acquia engage
Main ballroom at Acquia Engage. PHOTO: Dom Nicastro

BOSTON — Rudy Chang may have gotten the biggest laugh out of the crowd of about 700 at Acquia Engage at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel here today.

"Clearly the API industry is doing well," Chang said as he shared the Scott Brinker Marketing Technology Landscape supergraphic that lists the logos of some 3,600 marketing technology providers.

No Funny Business

For Emily Kagan-Trenchard, there is nothing funny about APIs. It's serious business for her in her role as digital and innovation strategist at New Hyde Park, N.Y.-based Northwell Health.

So serious, in fact, the Acquia-Drupal web content management (WCM) user requires any vendor promising successful plug-and-play Application Programmatic Interfaces (APIs) to put it in writing and show that it works.  

Why? In a recent experience with a vendor, Kagan-Trenchard was promised a functional API. When the time came to start the API engine, it didn't work.

Emily Kagan-Trenchard
Emily Kagan-Trenchard

"It used to just be one of the deciding factors at end of an RFP," Kagan-Trenchard told CMSWire at the Acquia Engage Conference, the Boston-based digital experience provider's annual customer conference. 

"But now that I've been burned, I’m going to be requiring them in my contracts. I want documentation. It needs to be spelled out. I need proof that it does what it says. Show me how it works and have documentation that you made an investment in making sure that your framework is open."

APIs Grab Attention

APIs are of course nothing new in the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) world. But it's certainly on the minds of developers and WCM technology practitioners like Kagan-Trenchard and the 700 or so gathered here in Boston today for the Acquia event. Vendors want to ensure businesses they can help execute digital experiences by connecting services and APIs. 

And if you believe Gartner analysts, content marketers will continue to leverage WCM technologies to facilitate the “best next digital experience” as monolithic infrastructures are replaced by more “modular, granular and atomic” technologies. That's the prediction from Gartner authors Mick MacComascaigh and Jim Murphy in their latest Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management.

It's certainly a push for Acquia. Open APIs are one of five pillars for the future of the company, Acquia CTO and Drupal creator Dries Buytaert and Acquia CEO Thomas Erickson stressed in their keynote this morning. The other four are open source, cloud, security and governance.

APIs aren't just about RESTful or other APIs, according to Acquia Chief Products Officer Chris Stone, who spoke to the audience in the main ballroom in an afternoon presentation.

"It's the philosophy of design," he said, "and the principles you have as a company to allow developers access points to our world which allows them to have access to your world."

Know Your APIs

But it's also on practitioners to know ahead of time what APIs vendors bring, their execution history and their latest updates, according to Ted Schadler, vice president and principal analyst for application development and delivery professionals for Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research.

Organizations that want to deliver unique experiences will not just buy a bunch of software. They'll assemble an experience architecture — not just software but the building blocks that go into it: cloud, ID management for employees, privacy, handling attacks and reusable components.

"How do you use a reusable CMS?" Schadler asked in an interview with CMSWire. "You need to have great APIs, and the APIs have to be very publicly accessible and open. Developers have to have permission to get to it and use it."

So how do you measure that a vendor or a set of vendors have open APIs? 

Schadler said look at things like: Are they published? Does it use the latest technology interfaces? Is there material written about it? A book about it, for example. How many instances can you count on which there was traffic through the APIs? 

"These are things that help you assess whether or not these are building blocks that’s a part of your architecture," Schadler said. "You can search for APIs on these vendors, but the real question is it well formed and is there a history of what happens when an API is depreciated and new ones come out? How long will it be supported and how many are using it?"