A fundamental reality of the online world is that to be “open for business” you need to make your networking assets readily accessible to developers and easy to interact with via a robust set of applications programming interfaces (APIs). In fact, it is clear that service providers’ long-term relevance and sustainability in important ways hinges on their ability to rapidly and effectively deploy not just their own new apps and services, but also in the accommodation of the ingenuity and revenue potential of potential ecosystem partners who can create value by leveraging vital network capabilities.
The goal is to be first to market, fast to market and best to market, and a partnership that enables the fast and ultimately massive deployment of new apps and services can and should be a win/win for service providers, and those who can benefit from their assets to gain competitive advantage.
The trick is to ensure service provider (SP) networks are up to the challenges relating to dealing with a world where the pace of change is accelerating.
Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) (News - Alert) (ALU) has stepped into the breach to help SPs exploit the opportunities having robust APIs represents. The help comes in the form of a new API consulting and professional services practice. The practice supports a proven lifecycle methodology for APIs, providing operators with expertise and technology to streamline the creation, deployment and management of network-based services.
A growing market rich in opportunity
As noted, the exposing of service capabilities to internal and external software developers via APIs allows data to be shared between applications, as well as enables better management of the underlying service’s value. ALU cites a recent Mind Commerce Publishing report that estimates the size of the total telecom network API market to be $75 billion by 2016. While a big number, it is more than plausible given that a single API when priced on a per-use basis can quickly generate hundreds of millions if not billions in revenue.
As Laura Merling, senior vice president, Application Enablement at Alcatel-Lucent, said:
“APIs are the glue that ties together all the elements of the data economy – apps, the cloud and big data. But launching and supporting a dynamic API strategy is not easy - these programs need to be monitored, nurtured and directed as they evolve over time. Operators need to offer a program that lowers the barrier to entry for developers and creates a more supportive environment. Our methodology and related services are designed to address the pain points affecting developers when designing, implementing and integrating APIs.”
Help is on the way
The question that comes to mind is why Alcatel-Lucent? A look under the covers reveals two important reasons that answer the question.
- The new API consulting and professional services practice is built on the foundation of ALU’s acquisition 18 months ago of Programmable Web, the premier portal for API access, information and discussion.
- ALU’s deep knowledge of SP networks, specifically its veterans in API implementation, strategy and operations.
- The company’s API lifecycle methodology, which is licensed under Creative Commons and freely available to the larger community.
In short, as ALU states, “the new practice is designed to address the challenges developers face when integrating APIs and to help optimize an API program for success...while also providing operators with a repeatable model for innovation.”
APIs are key strategic assets for growth
The shift to a less walled garden approach to service creation, and deployment to one that entices developers from third-party organization is non-trivial and must be looked at as a long-term strategy backed with a strong commitment. It is hard to emphasize enough that while currently not necessarily in many SPs’ comfort zones, this is the path to relevance and revenues and is very strategic as well as creating new tactical opportunities. It cannot be hit and run.
How the new practice provides help is based around the flexible lifecycle methodology being employed. It enables ALU to work with SPs through the three critical phases of Definition, Design and Deployment. These are described by ALU as:
Definition - establishing appropriate business objectives and matching evaluation parameters by looking at what can be done with service provider network assets as well as looking at what the competitors are doing with theirs. This also involves defining the most compelling services for consumers and businesses alike, which can then be used to create the most lucrative business models.
Design - focusing on API design and creation. APIs are created for developers from business assets and services ensuring the technology choices match overall business goals, the standardization of API libraries, as well as standardized error handling, and the creation of developer-friendly example code. Standardization is a requirement for the success of developers and the overall program.
Deployment - focusing on how services are deployed and then undergoing continuous analysis and improvement through to end-of-life. This phase also includes complete back-end systems integration, testing and production deployment as well as performance optimization to assure that metrics are being met along the way. In the deployment phase the major emphasis for service providers shifts from the quality of the developer experience to that of the ultimate user of the application, the consumer.
In terms of the way the practice intends to deliver its services to the SPs, each phase will be offered on a standalone basis or combined. Engagements will be driven by where an SP is with current API strategy.
It has almost become an industry cliché over the last few years that service providers are in danger of becoming “dumb pipe” companies where the value-added of next-generation applications and services goes not to those who provide the physical plumbing but to those who are nimble and capitalize on the ability to exploit the Internet to deliver new revenue generating capabilities literally “over-the-top” or around what some consider toll booths.
This does not have to be the case. In fact, SPs are uniquely qualified based on network capabilities, customer relationships and billing systems to be anchors and not bystanders of ecosystems that thrive and generate entire new businesses in the future. The key to success is through the warm embrace of APIs as long-term strategic assets that need to be nurtured and managed correctly.
Alcatel- Lucent’s white paper on the subject, "It Is Time To Get Serious About APIs" is an excvellent resource on the subject and highlights why new practice is worth investigation.
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Edited by Rich Steeves