Cloud APIs: Definition, Uses, & Impact

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Rafael Timbó
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Rafael Timbó
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Chief Technology Officer
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Cloud APIs: Definition, Uses, & Impact

Table of Contents

Learn how cloud APIs let businesses simplify cloud computing environments, and developers automate their workflows.
Published on
September 25, 2023
Updated on
October 10, 2023

Does your business need help with cloud computing solutions? Many companies have adopted cloud technology as part of their business strategy. Some cloud technology companies have been using cloud application programming interfaces (APIs) or cloud computing APIs. Adopting this technology and hiring cloud engineers to help can help you run your business more efficiently.

Read on to discover what cloud APIs do and which is right for your business.

What Is a Cloud API?

A cloud API is a software interface that allows applications to interact easily and quickly with cloud-based services, such as storage and database solutions. This tool lets businesses simplify cloud computing environments and let developers automate their workflows using their favorite programming languages.

You might consider upgrading your computer’s hardware or buying an external hard drive when your computer runs out of space. But with cloud APIs, you can bypass spending extra money and instead use APIs to easily upload and download files from the cloud without having to manually.

The following are the benefits of using cloud APIs:

  • Cost-effectiveness: Users of cloud APIs only pay for the resources they use and don’t have to invest in hardware or infrastructure.
  • Flexibility: Cloud APIs offer services and platforms that developers choose depending on their needs. These services provide better flexibility and more customization than traditional methods.
  • Improved collaboration:  Cloud APIs are accessible anywhere with an internet connection — developers can work remotely and easily collaborate with others.
  • Modernization: Cloud APIs help developers create modern products and services with cloud-based storage, computing, and other services.
  • Scalability: Cloud APIs allow developers to scale their applications up and down when needed without the hassle of managing hardware or infrastructure.

Vendor-specific vs. Cross-platform APIs

Cloud APIs fall under two categories: vendor-specific and cross-platform. Within vendor-specific cloud APIs, there are three types: platform as a service (PaaS), software as a service (SaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS). Each has its benefits and drawbacks, so understanding each will help you choose the right one for your business structure.

Cross-platform APIs

Cross-platform APIs allow developers to use the services between two or several cloud providers. Popular cross-platform APIs include REST, GraphQL, OpenAPI, and Apache Thrift. Cross-platform providers have their advantages, including:

  • Compatibility with various languages and platforms: Cross-platform APIs allow developers to use services, languages, and platforms from different clouds at the same time.
  • Improved flexibility: Cross-platform APIs are more flexible than vendor-specific APIs, allowing developers more flexible decision-making.
  • Adaptable and interoperable: Cross-platform APIs are more adaptable to developers' needs because they can simultaneously work with multiple cloud providers.

But they also have drawbacks, including the following:

  • More complicated and difficult to use: Because developers work with multiple providers, there is no dedicated support service, as with vendor-specific APIs. Working with numerous providers also raises the learning curve.
  • Limited features and functionality: Since cross-platform APIs don't have specific providers they service, they don't have specialized functionality for cloud providers, and limited features are available.

Vendor-specific APIs

Vendor-specific APIs will support the services of one cloud provider. For example, the Microsoft Azure REST API supports services that the public Azure cloud offers, such as Visual Studio and Azure DevOps. Other popular vendor-specific APIs include Google Cloud Platform and Amazon Web Services.

Vendor-specific APIs have several benefits, including:

  • Seamless cloud API integration: New application modules and features are integrated within the cloud-based API without causing errors or complications.
  • Specialized functionality: A single cloud provider supports specialized functionality, meaning everything within the API will be catered toward that specific provider and its functions.
  • Dedicated support teams: Vendor-specific APIs also have dedicated support teams that understand their products and services.
  • Built-in security features: Because vendor-specific APIs support specific cloud providers, they offer built-in security features tailored to their provider.

The drawbacks of using vendor-specific APIs include the following:

  • Difficult to switch between cloud services: Vendor-specific APIs cater to one provider, which makes switching between cloud services more difficult.
  • High dependency on the vendor's services: Since vendor-specific APIs cater to one provider, developers are limited and dependent on the services offered by that provider.

Vendor-specific APIs can include three types: Platform as a Service (PaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)

A Platform as a Service (PaaS) offers users programmatic access to a complete cloud life sciences environment, giving them everything they need to develop, run, and manage applications. PaaS environments come equipped with all the infrastructure developers need — including hardware and software — and the PaaS provider hosts everything at their data center, including servers, storage, networks, operating systems, and more.

Providers offering PaaS cloud-based API services include Acquia Cloud, Amazon AWS, Heroku, Microsoft Azure, and Oracle Cloud PaaS.

The benefits of using PaaS include:

  • Dynamic scalability
  • Improved security
  • Operational tools

Drawbacks include:

  • Reliance on vendors
  • Risk of lock-in
  • Compatibility issues
  • Security risks

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

Software as a service (SaaS) allows users to connect and communicate with various applications by integrating their software into third-party SaaS applications. Popular SaaS APIs include Asana API, Slack API, Shopify API, Salesforce API, and HubSpot API.

The benefits of using SaaS APIs include the following:

  • No design background needed
  • Efficient and quick scalability
  • Improved value to customers

Drawbacks include:

  • Difficult onboarding
  • Longer sales cycles

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)

Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) offers control of the cloud resources within the infrastructures. Developers can manage and automate all cloud resources on a cloud provider’s platform. Popular providers offering IaaS services include AWS, IBM Cloud, and Microsoft Azure.

