APIs are a common way for software developers to communicate with services without worrying about the inside of that service or the service provider.
While cloud users can use consoles and portals to provision and control cloud resources, the public cloud is also a natural addition to APIs. Application developers use APIs to access cloud services through web-based communication. A developer writes code that calls the cloud provider’s API, passes the required parameters and arguments in the context of the call, and then checks the response to confirm the operation. Let’s take a closer look at the purpose and use of APIs in cloud computing.
What are cloud APIs?
A cloud API enables end users to access a cloud provider’s application or service, e.g. B. on the computer infrastructure, storage resources or monitoring tools. APIs define the possible features and functions of this app or service as well as the details that are required to run them. APIs are typically based on REST or Simple Object Access Protocol communication schemes and are based on authorization schemes such as OAuth 2.0 to ensure user authentication and security.
Imagine an API as a menu for a restaurant. A menu or API is an interface through which you decide what to order. To order, you do not need a comprehensive insight into how the restaurant or service provider works behind the scenes.
Public clouds are based on the term self-service and automation. Therefore, APIs are critical to how they work. In fact, AWS, Microsoft Azure, the Google Cloud Platform, and other cloud platforms use APIs to control all user-related operations, e.g. For example, when developers create new software or when they use the console. Let’s take an example of how this works with AWS.
AWS offers a wide range of APIs that can control any deployment or operation. For example, the Amazon EC2 API supports services that include Amazon EC2 instances, the Amazon Elastic Block Store, the Amazon Virtual Private Cloud, and AWS VPN. The Amazon S3 REST API supports Amazon S3.
Suppose a software developer wants to create up to three EC2 instances with an Amazon computer image called ami-60a54010 using AWS. The developer also wants to locate these instances in an availability zone in the East-1 region of the USA and enable the monitoring of these provided computing instances. The EC2 API command can look like this:
As shown above, the basic API command is RunInstances, while the parameters include ImageId, MaxCount, MinCount, Placement.AvailabilityZone, and Monitoring.Enabled. The details for each parameter are the arguments of the parameters. There can be hundreds of API commands. The Amazon EC2 API Reference Guide alone consists of hundreds of documentation pages.
What is the financial impact of working with cloud APIs?
Developers can build powerful applications faster than ever with APIs. For service providers, the API maintains control and security over the data. Providers can also track API usage, making them a valuable and growing source of revenue. Every time a developer uses a vendor’s API, they are likely to pay something for that call – or per thousand calls or whatever.
For example, geographic data processing and rendering software can use a cloud service such as Google Maps to provide visual map and location features. This reduces the need for a company to create its own maps and map algorithms, but it is not necessarily free of charge. Other important platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Netflix and countless other providers have APIs with which external developers can access services and data.
What problems are cloud APIs trying to solve?
The only parent address of the problem APIs is the connection. APIs connect software over a network. When a company creates an application or service, an API can be created and provided so that other software can communicate with that software or service.
APIs are typically designed and implemented when a service is used by multiple applications and many users want to access the same service. This is ideal for the public cloud, where countless users access a service such as AWS Lambda or transfer data to a storage service.
APIs are also good for applications that are implemented as multiple distributed components. The application components call each other’s APIs. In this way, the components can be updated and scaled independently of one another and are located in distributed locations in order to achieve higher performance and availability. An example of this are container-based microservices applications that are based on APIs for the communication from container to container.
Different applications within a company can share the same API. For example, multiple database deployments can use the same API for database access. However, APIs are usually unique and specially developed software that is rarely standardized between companies and developers. The API developed by one company to support one application will almost certainly not work for another application developed by another company. This approach addresses many issues related to cloud provider APIs, vendor lock-in, and cloud API standardization.
How are APIs categorized?
There are several ways to categorize APIs. A popular method is to differentiate between vendor-specific APIs and cross-platform APIs. A manufacturer-specific cloud API is intended to support the services of a particular cloud provider. For example, the Microsoft Azure REST API is intended for the many services offered by the public Azure cloud, such as: B. Azure DevOps, Cosmos DB and Visual Studio. A manufacturer-specific cloud API can be developed to take into account all the nuances and functions of this platform. However, it only works with this provider and you need a different API to work with other providers.
