Posted on June 26, 2019 by staff

The importance of an API-first approach


Cloud technology is changing the world around us and having an impact upon every industry, even if you aren’t aware of it.

The traditional method of digital services is being displaced by systems which can be updated automatically and at scale. Where you used to find applications running locally within businesses such as accountancy software like Sage, people are moving to use software as a service in the cloud.

To be able to provide this software as a service type model, your business needs to be able to react to customer demand at a moment’s notice.

In the past websites that experienced sudden high demand used to crash, but the cloud enables companies to spin up ‘virtual machines’ to cope with the influx of visitors. If one of our clients was about to have a big sale, with traditional legacy servers they would have needed enough capacity to deal with that increase in traffic from day one; but with cloud they can ‘burst’ up and down as and when they need to.

As soon as they approach the maximum threshold, using APIs they can automatically spin up another virtual machine to cope with the demand; for every X number of users beyond that, it will add another, and so on. All this takes place without having to go through any sales or account management channels – it just gets deployed.

Our client is a great example of this. They make constant changes to their website, perhaps tweaking something 50 times a day and monitoring the results – and every time a change is made, that code is pushed out automatically, spinning up a new virtual machine and killing the old one off across the entire estate until that code has been deployed to all virtual machines and is now running live in production.

So how do we help push that out for them? Welcome to the world of APIs – or Application Programming Interfaces, as no one calls them.

An API is sort of a sales and account management engine. They allow companies to tap into technology created by others and adapt it for their own ends. It’s literally a gateway into the infrastructure of a company like UKFast: it gives our clients the groundwork to build their systems using our products. They can pick and choose which features and services they want without being dictated to by a set range of products.

The system will talk to our API and whatever it instructs it to do, it carries out. It means that rather than experiencing delays when deploying changes to websites, the client has full control over what happens and when – they dictate this to us through the APIs and, through automation on our side, those requests provision everything as quickly as possible.

At UKFast we are taking what we call an ‘API-first’ approach. In the past, new products had to be delivered into our sales and account managers’ product pipelines before they went live.

We’re trying to flip that on its head: once the product or feature is built, we make it automatable from day one, wrap an API around it and, as soon as that API goes live, the product is ready for people to use.

It means we can deliver products and services and features quicker than we have done before without having to wait for that full end-to-end process to be completed.

We also want to make it as easy as possible for our clients’ developers to consume these products. Full documentation on how to implement our APIs sits in our UKFast Developer Centre. Our SDKs – Software Developer Kits – can be downloaded and embedded into a company’s project code base making it easier to consume these APIs and get started.

It is the way the industry is going: everybody is moving to be able to consume services as code.