Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Saturday, July 13, 2024

‘API Economy’ Gets Boost With Open Spec Initiative 


A new open source initiative backed by application and service vendors as well as enterprise users aims to extend an emerging development framework to become an open API industry standard.

The Linux Foundation unveiled its Open API Initiative on Thursday (Nov. 5) focusing on the emerging Swagger specification and format used to provide metadata for RESTful APIs. Initial contributors to the initiative include Capital One, Google, IBM, Micosoft and PayPal.

The group said it would launch the initiative based on version 2.0 of the Swagger spec as a starting point for bringing together API developers, users and vendors to forge an open standard. “Swagger is considered one of the most popular frameworks for building APIs," Jim Zemlin, executive director at The Linux Foundation, noted in a statement announcing the API effort. "The Open API Initiative will extend this technology to advance connected application development through open standards."

The foundation claims the description format is already widely used by the consumer electronics, energy, financial services, health care and other industries to support digital applications and services.

SmartBear, a software tool vendor based in Somerville, Mass., is contributing the Swagger spec to the API initiative. It recently acquired the Swagger API open source project from Reverb Technologies. The company said Swagger and related tools are generating more than 350,000 downloads a month.

The initiative comes as proponents of distributed applications promote what they contend is the "API Economy," or the growing commercial exchange of business functions and capabilities as services packaged in API building blocks.

According to McKinsey and Co., for example, generates nearly 50 percent of its annual $3 billion in revenue through APIs. The management consulting firm also notes that established tech companies like Microsoft and chipmaker Intel are snapping up companies that manage APIs for clients.

Along with contributing to the Open API Initiative, IBM (NYSE: IBM) this week unveiled a cloud-based "matchmaking" technology called API Harmony. The service leverages cognitive approaches like graph analytics and intelligence mapping to help developers anticipate requirements for building new applications, including which API building blocks to use, the relationships between APIs and gaps in app development.

IBM estimates the so-called API Economy will be a $2.2 trillion market by 2018. It also cites outside estimates that the number of enterprise API programs will soar 150 percent during the same period.

Organizers of the Open API Initiative stressed that it is based on the same model used by application container vendor Docker Inc. and the Open Container Initiative spearheaded by the Linux Foundation to forge container standards.

Other members of the API initiative include 3Scale, Apigee, Intuit and Restlet. "It is time for the API community to unite around a common API language that will facilitate the integration between various API tools—open source and commercial," added Jerome Louvel, CTO and founder of tool vendor Restlet.

Meanwhile, others players are cautioning that the Open API initiative should not be limited to a single API language. "While it looks like the initiative starts with Swagger, the collaboration will be most successful if it envelopes multiple communities, including other API specifications, languages and frameworks, to truly find the best common road for API standards," argued Uri Sarid, CTO of MuleSoft, which is not a member of the new API group. "The industry should focus on innovating and challenging each other in a healthy way to make a meaningful difference and to create significant value for the users. This can't happen with just one API language."

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).