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Stepping into the world of Digital Transformation with WSO2 API Manager

Hashan Buddhika
Sep 15, 2017 · 8 min read

“Digital Transformation” has become one of the most trending key words in any business sector these days. It doesn’t matter which sector they are in, how small or large the business is everybody is trying to digitally transform their business these days. First lets take a quick look into what “digital transformation” means ?

Does it mean taking all the business operations online ?

Yes, people do take businesses online as a part of digital transformation to open it to a wider audience. But that’s not what digital transformation really is. Most of the time people seem to think if you have an online business that means you have a digital business and are entitled for the digital advantage. While digital infrastructure is vital to achieve the digital advantage, that’s not all of it and it doesn’t guarantee that they will be able to exploit the digital advantage.

Last year, MIT Sloan published a paper about the digital advantage, it shows that there are two distinctive but related dimensions to be considered to asses the level of digital maturity in any organisation. The first dimension is the most obvious one when you hear the phrase “digital transformation”; that is the investment in digital infrastructure in the company to improve customer engagement and internal operations.

Then comes the second dimension which is most likely to be ignored by a lot of so called “digital” companies, that is the transformation management intensity. What this second dimension means is to create the right kind of leadership and to nurture the right kind of culture in the organisation to drive the company towards achieving the digital advantage through the investment they made on the digital infrastructure.

In this paper published by MIT Sloan, they name this group who achieves the “true digital maturity” by the name “Digirati”. They also state that “Digirati” had been able to increase their profitability by 26% by being truly digital. Also, another interesting fact in this report is that, while the group who aced in the digital infrastructure but lacked the transformation management intensity dimension suffered from 11% decline in profitability, the group who aced in the transformation management intensity but lacked the digital infrastructure had been able to increase their profitability by 9%. If you are interested to read more about this report, it’s available here.

Now you must be wondering how does API manager fit into this topic. Lets start with the fundamentals, how do we build this digital infrastructure ? This is done by building a set of systems which talks to each other to get something done. How do they talk to each other ? They communicate to each other using application programming interfaces (API’s), which are exposed by each of the individual systems. Having these API’s separately is fine (but not great :P) when you have only few API’s, but in a more practical scenario there will be a lot API’s that help run your business. In that case, it will be a nightmare to manage all those API’s without a proper API manager. Every API has their own life cycle from the creation stage to the retiring stage, managing this properly is crucial for any “truly digital” organisation.

Why WSO2 API Manager ?

Some of the main features of modern day API’s are, being RESTful and very lightweight mostly uses JSON, very well documented, manageable, easily searchable, metrics can be collected and very secured. With the WSO2 API Manager you can create and manage API’s that contains all the mentioned important features of a modern API.

Let me tell you why I like the WSO2 API Manager so much (apart from the fact that I work for the company ;) ). To be honest, I like it when I can easily configure things from a user interface instead of writing some configurations which I have to google few times before I finalize it, and that’s what WSO2 API Manager offers, you can create, publish and manage an API all through the user interface without writing a single line of code (how awesome is that ? :) ). But of course, if you want to write all the configuration code by yourself it supports that too. All the API designing configurations are swagger based, so you can go ahead write your swagger definition elsewhere and upload it through the user interface or you can write the swagger code in the inbuilt editor provided by the API manager user interface.

Another important point to note is, it supports all sorts of backends, be it SOAP, REST or web socket it supports all of them. Hence, you can expose any of the existing services in the organisation using the API manager user interface without having to go through any hassle.

In terms of security WSO2 API Manager uses OAuth 2.0 standard protocol to make sure your API’s are 100% secured. Out of the box, it supports all 4 grant types in OAuth 2.0 protocol and also it lets you implement any other custom grant type as well. Even though this custom grant type creation involves a bit of coding, it’s a piece of cake if you can follow the steps in the comprehensive documentation provided by the WSO2 API Manager.

