Some days ago I had a very interesting briefing with IBM on their CastIron products. I had been in touch with CastIron way before they became part of IBM, because CastIron was one of the most interesting start-ups around “Cloud Integration”, i.e. the ability to integrate different cloud services and on-premise applications using the exposed APIs.

Since then a lot has happened. The number of available APIs exploded, as my colleague Craig Burton has described in his report on the Open API Economy. More and more vendors are entering the space and are picking up the term Open API Economy. The concept is increasingly understood, enabling new models and real flexibility, going well beyond the big, fat, monolithic SaaS apps we, for the most part, still find today.

When talking with IBM CastIron, they explained their approach of integrating different pieces into a more complete solution. These pieces are

  • IBM WebSphere CastIron
  • IBM Worklight
  • IBM Web API Services
The latter is software – the full name appears to be "IBM Cast Iron Live Web API Services" – which allows creating, sharing, and managing APIs. So the entire portfolio consists of technology for orchestration (WebSphere CastIron), for integration with mobile devices (Worklight) and for the core features of creating, sharing and managing the APIs (Web API Services). This combination allows supporting different use cases for the Open API Economy, from both the “API consumer” side - i.e. the organizations relying on APIs exposed by others – as well as on the “API provider” side - i.e. the ones exposing APIs. Over time, most organizations will be part of both sides, exposing and consuming APIs.

The IBM Web API Services include security features which allow you on the one hand to enable participation of external developers in building applications based on the APIs and on the other to also control which APIs are exposed to whom. Some APIs might need to remain internal, some might be only available to restricted groups of partners and other users, and some might become public. I also like the management features and dashboards, showing, for example, the top API calls, developers, and applications.

The investment IBM is making in that market is another indicator that the Open API Economy will greatly influence the future of IT. The Open API Economy will massively affect the way we deal with data, allowing us to move from Big Data to Smart Data; it enables the integration of different Cloud environments amongst themselves as well as with on-premise IT; it supports the concepts we’ve described in our KuppingerCole IT paradigm, our guideline for how to embrace and extend your existing IT and get a real grip on the cloud; and it allows us to move from building and maintaining apps and web-sites towards just exposing the APIs, allowing others to build the apps they really need. The latter is worth a little more explanation.

Consider the situation of public transportation today: each provider is struggling with building its web sites and apps for the customer. Supporting new devices and keeping things up-to-date costs a lot of money. By exposing APIs which provide information about the current status, a developer will be able to create an app which indicates when you have to leave your home to catch the next bus or train, based on the information provided by the public transportation service. This could run on your mobile phone, order the ticket automatically, alert you, and add whatever other services you might want to have. It would rely on exposed APIs and could integrate with other exposed APIs – the app could also say: Better take your car, because the busses are delayed but the streets are empty.

I really like to see companies like IBM and others like 3scale, Layer 7 Technologies picking up these concepts. IBM has right now, with the addition of the Web API Services, an offering which covers many different aspects of the Open API Economy and really picks up the concepts of this fundamental change we are observing.