Data Mania- Using REST APIs and Native Connectors to Separate Yourself from the SaaS Pack
Written by Vaikom Krishnan
With Informatica’s Data Mania on Wednesday, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about REST APIs. In particular, I’ve been considering how and why they’ve become so ubiquitous, especially for SaaS companies. Today they are the prerequisite for any company looking to connect with other ecosystems, accelerate adoption and, ultimately, separate themselves from the pack.
Let’s unpack why.
To trace the rise of the REST API, we’ll first need to take a look at the SOAP web services protocol that preceded it. SOAP is still very much in play and remains important to many application integration scenarios. But it doesn’t receive much use or love from the thousands of SaaS applications that just want to get or place data with one another or in one of the large SaaS ecosystems like Salesforce.
Why this is the case has more to do with needs and demands of a SaaS business than it does with the capabilities of SOAP web services. SOAP, as it turns out, is perfectly fine for making and receiving web service calls, but it does require work on behalf of both the calling application and the producing application. And therein lies the rub.
SOAP web service calls are by their very nature incredibly structured arrangements, with specifications that must be clearly defined by both parties. Only after both the calling and producing application have their frameworks in place can the call be validated. While the contract within SOAP WSDLs makes SOAP more robust, it also makes it too rigid, and less adaptable to change. But today’s apps need a more agile and more loosely defined API framework that requires less work to consume and can adapt to the inevitable and frequent changes demanded by cloud applications.
Enter REST APIs
REST APIs are the perfect vehicle for today’s SaaS businesses and mash-up applications. Sure, they’re more loosely defined than SOAP, but when all you want to do is get and receive some data, now, in the context you need, nothing is easier or better for the job than a REST API.
With a REST API, the calls are mostly done as HTTP with some loose structure and don’t require a lot of mechanics from the calling application, or effort on behalf of the producing application.
SaaS businesses prefer REST APIs because they are easy to consume. They also make it easy to onboard new customers and extend the use of the platform to other applications. The latter is important because it is primarily through integration that SaaS applications get to become part of an enterprise business process and gain the stickiness needed to accelerate adoption and growth.
Without APIs of any sort, integration can only be done through manual data movement, which opens the application and enterprise up to the potential errors caused by fat-finger data movement. That typically will give you the opposite result of stickiness, and is to be avoided at all costs.
While publishing an API as a way to get and receive data from other applications is a great start, it is just a means to an end. If you’re a SaaS business with greater ambitions, you may want to consider taking the next step of building native connectors to other apps using an integration system such as Informatica Cloud. A connector can provide a nice layer of abstraction on the APIs so that the data can be accessed as application data objects within business processes. Clearly, stickiness with any SaaS application improves in direct proportion to the number of business processes or other applications that it is integrated with.
The Informatica Cloud Connector SDK is Java-based and enables you easily to cut and paste the code necessary to create the connectors. Informatica Cloud’s SDKs are also richer and make it possible for you to adapt the REST API to something any business user will want to use – which is a huge advantage.
In addition to making your app stickier, native connectors have the added benefit of increasing your portability. Without this layer of abstraction, direct interaction with a REST API that’s been structurally changed would be impossible without also changing the data flows that depend on it. Building a native connector makes you more agile, and inoculates your custom built integration from breaking.
Building your connectors with Informatica Cloud also provides you with some other advantages. One of the most important is entrance to a community that includes all of the major cloud ecosystems and the thousands of business apps that orbit them. As a participant, you’ll become part of an interconnected web of applications that make up the business processes for the enterprises that use them.
Another ancillary benefit is access to integration templates that you can easily customize to connect with any number of known applications. The templates abstract the complexity from complicated integrations, can be quickly customized with just a few composition screens, and are easily invoked using Informatica Cloud’s APIs.
The best part of all this is that you can use Informatica Cloud’s integration technology to become a part of any business process without stepping outside of your application.
For those interested in continuing the conversation and learning more about how leading SaaS businesses are using REST API’s and native connectors to separate themselves, I invite you to join me at Data Mania, March 4th in San Francisco. Hope to see you there.