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What is API Integration? A Guide

February 7th, 2024

An Application Programming Interface (API) is a set of protocols for building applications. APIs enable different web services, systems, and application software to connect and share enterprise data. What makes APIs so widely used is that they are ‘platform-independent.’ As a result, you can use them to consume information, regardless of the underlying operating system or technology stack.

Modern businesses make use of a variety of applications to serve different purposes. This is because most organizations are no longer interested in a one-fit-all solution. Instead, the demand for purpose-driven and specialized applications has increased exponentially. However, the challenge lies in integrating the information residing in these diverse applications to ensure accurate reporting and decision-making.

This blog post is a comprehensive guide to API integration.

What is API Integration?

API integration refers to a process in which two or more applications are connected via APIs to ‘talk’ to each other. This can involve the applications performing a joint function or exchanging information to ensure data integrity.

Businesses use all kinds of applications, including web-based services (SaaS platforms), enterprise software (ERPs), and in-house custom-made software. Each of these applications must coexist to ensure seamless business operations.

Let’s illustrate the use of an API integration platform in a scenario where a business uses different applications, such as Marketo (web tools or marketing applications), Salesforce  (an online CRM system), and Oracle ERP (a cloud-based software application). Each of these applications has one or more common entities related to the business, such as the customers’ names.

It is crucial that whenever you add a customer to the ERP system, the same should reflect in Marketo and Salesforce, and vice versa. If information is not updated across all three applications, it could mean that your sales or marketing team is working with inaccurate data. That could lead to losing potential leads, missing out on sales opportunities, and erroneous reporting for your business.

API integration solution adds a layer of automation between these applications that trigger automatic updates whenever data is changed in one of the applications. This will also allow you to maintain a master database (for example, in the Oracle ERP) that you can use for reporting and analytics.

Key Functionalities of API Integration Tools

One of the critical functionalities of API integration tools is that they help you integrate your existing software components. Additionally, they enable you to use public APIs to integrate various online applications, such as Twitter, Google Maps, Marketo, along with your business applications. You can use these open APIs to complement the information present in your enterprise database to support or improve business processes. For instance, businesses can use the Twitter API to learn more about prospective customers and emerging trends.

How to Implement API Data Integration?

We know what is API integration now, let us move on to how to achieve API integration. There are several approaches to integrating APIs, including writing code in-house or using third-party platforms to build integration pipelines.

Manual Coding

The first approach is asking your IT team to create an integration and automation layer, allowing your applications to work together seamlessly. This will involve your team manually integrating, transforming, cleaning, and aggregating the information from diverse applications your business uses.

The downside of manually writing code is that it can be quite complex and cumbersome. Especially if it involves more than a couple of applications, to explain this further, let’s continue the example from the previous section related to Marketo, Salesforce, and Oracle ERP. Each application has its own set of REST APIs to fetch and update information. API designers have to write the code for the different ways data is formatted, stored, and captured in each of them. This entire process for API integration can take weeks, and even months, to complete and execute correctly.

Another disadvantage of this approach is updating manually coded API integration layers every time the APIs or data sources change. For example, if you add a new service, start using a new feature, or make any changes to your business processes, it can lead to your development team rewriting the entire integration layer again.

Automate with API Integration Platforms

A better and more common approach to API integration is to use third-party integration platforms. These platforms can overcome the limitations users face when writing code.

An end-to-end integration platform such as Astera can handle all your API integration needs. Astera allows you to import public and private REST APIs without writing a single line of code. You can use these APIs with other objects in Astera, such as built-in transformations and connectors. These functionalities automate API integration, saving you the trouble of manually executing pipelines. It can also keep you from performing individual tasks for every new transaction.

Astera API Management is flexible enough to perform any integration-related task your business needs, allowing you to build workflows without coding them yourself. It provides you with a simple and easy-to-use user interface that you can use to create the integration workflow.

With Astera, you can also publish these integration flows as APIs.

Here’s how Astera can simplify API integration

  • Pre-build connectors for numerous cloud-based services and applications, including popular CRMs such as Salesforce, can connect to any open or custom REST API.
  • Offers a wide range of built-in transformations to help you aggregate, transform, and format data retrieved from APIs as required.
  • Simplified mapping takes away the complexity of the data architecture and storage platform. Whether you deal with data in JSON, XML, or any other format, the mapping is code-free and straightforward. Astera API Management makes it easy to create and automate data mappings by providing you with drag-and-drop mappings.
  • Powerful branching abilities allow you to apply conditional logic and digital transformations in your API integration pipelines. For example, you might want to process data by using different transformations according to the type of data being retrieved. You can do this easily through Astera by creating branches in the workflow based on your desired conditions.
  • Once you have integrated third-party APIs, you can also design and publish your APIs

Ready to Start API Integration?

API integration establishes communication between external applications and your enterprise technology stack. This facilitates seamless data sharing or data transfer between the two systems. Nowadays, businesses use all kinds of cloud-based services, SaaS platforms, and enterprise software. Consequently, it is essential to use API integration to avoid the time-consuming coding process required for exchanging data between different applications.

Want to integrate third-party APIs and publish your own APIs as well? Schedule a personlized demo and learn more about how Astera can help.

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