Increasingly businesses exist in a cloud-based, connected landscape that demands products and services which can be part of an ecosystem, that includes humans, devices, and applications, all of which generate and consume petabytes of data. In this landscape, humans-to-machines, machines-to-humans, and machines-to-machines interactions are taking place in an ever-expanding sphere. For e.g. your smartwatch, smartphone and you form a closed system where data and features are constantly being consumed and generated.
Therefore, any entity that aims to be a player in this ecosystem, must offer products and services that can be accessed and consumed on any device and deliver a seamless experience. This calls for applications with a flexible architecture that can be easily integrated with other apps, devices, and systems. The goal of any application or product should be as a participant in an ecosystem of services, rather than as a stand-alone monolithic application. The challenge is what design, processes, and practices can help build a successful product in such an environment.
The traditional code-first approach to building software applications is not the right way to cater to the needs of a connected ecosystem, in which integrations, interoperability, and modularity are primary business needs. In a code-first approach, even businesses that were using modular services, or Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), treated their development as a separate channel, which resulted in a contrived API, that is not well designed, thought out, leveraged or optimized.
A better approach is an API-first strategy. APIs allow businesses to break down capabilities into individual, autonomous services, and an API-first strategy enables you to build product features that can be used across multiple devices and channels.
An API-First Strategy means building APIs that encapsulates the business rules, process and value of a product first, and then building the product experience (user-facing) on top of it
An API-First strategy to design and development of software applications offers numerous benefits, including asynchronous development, reduced development costs, faster time-to-market, lower risk of failure, and better metrics and metering. But an API-first strategy must be well-planned and should factor in key aspects, some of which are briefly described below:
Identify and partition Key Services
We must identify at a broad level how to partition the key services of an end product. Each high-level collection of endpoints should be bundled as part of one business function. For e.g. for an e-commerce product: all item related endpoints such as to get item description, get the price, etc. Each high-level collection should have a stakeholder(s) and the owner(s) who can review the design of the API and also inform about how the interactions must take place from a feature perspective. These in turn will help to define the granularity of the API endpoints.
Define API endpoints
Once the high-level separation of API is defined, we must take each high-level concern and break it into granular endpoints that enable maximum reusability while ensuring that the number of endpoints are not increased beyond a reasonable limit. This has a direct effect on latency and speed of the service responses. If a feature can be done by one call to the API, it should be preferred over multiple calls to the API. This is frequently a trade-off and an optimal balance can be arrived by talking to the product stakeholders and UI/UX team.
Document API definition
Document all API endpoints. Preferably it should be auto-generated. For e.g. Swagger is a great tool that helps keep API definitions in sync with the code. As they say “Code is the Truth”!!!!. API definition document helps potential consumers of the API with how a request must be structured and all the possible return responses. This enables them to develop their application without any friction.
API Style Guide
A comprehensive, cohesive, and consistent style guide ensures service development teams across the organization adhere to the same API status codes, versioning, error handling, required (and optional) headers, etc.
Any API that is built must be quality controlled through an automated suite of Unit, Regression, and Integration tests. This ensures that one doesn’t inadvertently break previous functionality or introduce new bugs, and also preserves the intent of the features from build to build. This is especially true if there are a lot of clients for the API, with their own special requirements. An automated test suite that runs as a part of your Continuous Development/Continuous Integration (CD/CI) pipeline is a must.
API versioning and backward compatibility policies should be set in place. API change is inevitable, and it is not a good idea to put away the way we are going to handle this to a later date. API versioning hell is a real thing if it is not thought through by version 1.0 of the API.
Create a central, internal repository for developers, a place where all your API-related resources are stored- API specification, documentation, contracts, etc. For e.g. Atlassian’s confluence is a great tool for documentation and information distribution.
An indicative architecture of a product built with an API-first approach is shown below:
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API-First strategy is a great way to build future-proof products that are truly device and system-independent. Read this interesting blog by Sai Panyam on why businesses must embrace an API-First strategy.
Read the latest blog by Shruthi Podduturi to get a better understanding of legacy challenges and to use a structured framework for choosing the right strategy to modernize your legacy systems.
Agile Swarming: Evolving beyond Scrum
Being truly agile is much more than merely following Scrum ceremonies.
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Voice of coMakeiT: Work from home may be the new normal, but it doesn’t have to be boring. We continued to come up with innovative ways to bond and have fun, and we launched our own #digitalradio – Voice of coMakeIT to share our lockdown stories, experiences, and audio clips of anything we like. You can’t lockdown Innovation !!
Lending a helping hand to the Needy: Support to Connect and Madhunapantula foundations supported by coMakeIT donated groceries to 100+ families of the children attending the foundation school at #Pallipalem. Making sure the basics need of learning is not interrupted by the basic need of food in these times. Let’s continue to look out for each other!
Virtual Townhall: We hosted a virtual town hall meeting during the lockdown period and it was nice to see all #coMakeITians in absolutely great spirits, and serving our customers with undiminished enthusiasm. Kudos to ICT, HR and supporting teams who made the transition to the new normal and #WFH so effortless and seamless.
Mother’s Day Celebration: When you look in the mirror, you partly see your mother – stated, Steven ten Napel, our founder and CEO. We hosted a virtual meet to celebrate the spirit of ‘Motherhood’ and share stories, experiences of the remarkable role that mothers played in shaping, influencing, and supporting us. You can watch the video of the event @ https://youtu.be/zQn_k4b2pJY
Virtual Onboarding : It’s nice to see the excitement and enthusiasm of these bright youngsters who were virtually on-boarded during the lockdown period. We are delighted to welcome Ajay Kumar Maheshwari and Prudvi Raju Kallepalli to the coMakeIT family, and we wish them both personal success and professional fulfilment. Can’t wait to meet them in person!!
Mental Health Awareness Session: The unprecedented #COVID19 pandemic and the pressure of #WFH while dealing with the lockdown took a huge toll on #mentalhealth Last week, with the help of Pause for Perspective, we conducted a mental health awareness session to boost the morale and help coMakeIT employees learn techniques to overcome anxiety and manage stress.