An Application Programming Interface (API) is a set of protocols used for building applications that enable different web services, systems, and application software to connect and share data. What makes APIs so widely used is that they are platform-independent, which means that 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-fits-all solution, but rather purpose-driven and specialized applications. The challenge here, however, lies in integrating the information residing in these diverse applications to ensure accurate reporting and decision-making. This is where API integration comes into play.
In this blog post, we present a guide on API integration: what it is, how it works, and how it can streamline your business processes.
What is API integration?
API integration can be defined as a process in which two or more applications are connected via APIs to allow them to ‘talk’ to each other. This can involve the applications performing a joint function or simply exchanging information to ensure data integrity.
Since businesses use all kinds of applications, including web-based services (such as SaaS platforms), enterprise software (such as ERPs), and in-house custom-made software, each of these applications must coexist to ensure smooth business operations.
To illustrate how API integration can help out in such a scenario, let’s assume that your business is using three applications: Marketo, a web-based marketing automation software; 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 customer name.
Now, it is important that whenever a customer is added 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 incorrect, inaccurate information. That could lead to losing potential leads, missing out on sales opportunities, and erroneous reporting for your business.
API integration 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 (in the Oracle ERP, for example) that can be used for reporting and analytics purposes.
Other than just helping you integrate your existing software components, one additional advantage of API integration is that it allows you to make use of public APIs to integrate various online applications, such as Twitter, Google Maps, Marketo, with your business applications. You can use these open APIs to complement the information present in your enterprise database that can then be used for supporting or improving business processes. For instance, the Twitter API can be used to learn more about prospective customers and emerging trends.
Writing Code for API Integration
We know what API integration is, so now let us move on to how it works. There are several approaches to integration, including writing code in-house or using third-party platforms to build integration pipelines.
The first approach is to ask your IT team to write an integration and automation layer, allowing your applications to work together correctly. This will involve your team having to manually integrate, transform, clean, and aggregate the information coming in from diverse applications that your business uses.
The downside of manually writing code is that it can be quite complex and cumbersome if there are more than a couple of applications involved. To illustrate, 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 that can be used to fetch and update information. API designers for these platforms have the freedom to use whatever architecture they find suitable, i.e. REST or SOAP, but this can become a challenge during API integration.
When integrating these applications, your IT team will not only have to deal with different API architectures, but also account 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.
The other disadvantage of this approach is that a manually coded API integration layer needs to be updated each time any of the APIs or data sources change. If you add a new service, start using a new feature, or make any changes to your business processes otherwise, it can lead to your IT team having to rewrite the entire integration layer all over again.
Automating API Integration Through Integration Platforms
A better and more common approach to API integration is to make use of third-party integration platforms that overcome the limitations of having to write your code.
An end-to-end integration platform, such as Astera Centerprise, can handle all of your API integration needs by importing public and private REST APIs without writing a single line of code. These APIs can be used with other objects in Centerprise, such as built-in transformations and connectors, and automatically run in a loop using the Job Scheduler feature. This saves you the trouble of manually executing pipelines or individual tasks each time a new transaction takes place.
The advantage of using Astera Centerprise is that it is flexible enough to perform any integration related task that your business needs and allows 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.
Here’s how Astera Centerprise can simplify API integration:
- Pre-build connectors for numerous cloud-based services and applications, including popular CRMs such as Salesforce that can connect to any open or custom REST API.
- Wide range of built-in transformations available that can help you aggregate, transform, and format data retrieved from APIs according to your requirements.
- Simplified mapping that takes away the complexity of the data architecture and storage platform. Regardless of whether you are dealing with data in HTTP calls, JSON, XML, SQL, or any other format, you will not need to cater to each data type differently. Astera Centerprise makes it easy to create and automate data mappings by providing you with drag-and-drop mappings.
- Powerful branching abilities that allow you to apply conditional logic and transformations in your API integration pipelines. For example, you might want to process data by applying different transformations based on the type of data that is being retrieved. This can be easily achieved through Astera Centerprise by creating branches in the workflow based on your desired conditions.
In contrast to writing code yourself, using an integration platform can greatly reduce the time and resources required to automate API integration. It can be as easy as adding the REST API Client, creating data mappings, and defining the required transformations, all of which are available in a single user interface. The process that would otherwise take weeks or months can be completed within days.
API integration establishes communication between external applications and your enterprise technology stack so data can pass between the two systems seamlessly. Nowadays, with businesses using all kinds of cloud-based services, SaaS platforms, and enterprise software, it is important to use API integration so you can reduce the manual labor required to ensure interoperability between these different applications.
If you have any questions regarding Astera Centerprise and how it can help you with API integration, please free to get in touch.