By Laura Merling, SVP, Application Enablement
Today is an exciting day for Alcatel-Lucent. We announced apiGrove, an Open source project for API Management (read the press release). You may be wondering what API Management is, what open source is, why we did this and finally, how does this benefit our customers?
Let’s start by defining API Management. API Management is part of a larger concept called API Infrastructure; think of it as a software stack that allows companies to offer APIs (application programming interfaces) as a business. There are four key components or layers of that infrastructure: API Management, Service Composition, Billing/Monetization, and Analytics. API Management is the layer that acts as a “firewall” of sorts – managing access to data and functionality that are part of your business whether you are a cloud platform provider, an enterprise company, or a telecommunications company. API Management controls who has access to the information, how much access they have, and provides the security and scalability needed to support your business. The service composition layer allows for complex functionalities and services to be simplified as APIs for easy use by internal and external developers. Billing and Monetization represent the ability to charge for usage, the data, or even time-based fees. The final API infrastructure layer is analytics. Analytics goes beyond basic reports about latency or usage, and dives into how to react in real-time to information about the data or services being used – for example – you can automatically increase the “volume” of APIs someone needs based on the amount of revenue they are driving you.
It’s no coincidence that the four layers of API infrastructure mirror the four primary components of our Open API Platform. While we offer all four components in a licensed model, we chose to open source the API Management layer, as it represents the critical starting point for driving industry standardization around APIs. Standardization of infrastructure is important; it influences how you design APIs, as well as how you use them.
We believe that APIs will eventually become an integral part of cloud computing. Yes, you need API Management to protect “cloud” APIs, but we go beyond, proposing that eventually API Management will become a “service” in the cloud just like load balancing is a service. Why is this needed? Shouldn’t your API infrastructure have the same elasticity as your data center? Wouldn’t you want your API throttles/ limits (number of API calls per period of time) to increase as your capacity – the true promise of cloud computing.
With this in mind, we designed apiGrove from the ground up to be entirely API-based. You can invoke any function of API Management via an API – whether you want to “on board” an API, configure the rate limit for an API, issue a developer key, or even instantiate another API management server – it is all accomplished via an API. This is the same model of the “services” found in cloud computing environments where every capability is launched as an API.
Open source software and the concept of API Management as a cloud computing service are important to our customers at Alcatel-Lucent because they represent what will ultimately help telecommunications companies transform the vision of a software-based or programmable network into a reality. How? Open source is not about free software, it is about the freedom to use the software; to access the source code and optimize it for your business needs; and to leverage a common base that is share by a community. Open source also allows users to contribute to the code base to help make it a standard. API Management as a “cloud service” ensures that as network infrastructure becomes more closely tied to the cloud computing infrastructure – allowing for decreased network costs – it will also enable the entire network to become “programmable,” while affording the necessary levels of protection and management.
It is important to note that API Management as a service in the cloud layer is a different way of thinking. It is not about taking API Management software and running it in the cloud, it is about making it a part of the cloud itself.
For instance, a cloud services vendor could integrate apiGrove into their core stack for managing cloud services, or offer a new cloud application service enabling customers to run their business in the cloud. Or a communications service provider could use apiGrove to address the wide, and fast-evolving array of security or policy management requirements they need to support. We are also “practicing what we preach” at Alcatel-Lucent as the CloudBand team is integrating apiGrove into their product to manage its own cloud APIs.
Alcatel-Lucent will continue as the lead contributor to the apiGrove project; it is and will continue to be a tenet of our Open API Platform. We are actively seeking partners to collaborate on the technology development and supporting the efforts of open-source software developers worldwide.
We believe that apiGrove is the next step to opening the door to the Services (API) Enabled Network.