“APIs are eating the world” and APIs are sneaking into a lot of areas these days. B2B Communication (EDI) is just one area where APIzation is about to happen.
APIs in the world of Integration
B2B Communication has been around for quite some time in areas like Supply Chain for more or less any industry but it has been standardized and leveraged a lot not only in Healthcare, Automotive, Logistics, Retail but also in Banking and Financial Services. Data flows are exchanged via mostly file oriented protocols and formats.
APIs are helping with new processes which are more Realtime or close to Realtime extending the more traditional batch oriented data exchanges. One significant difference is that B2B was always standardized but in fact most of the connections were somehow customized to deal with individual aspects of a partner. Access was also quite often exclusive and onboarding manual. In this context APIs can provide great value helping with more generic implementations that are well documented using Swagger, RAML and other Formats and open to the partner community via Web Portals.
APIzation for existing Infrastructure
Not only the mentioned data exchanges can be extended but also the tools that are leveraged like EDI / B2B or MFT Integration Platforms are getting an overhaul and API-enabled. This is a quite significant step to help with things liken Onboarding or Offboarding of partners across multiple systems. These system APIs can provide ways to let Partners updated Meta- and Partnerdata of such exchanges or provide Status Information about a B2B Transaction. Example would be a complex EDI Message to order some goods and a Status API that can be queried to get the latest status on processing the order. For very complex and long running transactions Trigger APIs can be very helpful to let external people start this exchange when they need the data and not when the next batch job is executed by the scheduler.
API Management in the context of APIzation
API Management is the context of APIzation provides some value and helps to augment the APIs offered by the backend infrastructure. Things like abstracting system APIs making them more generic and usable is just one function besides orchestrating calls across multiple Backend-APIs. For sure Security, Auditing, Logging and Monitoring provide additional value for Enterprises together with Identity Mediation between different User Stores or Partner Directories. The most valuable piece is going to be the Self Service Developer / Consumer Portal that should not only contain the API documentation and SDKs but also Guides to get started quickly and channels to find proper support.