Understanding Cloud APIs

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Six out of every 10 businesses had moved their workloads to the cloud as of last year. More steady traffic in the cloud and more direct cloud instances mean more to juggle – and the need for greater customization and integration. That’s where APIs come in. APIs are doing for the cloud what they did for on-premises resources: segregating, simplifying, specializing, and integrating services across a network – only this time, it’s future-proofing the architecture by building it in the cloud. As one cybersecurity researcher quipped, “everyone wants to use APIs to build innovative solutions, but no one wants to invest in building them.” Cloud APIs will soon spell the difference between companies that can keep up with digitization and those that can’t. 

Ultimately, it will come down to which organizations take the time to understand them and use them to their best benefit. 

What are Cloud APIs? 

Simply put, “a Cloud API is a software interface that allows developers to link cloud computing services together.” APIs allow services to share functionality and information for other programs to use, and nowhere is this more important than in the interconnected ecosystem of the cloud. 

Because APIs act as a waiter in a restaurant, the better the waiter, the simpler ordering will be – for you, and for your customers. The best Cloud API connects backend cloud components, services, and platforms and does all the busy work so all your users see on the front end is a seamless customer experience. Since most of the work of tomorrow will be in the Cloud (and is moving there in ever-increasing numbers), to not build up this functionality now is to take a determined risk.

Types of Cloud APIs

There are several types of Cloud APIs, based on the four major areas where cloud computing will require integration – either with another platform or another cloud provider.

  • PaaS APIs (Service-level): These Platform-as-a-Service APIs are designed to integrate with databases, portals, storage components and messaging systems, providing access and functionality in the cloud.
  • SaaS APIs (Service-level): Referred to as Software-as-a-Service APIs, these connect application-layer resources with the cloud and underlying IT infrastructure. A CRM is a good example of where these types of APIs can be used to create a “cloud application extension” for your ecosystem.
  • IaaS APIs (Service-level): Infrastructure-as-a-Service APIs control the distribution and deployment of specific cloud resources, performing such tasks as rapid provisioning and de-provisioning, network configurations, and workload (VM) management in the cloud.
  • Cross-platform APIs: Because many environments use multiple cloud providers and platforms, cross-platform compatibility is required. Cross-platform APIs streamline data management by allowing tenants to access their cloud-based resources and workloads from any of their cloud providers – not just their primary one. They provide a higher level of abstraction by translating a specific provider’s API calls into a more generic form, making accessibility, manageability, and interoperability in the cloud easier. 

Cloud API Security

In many respects, the security threats faced by Cloud APIs are the same that any cloud-based resource would encounter and present the same challenges. That being said, malicious API traffic surged over 117% last year, from an average of 12 million to over 26 million calls according to one industry report. The same study revealed that over a third of respondents experienced authentication and data exposure-related incidents with their APIs, and 54% delayed rolling out a new application because of API security concerns. 

Unguarded, a Cloud API could present the keys to the kingdom and allow an attacker to access the hub of not just one, but several, cloud providers and their workloads, resources, and assets. Protecting cloud-based APIs with standard authentication and authorization practices such as OAuth2.0 and OpenID Connect can reduce the chance of a lateral attack. 

Why Cloud APIs

Cloud usage is not set to slow down and will soon become ubiquitous. Companies that aren’t on it are migrating their workloads in greater numbers and entrepreneurial ventures are spinning up as cloud native. Cloud APIs are simply the logical response to the complexities that come with the terrain. Without cloud APIs, the user experience will be negatively impacted, and will only become more apparent when compared with companies who do use Cloud APIs. 

For companies looking to innovate in 2023 and release new applications, APIs are the way to safely cut and paste the process. Similarly, as more cloud-based services become API-reliant, application reusability is another factor to consider that requires Cloud APIs. And lastly, the complexity of cloud products, platforms and ecosystems (even within one organization) makes Cloud APIs a necessity for smooth interoperability. And they help with scalability – multiple components of a cloud-based service can be parsed out, updated and patched individually, and refined separately so that one area can develop without being dragged down by the whole. Cloud APIs allow for that granular level of customization that can help an organization refine their edge.

Simply put, organizations will need these APIs in order to not only compete, but stay relevant as businesses continue to take their fight to the cloud.

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