Starting at the EIC 2012 I have been talking and presenting a lot about The API Economy. The API Economy has become a strategic topic for organizations. As one can expect with a hot topic, there are many opinions and views on the matter. Therefore there a many comments, blog posts and articles written about The API Economy.
Needless to say it is tough to keep track of everything being said or to track any given thread. I should start off by saying the questions asked by this blog post are appropriate and need to be answered.
The DataBanker thread
An interesting thread that I have been following for a while has inspired me to make a few comments about exactly what I mean by an API and to add additional data about the actual API numbers.
The people over at DataBanker published a piece in Sept. entitled “Personal Identity in the Cloud. What’s a Programmer to Do?
The author then goes on to cite the numbers I have used in several presentations to derive the actual number of APIs that we are looking at dealing with over the next five years. First he questions the accuracy of the numbers and their implications.
“I have to admit, the statistics from the Apple announcement, especially when combined with the view from Cisco, definitely make one stop and think. But Craig Burton’s blog post has apocalyptic overtones that I don’t think are accurate.”
Next he starts to ask questions about what I actually mean when referring and API.
“When Craig Burton refers to “20+ billion APIs all needing distinct identities”, what I believe he is actually referring to is interconnections and not discrete APIs.”
And finally the author states that the Identity Ecosystem being established by NSTIC will be used to address the problems brought on by The API Economy.
“Managing identity – entity or personal – within the Cloud certainly has some unique challenges. Fortunately, there are substantial communities such as the NSTIC Identity Ecosystem and projectVRM that are focused on defining standards for creating, validating, managing, and transacting trusted identities as well as looking at the broader issue of how individuals can control and assert their identity and preferences when engaging products, services, and vendors within this expanding internet of things. Multiple solutions will likely be proposed, developed, will co-exist, and eventually consolidate based on the collective wisdom and adoption of the cloud community. That community – or ecosystem – is really the key.”
So let me address each of these in turn.
The Apple and Cisco numbers and their apocalyptic overtones
First off, let me say that the numbers I quote from the iPhone5 announcement — while a little overwhelming — are very conservative. Mary Meeker — partner with Kleiner Perkins, Caufield and Byers — recently gave a talk about the growth of the device market. In that talk, she pointed out that the Android Phone is ramping up 6 times faster than the iPhone.
“By the end of 2013, Meeker expects there to be 160 million Android devices, 100 million Windows devices, and 80 million iOS devices shipped per quarter.”
If you can believe the first axiom of the The API Economy — Everything and Everyone will be API Enabled — the significance of this additional research on the numbers of devices being shipped is non-trivial. The current methods being used to provision and manage the identities associated with these devices are broken and cannot scale to address the issue. Call that Apocalyptic if you want, but ignoring the facts do not make them go away.
Interconnections not APIs
As I pointed out earlier DataBanker then supposes that what I mean 26+ billion APIs is referring to “interconnections and not discrete APIs.”
I am actually referring to a conservative number of discrete APIs. Here is how APIs work. Every API must have a unique identity. Not necessarily unique functionality, but a unique ID.
But DataBanker did find the missing information in my numbers. I didn’t include relationships and interconnections. I didn’t include them in the equation because I wanted to keep things somewhat simple. Fact is, each interconnection and relationship also needs an API and a unique ID. Thus the number of actual APIs we are looking at are 3 to 5 times bigger than the numbers I outlined originally.
NSTIC Identity Ecosystem will address the problem — NOT
Here is where DataBanker and I start to agree — at least sort of.
It will take a community to address The API Economy explosion in identities management requirements. Further the NSTIC and ProjectVRM communities can help, but neither of these in their current state address the matter. For more information about what NSTIC is in this context, read this blog post.
The Ecosystem required to address billions of Identities and APIs is one that can be automated. Programmed. In order to address a programmable web, we need a programmable ecosystem to accompany it.
We are calling this ecosystem Identity Management as a Service.
I continue to stand by my numbers and projections of the implications being brought on by the API Economy. I see that in the near future, everything and everyone will be API enabled.
I also see a great number of people and organizations that do understand this issue and are moving forward with intention to address it and to succeed with the API Economy.