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What are APIs and How do APIs Work?

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What is an API?

API stands for Application Programming Interface. An API is a software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other.  In other words, an API is the messenger that delivers your request to the provider that you’re requesting it from and then delivers the response back to you.

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An API defines functionalities that are independent of their respective implementations, which allows those implementations and definitions to vary without compromising each other. Therefore, a good API makes it easier to develop a program by providing the building blocks.

When developers create code, they don’t often start from scratch. Fundamental to developer productivity is how APIs make often repeated yet complex processes highly reusable with a little bit of code. The speed that APIs enable developers to build out apps is crucial to the current pace of application development.

Developers are now much more productive than they were before since they had to write a lot of code from scratch. With an API they don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time they write a new program. Instead, they can focus on the unique proposition of their applications while outsourcing all of the commodity functionality to APIs.

The principle of API abstraction enables speed and agility

One of the chief advantages of APIs is that they allow the abstraction of functionality between one system and another. An API endpoint decouples the consuming application from the infrastructure that provides a service. As long as the specification for what the service provider is delivering to the endpoint remains unchanged, the alterations to the infrastructure behind the endpoint should not be noticed by the applications that rely on that API.  

Therefore the service provider is given a great deal of flexibility when it comes to how its services are offered. For example, if the infrastructure behind the API involves physical servers at a data center, the service provider can easily switch to virtual servers that run in the cloud.

If the software running on those servers (such as credit card processing software) is written in, say, Java running on an Oracle-based Java application server, the service provider can migrate that to Node.js (server-side Javascript) running on Windows Azure.

The ability of API-led connectivity to allow systems to change as easily as plugging in a plug to a socket is key to the modern vision of enterprise IT. Gone are the days of messy point-to-point integrations for connecting enterprise solutions which take time and resources to maintain.

How do APIs work?

Imagine a waiter in a restaurant.  You, the customer, are sitting at the table with a menu of choices to order from, and the kitchen is the provider who will fulfill your order.

You need a link to communicate your order to the kitchen and then to deliver your food back to your table. It can’t be the chef because she’s cooking in the kitchen. You need something to connect the customer who’s ordering food and the chef who prepares it.  That’s where the waiter — or the API —  enters the picture.

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The waiter takes your order, delivers it to the kitchen, telling the kitchen what to do. It then delivers the response, in this case, the food, back to you. Moreover, if it’s designed correctly, hopefully, your order won’t crash!

CLICK HERE to read the full article to learn more about different types of APIs and how they can impact your business!

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To learn more on how Tallan can help your organization optimize APIs and deliver a successful integration solution based on your business needs, CLICK HERE.

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