Exposing APIs to Customers Has Benefits for Service Providers

February 16, 2017

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, SD-WAN Contributor

Data centers have spent a great deal of time and money virtualizing in recent years to take advantage of technologies such as software-designed networking (SDN) to ensure they’re flexible enough and agile enough to handle the demands made on them. Service providers are beginning to do the same, as they see opportunities to make their operations more automated and integrated.

According to Nemertes Research’s John Burke writing for Tech Target (News - Alert), these changes are being driven by the rise of SD-WAN, private cloud, SDN -- especially in data centers – and DevOps.

“One of the cornerstones of the SDN and NFV transformation is the shift in next-generation infrastructure integration models from proprietary systems to open, public network APIs that tie components together,” he wrote. “In a software-defined network, for example, Open Flow's APIs link controllers and data plane devices. In the NFV infrastructure, various open APIs can link virtual network functions managers up to NFV orchestrators or down to virtual infrastructure managers.”

For service providers, the switch from hardware to software makes it easier to expose service APIs to customers, according to Burke.

“Once they have converted their own internal systems to an API economy of services that can be provided and consumed, adding a set of APIs to expose them to enterprises largely becomes a matter of addressing four issues: deciding what APIs to expose; finding the right billing metrics and rates; building in capacity monitoring and planning; and making sure the interactions are secure.”

Service providers that do this can beef up their monitoring of changes in service behavior, so they can engage in better capacity management. This is also a compelling model for service providers interested in improving their billing processes, either for the API services themselves or other metrics that keep track of use of the service. This will require the implementation of API gateways with rich security functionality, including distributed denial-of-service protection at the service level, encryption offload, authentication, usage monitoring and audit, according to Burke. The rewards, however, would be worth the effort, as service providers could manage their own networks better to cope with usage.

“For example, after witnessing spikes in demand for a service with an in-house customer portal and both internal and infrastructure-as-a-service-based back-end components, they could ramp up their bandwidth on both the internet link and the port on the provider's cloud exchange through which the internal and cloud-based service components interact,” wrote Burke. “The result would be happier customers, more money for providers and less involvement of service-provider staff at any stage.”

Edited by Maurice Nagle