Virtualization Technology News and Information
SmartBear 2022 Predictions: 8 API-related Trends to Keep an Eye on in 2022

vmblog predictions 2022 

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2022.  Read them in this 14th annual series exclusive.

8 API-related Trends to Keep an Eye on in 2022

By Frank Kilcommins, API Technical Evangelist, SmartBear

Things are always changing. API traffic now dominates the web, and technology analysts expect API investments to increase by 37% in 2022. The expected increases are significant, given that companies spent an estimated $1.2 trillion on digital transformation in 2019 and 2020. This may be the tip of the iceberg, as only 13% of leaders think their organizations are ready for the digital age. As technology continues to dominate our personal and professional lives, APIs become increasingly important.

Market and industry motions also contribute to API growth. Open banking, open travel, open insurance, and interoperability standards within healthcare, all powered through APIs, drive the increasing relevance of privacy and regulation, which plays a vital role in the API landscape.

Technology trends like Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), low-code and no-code initiatives, and the continued migration of large technology estates from on-premise to the cloud contribute to a proliferation of APIs.

Companies want to participate in the digital economy. The needs for speed, transparency, and cost effectiveness all play a part. As APIs evolve from being a technical item IT teams take responsibility for, to the cornerstone of how we exchange value, what should we be keeping an eye on in the coming year?

1) API-first will tip the scales to dominate delivery approaches

API-first is a simple approach that focuses on every product and service (a.k.a. capability) being offered as an API-first. APIs are catalysts for delivering digital experiences and are now the dominant form of traffic. Companies need to strive for longevity in their API products.

ROI on APIs is no longer limited to APIs going beyond the boundaries of the organization. Organizational leaders realize the majority of APIs they create are driving internal DevOps, automation, and AI initiatives.

Within many organizations, scrutiny on API design and API Developer Experience (DX) only kicks in for external APIs. That mentality hinders the API-first mindset. What really pushes API-first forward is a consistent, standardized approach - regardless of the consumer.

Too often, API design, standardization, and Developer Experience (DX) are seen as necessary only for APIs exposed outside of the organization. If you apply an API-first approach to smaller businesses and technical initiatives, you enable organizations to learn the ropes for a full-scale API product mindset. This facilitates the transparent value proposition of each capability prior to making larger investments. It also contributes to a loosely coupled and composable architecture.

The benefits of API-first are becoming widely understood and appreciated. The adoption of API-first and design-first should be the dominant approach for successful API delivery.

2) API specification adoption will increase

Companies must achieve the right balance between speed, agility, and security when they deliver digital assets. If companies take a fragmented approach to API delivery, API chaos may paralyze their digital evolution.

Undocumented APIs are a common pain point for many organizations. API specifications bring many practical benefits within a digitally transforming company.

The main benefits of API specifications include:

  • Enabling consistency for consumers
  • Addressing technology debt without breaking your contracts
  • Enhanced security and agility
  • Reduced communication and knowledge sharing burden
  • Increased interoperability between components and tooling

Standardization and governance are a significant challenge for businesses scaling their API delivery approach. Specifications provide automated ways to add resiliency to API delivery programs and support improved productivity when they're adopted by tooling eco-systems.

3) API management is evolving

As APIs evolve from pure technical artifacts to products, the role of API management is also evolving.

Initial API management efforts were focused on technical management of APIs, including publishing, access, security, throttling, monitoring, and reporting. It did little to support other stages of the API lifecycle such as ideation, design, development, test, and documentation, or the product-orientated mindset of modern API delivery.

APIs are built to be consumed - they have no value if they aren't. API management tooling therefore needs to offer API providers the ability to deliver consistent products by acting as a unified catalog of a business' API estate. It should also be consumer focused, which leads to improved support for the marketing, rollout, and adoption of products. The next step is to make it easier for consumers to discover and seamlessly engage with API products in a consumer-centric environment.

API management shouldn't constrain the way APIs are designed, developed, and deployed. It's difficult to be all things to all people, and management platforms should keep this in mind. Standardization around the definition of the API lifecycle and the enablement of API interoperation for the lifecycle phases, should empower organizations to complement API management tooling with other specialized offerings. This will lead to better quality APIs.

4) Multi-protocol is the new norm

There's a variety of API styles and technologies available to teams, which leads to the emergence of multi-protocol usage. A mix of integration patterns and API styles provides a multifaceted integration landscape.

In order to serve optimal experiences and deliver on digital immediacy demands, many companies use a combination of API and integration styles which deliver immersive experiences for the end users. With APIs, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.


Figure 1 - SmartBear State of Quality API report 2021 - 81% of respondents use more than one protocol

Productivity, team morale, and cognitive load are affected when a team deals with multiple styles and protocols, particularly by context switching between tools. So, there's a push within the tooling space to support multiple protocols in a way that meets teams where they are. By integrating directly into development environments (IDE), or by supporting team workflows through SDKs, CLIs, and consistent tooling user interfaces, tooling vendors can help teams focus on functional or feature goals, without being held back by the tooling itself.

