API-driven architecture, simplifying software development

March 3, 2022 - Read 3min

An application programming interface (API) is a building block that enables communication and data exchange between different applications, simplifying the software development process by being the backbone of its architecture. Their popularity has grown tremendously in recent years, as these interfaces have facilitated software development throughout the IT industry. For example, when creating a new application, the developer does not have to start from scratch. All he has to do is get an API with the functionality he needs and adapt it to his needs.

In this sense, an API can be said to be a formal interface for specifying how a software module communicates or interacts with other modules to achieve one or more functions. It all depends on the application that uses it and the permissions that the API owner grants to external developers.

APIs can become complete toolkits. In this case, the application can send a request with a certain structure, and that structure will decide how the service or software to which the request is sent responds. Today we will explain why building a development architecture with these toolkits at the center of your strategy is the best decision for results-oriented companies and development teams.

What is API-driven architecture?

API architecture refers to the process of developing a software interface that exposes backend data and application functionality for use in new applications. With an API-first architecture, you can create ecosystems of applications that are modular and reusable — which is ideal for microservices.

Briefly, API-based architecture is the practice of designing and building the programming interface(s) and then starting the development of the application per se based on this environment and workflow model. Thus, this architecture is different from traditional development strategies.

The terms API-driven architecture, or API-first development, have been in use since about 2010, but it is only in the last couple of years that they have come into popular use in the IT sector as more and more software delivery teams have recognized the benefits it provides.

What are the benefits of implementing such an architecture?

1. Make everything accessible at any time and phase

If you take a traditional approach to APIs, and design them after you have laid the groundwork for the rest of your application, it can be easy to overlook some components when deciding which parts of the application will communicate and benefit from them. For example, when it comes time to build the APIs, you may realize that one of your application's services formats data in a way that makes the submission process difficult, as a result, you find that redesigning that component to make it accessible through an API takes a lot of time, effort and resources, so you decide to fix it manually. As a result, you end up with accessibility gaps and increased delivery times.

Conversely, when you adopt APIs as the basis of your entire software architecture and delivery strategy, you put yourself in a position where it's easy to remember that every component of the application must be compatible and accessible via an API. As long as you employ this type of architecture, you are unlikely to encounter negative surprises that limit API support within your application.

2. Decoupling frontend and backend

One of the most important advantages of an API-driven architecture is its ability to separate the frontend from the backend. This gives all team members the ability to eliminate any dependencies that may exist between the two ends. How does it work? Simple, thanks to APIs that allow each endpoint to communicate with the other by sending requests and getting responses in return. Those using API-driven architecture benefit from this process because they can use different technologies and tools when building either endpoint.

3. Modular CI/CD pipelines

Not only is the application architecture itself more modular and flexible under an API-driven development approach. The same benefits are potentiated if a [continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) is used to deliver the application using DevOps methodologies.

When APIs are used to split the application into distinct modules, each module can be continuously delivered separately. As long as each part of the application and its place in the CI/CD pipeline remains compatible with the API interface and architecture you have defined, a problem in one module is unlikely to cause a delay in the rest of the pipeline. Each module can be updated separately, and at a different pace, while remaining compatible with other modules thanks to the API they share.

4. Cloud-optimized applications

Another advantage of API-driven development, which is probably obvious to most developers, is that it results in applications that are "natively" cloud-ready, since they are built, first and foremost, for connectivity.

At this point, it is important to keep in mind that there are two different types of APIs: those that connect an application's internal services and those that connect the application to other cloud services. Having one type of API does not necessarily mean having the other. But when you adopt API-driven architecture, even if you start with creating internal APIs, you are helping to ensure that you think early on about all the APIs the application needs. This will, most likely, lead to an application that easily integrates with external applications and resources in the cloud.

5. Simplifies application complexity

An API-driven architecture allows components and services connected to an API to remain modular. This means that components are independent and use the API to communicate and share information. It also means that API security testing can be easily performed to ensure that applications are free of vulnerabilities. Those who have implemented third-party APIs don't even have to learn all the underlying code that drives the API. All they have to do is implement it and remove it when they no longer need it. This demonstrates how an API-driven architecture reduces application complexity.

6. Reduced development time

When creating an application, developers don't have to write all the code on their own from scratch. They can implement an API and start from there. For example, if a developer wants to create an Uber-like application that uses maps, they can get the Google Maps API and implement it. This means they won't have to write that part of the code themselves. This greatly reduces development time and cost.

7. Avoid software obsolescence.

Last but not least, API-driven architecture is a useful strategy to avoid obsolescence of both your application and your APIs. Today, it is easy for an application to become obsolete because either its APIs are too difficult to modernize, or the application itself is difficult to integrate with modern API frameworks.

API-driven architecture does not give a full guarantee that these things won't happen. If you don't keep your APIs up to date, your application may become obsolete. However, by keeping APIs front and center in the strategy, API-driven development will help prevent these eventualities.

How do we use API-driven Architecture at DreamCode?

Smart organizations are using API-driven architecture to simplify their operations and meet the demands of their customers. In addition to reaping the benefits mentioned above, they are also able to meet the requirements of modern technology. This demonstrates the importance of API-driven architecture in the world of software development. This is why we at DreamCode adopt the use of this type of architecture as the basis of our entire development process.

Do you have an application, IT project or digital transformation goal in mind? Don't worry, DreamCode has you covered. Learn how our process stands out by integrating this and many other best practices to provide our customers with reliable, tested, monitored and flexible software. There are many standards by which we regulate our work and the projects we have developed throughout the Americas prove it.