|By Don MacVittie||
|April 22, 2013 09:15 AM EDT||
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Everyone wants to use containers, but monitoring containers is hard. New ephemeral architecture introduces new challenges in how monitoring tools need to monitor and visualize containers, so your team can make sense of everything. In his session at @DevOpsSummit, David Gildeh, co-founder and CEO of Outlyer, will go through the challenges and show there is light at the end of the tunnel if you use the right tools and understand what you need to be monitoring to successfully use containers in your...
Mar. 27, 2017 01:15 PM EDT Reads: 1,698
What if you could build a web application that could support true web-scale traffic without having to ever provision or manage a single server? Sounds magical, and it is! In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Munns, Senior Developer Advocate for Serverless Applications at Amazon Web Services, will show how to build a serverless website that scales automatically using services like AWS Lambda, Amazon API Gateway, and Amazon S3. We will review several frameworks that can help you build serverle...
Mar. 27, 2017 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,044
The Software Defined Data Center (SDDC), which enables organizations to seamlessly run in a hybrid cloud model (public + private cloud), is here to stay. IDC estimates that the software-defined networking market will be valued at $3.7 billion by 2016. Security is a key component and benefit of the SDDC, and offers an opportunity to build security 'from the ground up' and weave it into the environment from day one. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Reuven Harrison, CTO and Co-Founder of Tufin, ...
Mar. 27, 2017 11:30 AM EDT Reads: 6,710
By now, every company in the world is on the lookout for the digital disruption that will threaten their existence. In study after study, executives believe that technology has either already disrupted their industry, is in the process of disrupting it or will disrupt it in the near future. As a result, every organization is taking steps to prepare for or mitigate unforeseen disruptions. Yet in almost every industry, the disruption trend continues unabated.
Mar. 27, 2017 11:23 AM EDT Reads: 263
SYS-CON Events announced today that HTBase will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. HTBase (Gartner 2016 Cool Vendor) delivers a Composable IT infrastructure solution architected for agility and increased efficiency. It turns compute, storage, and fabric into fluid pools of resources that are easily composed and re-composed to meet each application’s needs. With HTBase, companies can quickly prov...
Mar. 27, 2017 10:30 AM EDT Reads: 2,995
Building custom add-ons does not need to be limited to the ideas you see on a marketplace. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Sukhbir Dhillon, CEO and founder of Addteq, will go over some adventures they faced in developing integrations using Atlassian SDK and other technologies/platforms and how it has enabled development teams to experiment with newer paradigms like Serverless and newer features of Atlassian SDKs. In this presentation, you will be taken on a journey of Add-On and Integration ...
Mar. 27, 2017 08:15 AM EDT Reads: 3,164
The essence of cloud computing is that all consumable IT resources are delivered as services. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Yung Chou, Technology Evangelist at Microsoft, demonstrated the concepts and implementations of two important cloud computing deliveries: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). He discussed from business and technical viewpoints what exactly they are, why we care, how they are different and in what ways, and the strategies for IT to transi...
Mar. 27, 2017 05:00 AM EDT Reads: 6,265
Culture is the most important ingredient of DevOps. The challenge for most organizations is defining and communicating a vision of beneficial DevOps culture for their organizations, and then facilitating the changes needed to achieve that. Often this comes down to an ability to provide true leadership. As a CIO, are your direct reports IT managers or are they IT leaders? The hard truth is that many IT managers have risen through the ranks based on their technical skills, not their leadership abi...
Mar. 27, 2017 05:00 AM EDT Reads: 11,134
Without a clear strategy for cost control and an architecture designed with cloud services in mind, costs and operational performance can quickly get out of control. To avoid multiple architectural redesigns requires extensive thought and planning. Boundary (now part of BMC) launched a new public-facing multi-tenant high resolution monitoring service on Amazon AWS two years ago, facing challenges and learning best practices in the early days of the new service.
Mar. 27, 2017 03:45 AM EDT Reads: 3,066
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...
Mar. 27, 2017 03:00 AM EDT Reads: 3,093
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm.
Mar. 27, 2017 12:45 AM EDT Reads: 2,248
As software becomes more and more complex, we, as software developers, have been splitting up our code into smaller and smaller components. This is also true for the environment in which we run our code: going from bare metal, to VMs to the modern-day Cloud Native world of containers, schedulers and micro services. While we have figured out how to run containerized applications in the cloud using schedulers, we've yet to come up with a good solution to bridge the gap between getting your contain...
Mar. 26, 2017 09:45 PM EDT Reads: 7,747
As organizations realize the scope of the Internet of Things, gaining key insights from Big Data, through the use of advanced analytics, becomes crucial. However, IoT also creates the need for petabyte scale storage of data from millions of devices. A new type of Storage is required which seamlessly integrates robust data analytics with massive scale. These storage systems will act as “smart systems” provide in-place analytics that speed discovery and enable businesses to quickly derive meaningf...
Mar. 26, 2017 07:45 PM EDT Reads: 9,691
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm. In his Day 3 Keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, a Solutions Marketing Manager at Nutanix, will explore t...
Mar. 26, 2017 03:15 PM EDT Reads: 2,934
DevOps has often been described in terms of CAMS: Culture, Automation, Measuring, Sharing. While we’ve seen a lot of focus on the “A” and even on the “M”, there are very few examples of why the “C" is equally important in the DevOps equation. In her session at @DevOps Summit, Lori MacVittie, of F5 Networks, explored HTTP/1 and HTTP/2 along with Microservices to illustrate why a collaborative culture between Dev, Ops, and the Network is critical to ensuring success.
Mar. 26, 2017 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 10,675
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @CloudExpo | @ThingsExpo, June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY and October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
Mar. 26, 2017 01:45 PM EDT Reads: 8,672
The IT industry is undergoing a significant evolution to keep up with cloud application demand. We see this happening as a mindset shift, from traditional IT teams to more well-rounded, cloud-focused job roles. The IT industry has become so cloud-minded that Gartner predicts that by 2020, this cloud shift will impact more than $1 trillion of global IT spending. This shift, however, has left some IT professionals feeling a little anxious about what lies ahead. The good news is that cloud computin...
Mar. 26, 2017 10:30 AM EDT Reads: 1,338
An overall theme of Cloud computing and the specific practices within it is fundamentally one of automation. The core value of technology is to continually automate low level procedures to free up people to work on more value add activities, ultimately leading to the utopian goal of full Autonomic Computing. For example a great way to define your plan for DevOps tool chain adoption is through this lens. In this TechTarget article they outline a simple maturity model for planning this.
Mar. 26, 2017 06:00 AM EDT Reads: 4,302
While DevOps most critically and famously fosters collaboration, communication, and integration through cultural change, culture is more of an output than an input. In order to actively drive cultural evolution, organizations must make substantial organizational and process changes, and adopt new technologies, to encourage a DevOps culture. Moderated by Andi Mann, panelists discussed how to balance these three pillars of DevOps, where to focus attention (and resources), where organizations might...
Mar. 26, 2017 05:15 AM EDT Reads: 6,200
The rise of containers and microservices has skyrocketed the rate at which new applications are moved into production environments today. While developers have been deploying containers to speed up the development processes for some time, there still remain challenges with running microservices efficiently. Most existing IT monitoring tools don’t actually maintain visibility into the containers that make up microservices. As those container applications move into production, some IT operations t...
Mar. 26, 2017 01:00 AM EDT Reads: 3,001