IaaS services come with several benefits, including:

  • Streamlined infrastructure management
  • Server automation
  • Infrastructure scalability
  • Disaster recovery support
  • Increased security

Drawbacks include:

  • Few effective service providers
  • Volatile security, depending on the cloud type
  • Unpredictable expenses
  • Less control, especially over technical issues

Cloud API Protocols

When choosing cloud API operations for your business structure, it’s helpful to understand the categories of APIs and the different API protocols in cloud environments.

REST APIs (RESTful API)

Representational State Transfer (REST) API, or RESTful API, is a cloud API protocol that has existed since 2000. It uses Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) when creating, updating, reading, archiving, and deleting records. REST APIs also use Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs) when swapping data. Users can use REST when translating extensible markup languages (XML) by capturing the data of a specific website. REST allows users to access websites, read the XML file, and translate the data.

REST has a few basic constraints, such as:

  • Client and server: A uniform interface separates the client and server to improve the portability of client code.
  • Stateless: REST APIs are stateless; a client context must be stored on the server; a client's request must always contain all required data.
  • Cacheable: Websites and other responses are cached on a client's system, speeding up web browsing.
  • Improved scalability: REST has layered systems, which allow clients access to intermediate layers when connecting to end servers, improving scalability.

REST APIs are architectural and have no official standard. Because REST APIs can use various standards — including HTTP, URL, JavaScript Object Notation (JSON), and XML — they use fewer resources and require less bandwidth. Also, they use marketing cloud technologies, which provide users with a series of tools for their marketing efforts.

SOAP APIs

Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) APIs are a standard communication protocol that allows users to create, update, delete, and recover records, including custom objects, leads, accounts, and passwords. They work on various operating systems, such as Linux and Windows, and communicate through HTTP and XML. SOAP APIs make it easy to manage accounts, conduct precise searches, and more, and are compatible with any language that supports web services.

However, SOAP APIs are less flexible than alternatives, like REST APIs, because they use official standards and are based on HTML and XML. SOAP APIs require added resources and bandwidth to run and manage.

JSON-RPC Remote Procedure Call

JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) Remote Procedure Call (RPC) is a lightweight and simple RPC protocol. It lets users transfer data at faster intervals. Because of its speedy data transferring abilities, it is a popular choice for many business structures. Many developers use JSON-RPC to supplement their development practices. JSON RPC aids developers in quick and easy development.

JSON-RPC can define data processing, has a light construction and fast processing times, and can use and interact with sockets and HTTP.

How Do You Use Cloud APIs?

Cloud APIs connect services by communicating and integrating cloud services, then transfer information and data back to the developer and their application.

Before choosing a cloud API, consider the following:

  • Architecture: The architecture is the design of your API and consists of the information management layer, the application layer, the integration layer, and the interaction layer. The architecture will allow you to deploy across several clouds, give you control over who can access your infrastructure, and will implement security policies.
  • Orchestration: Orchestration involves arranging individual API calls with the cloud service. Orchestration occurs through API gateways, which let developers design API catalogs and use the gateway to determine how to service requests within the cloud.
  • Integration: Integration allows you to integrate your API with native applications, thus opening your platform to a catalog of services and features. To implement the integration, you'll use an API platform.
  • Other features: Not all APIs will offer the same features. Consider which features you want your cloud API to have. Do you want it to include image labeling? What about a cloud spanner or API endpoint? Figure out the key features you want in a management tool before deciding which cloud API to choose.

Once you've considered the above and you're ready to start your cloud API journey, consider the following steps:

  • Choose a suitable API for your business that will meet your needs.
  • Sign up for an API key, or identifier, that will grant you access to your chosen API.
  • Authenticate your requests to ensure only authorized users can access your API.
  • Use the API documentation to make API requests, such as the response object request.
  • Monitor rate limits, network traffic, quotas, and API usage to track performance and ensure optimization.

The Impact of Cloud APIs on Business

Cloud APIs are becoming essential to successful businesses for several reasons.

More Customized Data Integrations

Depending on your chosen API, you may get access to more customized API data integrations. Many cloud APIs allow users to combine data from various databases into a single database, allowing users to share data and information with colleagues across different departments and even with external partners. Certain cloud databases enable users to customize their data integrations and decide what, when, where, and by whom their data will be uploaded, viewed, and downloaded. Users also receive access to a robust interface for developing applications across different storage systems and enterprise platforms.

Customized data integrations are cost-effective, scalable, efficient, and secure. They offer improved communication and security and effective automation.

Fast & Easy Cloud Application Development

Cloud APIs help developers build applications at a streamlined pace. Because developers can access Cloud APIs from anywhere with an internet connection, they can keep data and information up to date, allowing team access and efficient collaboration. Cloud APIs let developers using a suite of tools build applications at a faster rate and manage applications once enacted.

Increases Efficiency

Cloud APIs give your business and developers a chance to grow and improve. Cloud APIs increase development speed, freeing up time and resources that can be allocated elsewhere to help a business grow. Cloud APIs can also help backup critical file systems and data, keeping them safe from hardware failures and malfunctions and saving even more resources.

Finally, APIs can let your business supply your employees with new tools to help them work more efficiently and serve customers more effectively.

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If you need help sourcing and hiring premier engineering talent to streamline your organization, look no further than Revelo. Revelo has an extensive talent network of highly skilled, rigorously vetted Latin America-based engineers ready to join your growing team.

Our platform helps you find the best tech talent for your needs and assists you with the complexities of hiring new employees. Once you choose your ideal developer from a short list of vetted talent, we'll take care of the nitty-gritty onboarding details, like payroll, benefits administration, taxes, and local compliance, so you can focus on building your business.

Contact us to get started today. 

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