even legacy mainframes over the internet. What could go wrong...
The goal of Continuous Testing is to shift testing left to find defects earlier and release software faster. This can be achieved by integrating a set of open source functional and performance testing tools in the early stages of your software delivery lifecycle. There is one process that binds all application delivery stages together into one well-orchestrated machine: Continuous Testing. Continuous Testing is the conveyer belt between the Software Factory and production stages. Artifacts are m...
In IT, we sometimes coin terms for things before we know exactly what they are and how they’ll be used. The resulting terms may capture a common set of aspirations and goals – as “cloud” did broadly for on-demand, self-service, and flexible computing. But such a term can also lump together diverse and even competing practices, technologies, and priorities to the point where important distinctions are glossed over and lost.
In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Kelly Looney, director of DevOps consulting for Skytap, showed how an incremental approach to introducing containers into complex, distributed applications results in modernization with less risk and more reward. He also shared the story of how Skytap used Docker to get out of the business of managing infrastructure, and into the business of delivering innovation and business value. Attendees learned how up-front planning allows for a clean sep...
Most companies are adopting or evaluating container technology - Docker in particular - to speed up application deployment, drive down cost, ease management and make application delivery more flexible overall. As with most new architectures, this dream takes a lot of work to become a reality. Even when you do get your application componentized enough and packaged properly, there are still challenges for DevOps teams to making the shift to continuous delivery and achieving that reduction in cost ...
Enterprise architects are increasingly adopting multi-cloud strategies as they seek to utilize existing data center assets, leverage the advantages of cloud computing and avoid cloud vendor lock-in. This requires a globally aware traffic management strategy that can monitor infrastructure health across data centers and end-user experience globally, while responding to control changes and system specification at the speed of today’s DevOps teams. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Josh Gray, Chie...
"At the keynote this morning we spoke about the value proposition of Nutanix, of having a DevOps culture and a mindset, and the business outcomes of achieving agility and scale, which everybody here is trying to accomplish," noted Mark Lavi, DevOps Solution Architect at Nutanix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
We have already established the importance of APIs in today’s digital world (read about it here). With APIs playing such an important role in keeping us connected, it’s necessary to maintain the API’s performance as well as availability. There are multiple aspects to consider when monitoring APIs, from integration to performance issues, therefore a general monitoring strategy that only accounts for up-time is not ideal.
Web services have taken the development world by storm, especially in recent years as they've become more and more widely adopted. There are naturally many reasons for this, but first, let's understand what exactly a web service is. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) defines "web of services" as "message-based design frequently found on the Web and in enterprise software". Basically, a web service is a method of sending a message between two devices through a network. In practical terms, this ...
In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Mike Johnston, an infrastructure engineer at Supergiant.io, discussed how to use Kubernetes to set up a SaaS infrastructure for your business. Mike Johnston is an infrastructure engineer at Supergiant.io with over 12 years of experience designing, deploying, and maintaining server and workstation infrastructure at all scales. He has experience with brick and mortar data centers as well as cloud providers like Digital Ocean, Amazon Web Services, and Rackspace. H...
All organizations that did not originate this moment have a pre-existing culture as well as legacy technology and processes that can be more or less amenable to DevOps implementation. That organizational culture is influenced by the personalities and management styles of Executive Management, the wider culture in which the organization is situated, and the personalities of key team members at all levels of the organization. This culture and entrenched interests usually throw a wrench in the work...
As many know, the first generation of Cloud Management Platform (CMP) solutions were designed for managing virtual infrastructure (IaaS) and traditional applications. But that’s no longer enough to satisfy evolving and complex business requirements. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Scott Davis, Embotics CTO, will explore how next-generation CMPs ensure organizations can manage cloud-native and microservice-based application architectures, while also facilitating agile DevOps methodology. He wi...
When you focus on a journey from up-close, you look at your own technical and cultural history and how you changed it for the benefit of the customer. This was our starting point: too many integration issues, 13 SWP days and very long cycles. It was evident that in this fast-paced industry we could no longer afford this reality. We needed something that would take us beyond reducing the development lifecycles, CI and Agile methodologies. We made a fundamental difference, even changed our culture...
We have Continuous Integration and we have Continuous Deployment, but what’s continuous across all of what we do is people. Even when tasks are automated, someone wrote the automation. So, Jayne Groll evangelizes about Continuous Everyone. Jayne is the CEO of the DevOps Institute and the author of Agile Service Management Guide. She talked about Continuous Everyone at the 2016 All Day DevOps conference. She describes it as "about people, culture, and collaboration mapped into your value streams....
These days, change is the only constant. In order to adapt and thrive in an ever-advancing and sometimes chaotic workforce, companies must leverage intelligent tools to streamline operations. While we're only at the dawn of machine intelligence, using a workflow manager will benefit your company in both the short and long term. Think: reduced errors, improved efficiency and more empowered employees-and that's just the start. Here are five other reasons workflow automation is leading a revolution...
Docker is sweeping across startups and enterprises alike, changing the way we build and ship applications. It's the most prominent and widely known software container platform, and it's particularly useful for eliminating common challenges when collaborating on code (like the "it works on my machine" phenomenon that most devs know all too well). With Docker, you can run and manage apps side-by-side - in isolated containers - resulting in better compute density. It's something that many developer...
While some vendors scramble to create and sell you a fancy solution for monitoring your spanking new Amazon Lambdas, hear how you can do it on the cheap using just built-in Java APIs yourself. By exploiting a little-known fact that Lambdas aren’t exactly single-threaded, you can effectively identify hot spots in your serverless code. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 21st Cloud Expo, Dave Martin, Product owner at CA Technologies, will give a live demonstration and code walkthrough, showing how ...
Did you know that you can develop for mainframes in Java? Or that the testing and deployment can be automated across mobile to mainframe? In his session and demo at @DevOpsSummit at 21st Cloud Expo, Dana Boudreau, a Senior Director at CA Technologies, will discuss how increasingly teams are developing with agile methodologies, using modern development environments, and automating testing and deployments, mobile to mainframe.