Nowadays with the rapid growth in the technology sector, managing API lifecycle has become a high priority task. Because with the changes happening in systems, you might have to update the API’s to serve your API consumers in better ways. This seems like a never ending headache right ? But with WSO2 API manager this is a piece of cake. When you need to create a new API version, you do so from the user interface itself. All the configurations you made for the current version will not be lost, it will be copied over for the new API version and you do the changes you want on top of that. I’m not going into too much detail as to how this can be done, because that’s not within the scope of this article, but you can always check the documentation of the API Manager (maybe I’ll do a series of posts later on these implementation parts to give you an insight into my experience with the product). If you want to create a new version, depreciate an old version but still support the existing subscriptions, retire an old version or prototype, every one of these can be done using the WSO2 API manager user interface, not having to worry about what’s happening under the hood.

You might also face situations where you have to do some mediation before getting in or putting out messages. This can also be done very easily with just dragging and dropping components and changing the configs of them using the WSO2 developer studio. It’s not recommended to use message mediation using the API manager where performance is a critical factor, in which case the recommendation is to use an Enterprise Integrator. However, in most cases having this feature in API manager might come in handy.

So far we have only talked about the benefits for API publishers, what about API consumers, how does WSO2 API Manager helps you serve your API consumers better ? WSO2 API Manager has a API Marketplace which can serve all the consumer needs. Look and feel of the API Marketplace can be customized so that you can provide a better experience for your API consumers. It also supports multi-tenancy, which will help you support different consumer groups in a more customized manner. The easiness in finding API’s and the ability to test API’s from the API manager user interface itself makes the WSO2 API manager an interesting candidate for anybody’s API management needs. The days of having to write testing scripts to test out API’s if you are not sure of whats in the API documentation is over, now with WSO2 API manager you can test out API’s without all that hassle.

Last but not the least, the analytics server comes with the WSO2 API Manager. You can configure the analytics server to collect all the important data about the API’s like who’s subscribing to the API’s, from which region does most traffic come from and etc. Also it has the capability to display the data in attractive graphs with in the user interface. This is not only useful for the API publisher’s, this is also useful for the API consumers to get the best out of the API’s provided by an organization. That way they can target their services to serve their customers in better ways, by using the insights provided by the system.

I think that’s enough information for you to already love the product. But, I know where you are at this point. You must be thinking, yes, WSO2 has a great API Manager product, but so does some of the other vendors.

So why should anybody go for WSO2 ?

The most obvious and practical reason from a customer’s point of view would be, you can get it for a fraction of the amount you pay to other vendors. You must be thinking I am somehow mistaken right ? Because the code is open to anybody and you can download the product at any time, then you don’t have to pay even a dime to WSO2 right ? Well, it’s true you can download and use the WSO2 products without paying a dime. But as the WSO2 CEO says, you are paying for a “relationship” with WSO2 and not for the product. A relationship that guarantees an optimal solution to your problem. A relationship that guarantees a smooth run time for the customer. A relationship that guarantees the customer, that he will not be alone when something goes wrong in the system. A relationship that guarantees that they will not bullshit you when you need help. A relationship that guarantees you will get the best possible help from the people who created the product. This here is a relationship that will go a long way. WSO2 does not sell the product, they sell this relationship to stand with the customer. In my opinion that’s worth investing upon.

I would like to end the article with a quote by Simon Sinek, which will give you an idea as to why I think WSO2 API manager will help you transform your business digitally in a way that will help you achieve the “digital advantage”. Because WSO2 is one of those companies which can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do.

Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause or belief — WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?

People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.

— by Simon Sinek

If you think this article has been a useful source for you to get a better idea about what digital advantage is and how WSO2 API manager can help you build your digital infrastructure, please show your support and share this article so that this will be useful to somebody else too.

Hashan Buddhika

Written by

Tech Enthusiast, Research Fanatic who thinks everything in this world has more than one side to it.

how hackers start their afternoons.

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