5) The main challenge in API program success: people

Getting APIs right is a socio-technical challenge. The organization's team structure and the culture side of the equation can be either fundamental impediments or key enablers for an API program. This phenomenon is reflected in Conway's Law, which states that organizations design systems that mirror their own communication structures.

We've made considerable strides in addressing the technical challenge of API delivery and consumption. Now we need to make concerted efforts to address the mindset of the people involved. For organizations looking to get the most from their API program and prevent stagnation, investment is best spent on addressing the organizational side of API delivery, rather than the technical side.


Figure 2 - Technology focus dominates rather than people and process. (This graphic reflects Integrated Automation but is also true for APIs.)

6) Convenience technology may soon bite back

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) helped many organizations react quickly to the changed environment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the widespread shift to remote working. Many organizations hastily deployed bots on top of legacy applications, processing and directly interacting with the graphical user interfaces of the systems by mimicking real users. Those beneficial short-term gains may be misinterpreted by IT executives as a cheaper, faster, and more consistent way to solve scalability challenges.

RPA is a useful tool in the enterprise toolkit, but it also has the potential to mask technology debt. This could lead to brittle legacy architectures which underpin the core offering of organizations. To prevent this, RPA should be properly governed and part of an integrated strategy.

If RPA was introduced as a temporary workaround to short-term challenges, it's imperative for IT leaders and architects to treat its implementation as such. They also need to develop the underlying core enterprise landscape to ensure architectural resiliency. Without this, they risk classifying their RPA implementation as "innovative," which means the organization will fail to achieve its digital transformation goals (as shown in the "people challenge" outlined above) and API program maturity.

7) Open standards are becoming increasingly relevant

The move toward openness, consistent data sharing, and regulation around consent is a global trend. Open banking has changed the operation of financial services companies and banks, shifting the power from the traditional custodians toward the consumers. This enables consumers to shop around for better deals or the more innovative experiences offered by many fintechs.

The same democratization is also happening in other sectors, such as open insurance, open finance, open travel, and the fast healthcare interoperability resources (FHIR) specification within healthcare.

These industries will benefit from embracing the growth of the API ecosystem. Consumers are much more aware of data ownership, so standards around data exchange, the security of the exchange mechanisms (e.g., the APIs), and owner consent are more relevant than ever.

Newer initiatives can learn from open banking and adopt early the customer-centric mindset of APIs as products and API users as customers. The open standards, and industries themselves, will level the playing field and promote standardization of minimal requirements. Institutions will learn when to differentiate themselves from competitors by focusing on their unique products and services.

With this increasing move toward open standards, the OpenAPI Initiative (OAI) has created several special interest groups (SIGs) which focus on the usage, adoption, and potential enhancement of the OpenAPI specification (OAS) for specific industries, such as finance and travel.

It will be interesting to watch how these groups continue to operate. They offer a compelling opportunity to move OAS and the OAI community forward. This will probably influence multiple API specifications, not just OpenAPI.

8) APIs drive Artificial Intelligence, low-code, and no-code

Smart speakers are here to stay. Voice and chat assistants are used more than ever, reflecting the success of human to machine interaction. It's not just limited to voice-assistant devices - applications leveraging speech-to-text technology have exploded over the past few years. APIs continue to grow, as they're the conduit of value between voice- and chat-enabled devices and the underlying functional offering.


Figure 3 - Smart speaker frequency of use in the USA, UK, and Germany

The indirect importance of APIs is not just limited to the voice technology trend. It's also true for most AI capabilities. Low-code and no-code are gaining more traction within the industry at large, and these platforms are fuelled by the APIs behind the visual builders.

However, while it's useful to have quick automation around processes, companies are still getting to grips with how to deliver no-code solutions. Growth will continue in this area, as will a realization of the important role APIs play. Expect to see efforts to improve governance and standardization around no-code and low-code in the coming year.

The decade of APIs

All the hype surrounding new digital ecosystems, new business models, new platforms, new marketplaces, and new as-a-service value propositions all point to one single common denominator: more APIs!

While humans may be waiting for the twenties to start in earnest, it has all the hallmarks of the "decade of the API" with indicators suggesting that the API market will continue to grow, especially with the accelerated demands on organizations from the pandemic.



Frank Kilcommins 

Frank Kilcommins is API Technical Evangelist at SmartBear. He has over 15 years of experience in the technology industry, his roles spanning from software engineering to enterprise architecture. His mission is to inspire, engage with, and support the API community as well as SmartBear customers across the end-to-end API development lifecycle and management space. Prior to joining SmartBear, Frank's most recent roles have been focused on API-led digital transformations and architecture modernization within multi-national enterprises.

Published Monday, November 29, 2021 7:27 AM by David Marshall
There are no comments for this post.
To post a comment, you must be a registered user. Registration is free and easy! Sign up now!
<November 2021>