Todd Singleton | Director, Presales Solution Architects
July 23, 2013

Scaling for the Digital Age

 

The single most distinguishing factor of the current business environment may be its dynamism—on any given day, there are wild market fluctuations, emerging opportunities and drastic platform shifts. Just to survive, let alone thrive, every enterprise needs to have the flexibility to shift accordingly, and do it fast.

In other words, it needs to scale. 

Just think how things used to be—there was essentially one operating system, IT made all the decisions on hardware acquisition and software deployment, and new implementations were phased in gradually, with adequate training and orientation. Security and integration were mostly back-end issues, and user behaviors evolved over time, not overnight.

Now, particularly with the transition from desktop/laptop to mobile, it’s a whole new world out there. For example, mobile payments were barely on the radar just a few years ago. Today, Gartner predicts this market alone will reach $617 billion by 2016, while the overall Internet economy reaches $4.2 trillion. At the core of this transformation is the dizzying number of form factors, operating systems and particularly applications involved.

As a result, any API entering this environment could easily end up taking on or otherwise accommodating functions and features that weren’t in the original plan. One part of the market could spike with great speed, leading to a record number of unanticipated calls, while a different segment that was thought be vibrant could go dormant.  

This is why a solid API management strategy is so crucial—scaling a basic platform across multiple dimensions requires not just having flexibility built in but also having the right tools and support as the shifts occur.

This sounds obvious, yet it seems sorely lacking at many enterprises—as one exhaustive report from PwC on the API market puts it, “The problem for most companies is that they cannot scale their existing integration architecture and methods to the demands created by a digital ecosystem.”

Ultimately, API scalability has to be seen as a core component of a strategy that achieves platform business goals. An API doesn’t function in a vacuum, independently of other technologies, and it doesn’t stay rooted in time while the market continues to move. It needs to adapt to incoming technologies while adhering to the corporate mission and staying within budget and ROI boundaries.

There’s no magic bullet here—success requires a comprehensive strategy matched by a high level of commitment. However, the ability to scale will typically feature certain characteristics, and here are a few of those.

Championing the API vision is vital: evangelizing the ultimate offering to the market is obviously important, but in the long run internal buy-in will also be crucial for getting ongoing support as the market shifts and scalability becomes a factor. Understanding the API landscape is similarly important—the market today is not what it will be tomorrow, and the ability to adapt to unexpected swings will require a unique level of preparation. Finally, the API is one of those technologies that builds on user engagement, which in turn is fueled by outside innovation. It’s important to be open to this element—in many cases, it will fuel scalability.

It’s easy to see why some providers think of an API as a specific product designed to meet specific needs, but the reality is more complicated. The market changes constantly, and business needs change accordingly. This is the operating philosophy behind Mashery Strategy Services—it drives platform success by understanding business goals, tailoring services to suit those needs, and scaling those services as those needs keep changing.