Posts Tagged 'Implementation'

January 13, 2011

API Basics: What is the API?

Over the past few years, there has been a dramatic increase in the use of APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces. An API allows a developer to create software that directly interfaces with another system. A simple example would be an online retail site that drop ships products from a distributor. Without an API, the retail site administrator might have to manually update stock availability and product information, but with an API, the retail site administrator can link directly to the distributor's database to display real-time stock and product changes.

SoftLayer has taken this concept to a whole new level. Most APIs are added to an existing system allowing the developer to interact with a small part of the overall architecture. SoftLayer took a different approach. We built our entire system on the API. This means anything you can do from our Portal, you can do via the API.

The breadth of the API can be seen in its current use cases. On one end of the usage spectrum, customers simply incorporate a few API calls to keep track of their hosting account details like bandwidth usage and invoice information. On the other end, users have built the API into complete management systems that allow control over all aspects of their SoftLayer experience - essentially a custom, personalized portal.

What gives an API its true power is its ability to automate. In a standard system, you can plans for any situation, but someone needs to see the situation and react to it. With the API, the system can automatically react. For example, an administrator could design a system that requires a minimum number of IP addresses for every X number of clients on a server. If a new client is added to the server and a new IP address is needed, the administrator's application can use the API to automatically request an additional block of IPs to be provisioned to the server.

This level of automation can be taken even further: A system is in place that needs to dynamically scale based on traffic. With the power of the API and the use of Cloud Instances, this can be achieved. By designing a system to monitor the current traffic trends, when certain thresholds are reached, the system can automatically request additional instances to be provisioned or excess instances to be removed from the pool and terminated. This system would function without any manual intervention to recognize the issue and react to it. Obviously, the real-time automation saves money because instances are turned up and turned down as they are needed, and it ensures your systems stay up and running. It might even let your systems administrator get a full night of sleep.

There is no limit to the potential applications of the SoftLayer API. Whether you are an individual just starting to program or have a team of developers with years of experience, the API has the tools that you will need to get started.

-Mathew

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