What is an API integration?

An API integration is a connection between multiple applications through their APIs, facilitating interaction between data, devices, and systems.

When creating applications and systems for business, developers seldom want to have to start from scratch. Instead, they find that their time is more effectively used when they rely on existing infrastructure, designing their application to take advantage of proven resources that are already firmly in place. And similar to how the creator of a new home appliance will incorporate a pre-existing plug design so that it can function using common power sockets, developers rely on application programming interfaces (APIs) to “plug” their apps into existing company networks.

The API is a collection of tools, definitions, and protocols designed to assist in building and integrating new application software.

One way to think of an API is as a kind of menu; developers can browse through a list of available options for inclusion in their apps, along with descriptions of what function each option performs. They can then select the operations they wish to include based on functionality, without necessarily having to fully understand how these options are built or presented.

In other words, APIs allow developers to make more efficient use of their time, reducing the necessary amount of coding work and promoting consistency across all applications interacting with the same systems and platforms. API integration allows two or more APIs to easily share data and functionality with each other seamlessly and securely, and without direct human involvement.

API integration brings with it several business capabilities. These include the following:

Automation

API integration makes it possible for applications to trade information directly and automatically, making it an essential component in automating business processes and other actions.

API Integration Benefits - ServiceNow

Scalability

Rather than forcing developers to start from scratch every time a new application needs to be developed and merged with existing networks, API integration empowers organizations with the ability to quickly connect disparate systems and software. This allows them to scale easily to meet their changing needs.

Visibility

API integration creates a standardized, universal method for data exchange between applications. As such, it also gives businesses a clear, end-to-end view of all traffic within relevant systems and processes. Organizations can track data, monitor it for anomalies, and analyze important datasets to uncover valuable insights.

Accuracy

Relying on humans to transfer data between unconnected systems can be a dangerous prospect; human error can easily disrupt vital datasets, rendering them useless. API integration removes the human element, ensuring that even large amounts of complex data may be transferred without fear of inaccuracy.

Depending on the needs and capabilities of the organization in question, there are several options to consider when working towards API integration:

Rely on out-of-the-box capabilities

Businesses that wish to achieve API integration may choose to work with connector applications. Provided by third-party software vendors, connector applications are mass produced, and include built-in APIs for integration between specific software platforms. While often a quick and easy solution, connector applications tend to lack the same level of control and versatility available in customer applications.

Design custom integrations

For more direct control over API capabilities, and to ensure that the API functions optimally with existing systems, some businesses may choose to develop their own hand-written connection, either designed in-house or from a contracted software expert. This is often a more time-consuming and resource heavy approach.

Invest in an API integration platform

Usually built by SaaS companies, these offerings allow one SaaS system to connect to another on an enterprise level. These solutions generally represent a best-of-both-worlds approach, allowing for more customization than connector applications, while also demanding less of an investment in terms of time and resources on the part of the organization.

Integration platforms generally come in three variations:

  • Any-to-any iPaaS
    Any-to-any integration platform as a service (iPaaS) is a class of external/standalone/purpose-built integration platforms designed to be able to connect multiple different enterprise systems together in complex integrations, data transformation, CRUD operations, API management, ETL, EDI, and more. Examples of any-to-any iPaaS include MuleSoft and Boomi.
  • SaaS-specific IPaaS
    Included as part of a third-party vendor’s software as a service (SaaS) offering, SaaS-specific IPaaS solve for use cases connecting the vendor’s product to other enterprise systems. These feature an underlying integration platform combined with connectors and packaged integrations embedded in the vendor’s applications. SaaS-specific iPaaS provide more advanced out-of-the-box functionality for this specific use-case category when compared to more general-purpose iPaaS options.
  • Third-party integration ISVs and GS packaged integrations
    The final classification of integration platforms, third-party integration ISVs and GS packaged integrations are generally designed natively on the target SaaS platform using vendor APIs. These kinds of integration platforms provide significant built-in capabilities for common use cases.

An API integration platform (also called a data integration platform) provides a centralized resource for all elements relevant to API management, including API development, integration testing, and large-scale API integration management. Simply put, it functions as a single location where data may be received, validated, prepared, and sent between applications.

With these capabilities, businesses enjoy several clear advantages:

Fast creation of new, easy-to-use APIs

For APIs to be effective, they need to be fully functional and tailored to an organization’s unique needs. Unfortunately, building a custom API from scratch demands significant time, resources, and expertise. On the other hand, using a third-party API may allow for a faster turnaround, but often comes with a trade off in terms of functionality. API integration platforms include tools to help third-party users build completely customized APIs fast, without sacrificing on quality. With API integration, businesses can create new services that combine multiple systems (apps/platforms) into a seamless end-to-end experience that abstracts away all the underlying complexity for the end user.

Improved process automation

API integration makes it possible to connect multiple systems into single, seamless, end-to-end workflows. By incorporating advanced technologies, essential business processes may be automated, allowing for improved accuracy and efficiency across an organization.

Expanding market

API integration allows for increased reach and opportunities for app development and SaaS platforms, by empowering third-party developers to build powerful, effective applications and other solutions.

Reduced human error

Across teams and departments, it may be extremely difficult to find a single app solution capable of performing all necessary tasks. To complete their jobs to the satisfaction of their companies and customers, in-house employees often must bring together a range of different tools and software solutions for addressing specific datasets. Unfortunately, transferring information across these systems has traditionally relied on copying and pasting or ‘swivel chairing’ between multiple systems. The right API integration platform can connect these apps and tools directly, for improved accuracy and significantly reduced risk of human-introduced error.

Unlocking data silos

Just because technology changes, it doesn’t necessarily mean that existing outdated technology systems automatically upgrade themselves. Older legacy systems, and the data they contain, may become difficult to access and integrate with more-current systems. API integration platforms allow organizations to build APIs specifically for internal uses, making it possible to extract and employ data from older servers.

End-to-end process visibility and measurement

With production of APIs and API integrations at a large scale, managing their use and reliability can become a challenge. A platform built in the cloud, for the cloud, can help teams manage their connections easily and visually, tracking and measuring processes for improved performance across the board.

Ability to future-proof enterprise integration

Technological advancement tends to build on itself, resulting in rapid growth that only accelerates over time. And in this emergent age of internet of things (IoT) capabilities, wearable devices, AI, and more, the future of technology seems poised to experience many foundation-rocking changes in the years to come. This macro trend is also being driven by a global community of developers, increasing the pace of change in application development. The right API integration platform is one that will grow and adapt to these changes, while still providing reliable connectivity to applications and systems that may no longer be cutting edge. In essence, API platforms help bridge the gap, not only between applications, but also between the present and the future.

For optimal application effectiveness, efficiency, and analytical insight, API integration is becoming essential. And, for businesses that want to ensure a reliable approach to API integration, ServiceNow platform APIs and integration tools provide the best-in-class solutions they need. ServiceNow API integration tools integrate important resources from both inside and outside of the organization, including, IaaS, SaaS, ERP, on‑premises applications, legacy systems, data sources, and databases. This makes it possible to address business problems more quickly, while also supporting extensive integration, applying automated workflows, and continually making service improvements.

ServiceNow IntegrationHub

Built on the award-winning Now Platform, ServiceNow IntegrationHub allows users to build reusable integrations with third-party systems and connect with them from anywhere. Integrate with a range of communication apps, DevOps and CI/CD tools, automated workflows, and systems of record. Apply low-code development tools to build APIs at scale.

Connect easily and manage your systems through a single, central dashboard. With IntegrationHub, organizations enjoy increased platform simplicity, experience faster time to value, and benefit from a lower TCO.

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