In comparison, a cross-platform API should provide identical functions between two or more cloud providers. Examples of cross-platform APIs are Simple Cloud, part of Zend Technologies, Apache’s jclouds and Apache’s Libcloud. Developers can use the same commands and parameters to perform the same tasks regardless of the actual cloud provider. However, this often leads to limited functionality and control, which is why vendor-specific APIs are still the most popular API type for developers.
Cloud APIs can also be categorized by type, e.g. B. Infrastructure, platform and software. IaaS APIs typically focus on providing computing and storage resources. PaaS APIs are generally used to provide back-end services or architectures such as databases. SaaS or application APIs are designed to provide connectivity or interoperability with a software product or suite, such as Microsoft Office 365.
How do APIs make it easier to move data between clouds?
The portability of applications is a central concept of modern cloud computing and a solution for supplier loyalty. Cloud users may want to move data to another provider’s services if they have better features or lower prices. For example, a company may choose to move a record to another cloud if it offers better machine learning and AI services.
APIs take over the actual dynamics of the execution of the migration. APIs create and secure a target storage resource in a desired cloud region, and then implement the copy process. Such processes can typically be executed programmatically using a script. The actions performed by such a program would, without exception, be connected to the source and target cloud providers via their respective APIs, since everything in the public cloud is done via APIs anyway.
However, there are cloud services that are designed to accelerate the migration of cloud data, e.g. B. the AWS Transfer Family or the Google Transfer Service for cloud data. Such services can simplify the migration process, although the services continue to use cloud provider APIs.
Ultimately, data migrations require the use of APIs, and require a clear business strategy and planning to understand the trade-offs, performance impact, and costs of moving and storing cloud data associated with cloud data migration.
What are some new standards for cloud APIs?
Standards are attractive because every product or service that complies with them behaves in a known and understandable manner. Cloud standards play a central role in the ideas for interoperability and portability of clouds. As a result, cloud API standards make it easier for companies to use multiple clouds.
Progress toward any common cloud APIs has been incredibly slow because the public cloud market is owned by three principal providers — AWS, Microsoft and Google. Standardization is only economically attractive when there are many competing providers and the industry would suffer or adoption would falter without it. This isn’t really the case in today’s public cloud market.
There are some standards initiatives evolving quietly, such as the cross-platform cloud APIs noted earlier. However, cloud providers are more likely to adopt industry standards that drive greater usage or make it easier to deploy applications on their platforms. For example, adopting a prevalent technology standard such as Open Virtualization Format (OVF) makes it easier for cloud users to create machine images that are suitable for rapid, scalable cloud deployment. For example, the machine image file name used as the argument to an API parameter would usually be an .ovf file, though other common formats can also be supported.
In other cases, cloud APIs will seek to support critical behaviors such as security and authentication standards, including HIPAA, Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program and many others. Organizations that operate in those industries will be better able to adopt a public cloud infrastructure if those platforms adhere to regulatory standards.
Progress in using popular cloud APIs has been incredibly slow as the public cloud market belongs to three main providers – AWS, Microsoft and Google. Standardization is only economically attractive if there are many competing providers and the industry would suffer or acceptance would falter without it. This is not really the case in today’s public cloud market.
There are some standard initiatives that are quietly evolving, such as the aforementioned cross-platform cloud APIs. However, cloud providers are more likely to adopt industry standards that lead to increased usage or facilitate the provision of applications on their platforms. The adoption of a common technology standard such as Open Virtualization Format (OVF) makes it easier for cloud users, for example, to create machine images that are suitable for fast, scalable cloud deployment. For example, the machine image file name that is used as an argument to an API parameter is typically an .ovf file, although other popular formats can be supported.
In other cases, cloud APIs attempt to support critical behaviors such as security and authentication standards, including HIPAA, the payment card industry data security standard, the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, and many others. Companies operating in these industries can better implement a public cloud infrastructure if these platforms comply with legal standards.