September 29, 2021
Unlocking Business with the Power of Open APIs
by Navneen Kaur, Technology Lead & DevOps Engineer at Accelera
Open APIs can open doors to game-changing solutions.
If you’re here reading about the potential of APIs to unlock your business, you’re likely already familiar with Application Programming Interfaces, software that gets applications talking to each other.
Those important conversations, much like in real life, can be either open or closed. Closed APIs, as their name suggests, operate in a more locked-down environment — the conversation takes place in a controlled space with rules on what can be discussed. Open APIs are designed to welcome other voices into the conversation in a space with fewer restrictions.
So, when do you use a closed vs an open API? That comes down how you want your data handled, whether you want restrictions on certain “topics,” and if the exchange between parties would benefit from being more dynamic. It’s about the type of conversation you want to have and what outcome you’re expecting.
"Closed APIs," also known as “enterprise APIs” are typically custom developed in-house and are not publicly available. Because closed APIs operate in highly secured environments, often accessible via a VPN, every resource call originates within a secure space. Closed APIs are developed with existing data and assets in situations where it’s important to control the functions they can perform.
However, by not permitting external collaboration or input, closed APIs just continue to do the same function they were designed to do. This can hinder innovation and growth — the business can be essentially “stuck” with a closed platform — and can be difficult or costly to integrate into other systems.
Open APIs, as the name suggests, are open to outside developers, often released publicly over the internet. Companies will have their own in-house team developing applications, but the idea of open APIs is to get outside developers working on applications for the environment that the company has created. This collaboration results in innovation — more developers involved means more potential ideas and solutions — with less cost and time investment.
That’s not to say that anyone has access to an open API. Restrictions can still be placed using API management tools, allowing an open API to more closely resembling a closed API. For example, an in-house developer can grant access to specific outside developers, permitting a more open exchange between select creators, while the data remains secured — whether it’s being shared or updated.
API security is taken care by using OAuth or API keys, which use tokens for authorization, and allows two unrelated sites or services to perform a function or transaction in a protected environment. A few examples of this: Travel booking websites use open APIs to make calls to a hotel’s room inventory, and health clinic appointment apps use open APIs to connect to doctor’s office traffic to provide patients with approximate wait times.
Traditionally, closed APIs have been used by financial institutions and organizations that require tightly controlled data security. However, the ability of open APIs to have open conversations in a secured, authenticated environment is creating a sea change, with organizations seeing the advantages of open over closed.
At Root we use open APIs to create the best possible customer experiences, using secured data within a collaborative environment. Access to a variety of data sources unlocks more options for problem solving and eliminates the need to spend money to develop niche industry software. Open APIs also save time and reduce the mistakes that can happen when rewriting code: instead, the code is simplified and reusable, making it easier to maintain, less labour-intensive and repetitive, and more flexible.
The first step is understanding how open APIs work and how they can deliver the same peace of mind that comes with closed APIs. By embracing the security and capabilities of open APIs, an exciting world of innovation and real solutions is unlocked. Especially when adding super flexible technologies — or AnyTechs — to the mix.
And, your business problems are even easier to solve.