I remember when OpenStack was announced – the creation of an open source solution in a formerly entirely proprietary area was something of a bomb shell. Regardless of your thoughts around open stack as a product (or, more correctly a series of product), it’s hard to be critical of an initiative that at its core is all about lowering the barriers to entry and encouraging innovation among multiple players.
It’s with this same degree of excitement that I welcome the announcement by Alcatel-Lucent of apiGrove – the open source version of their API management engine. apiGrove is a software engine that can be downloaded today from GitHub and installed in around 30 minutes, and is open source under the Apache 2.0 license. In a previous post about Alcatel-Lucent’s release of an API development methodology under creative commons, I stated that;
Existing API vendors are focused, by their very nature, on the technology of the API and hence the business discussion is secondary. I envisage a future where API delivery and management solutions are another offering sitting on top of cloud infrastructure, such that an API management function – say increasing a rate limit – can be automatically adjusted in the same way that cloud infrastructure scales. In order for this to happen the very API platform needs to be constructed on its own open APIs, allowing for clear hooks between it and other platforms
In a comment on that post, Steven Wilmott, the CEO of API management vendor 3Scale said that;
I don’t recommend companies look for “a business model for their API”, I recommend they look for an “API for their business model”.
By giving organizations a quick, painless and low (or no) cost way to create APIs, Alcatel-Lucent is greatly reducing the barriers to a burgeoning in the number of APIs that exist – and, by extension, that will greatly increase the number of innovative initiatives that organizations can experiment with. It’s also a smart strategy for Alcatel-Lucent which is trying its hardest to enable it’s existing carrier customers, not known as the most innovative of organizations, to “smart their dumb pipes” and drive some added value from their existing infrastructure. Alcatel-Lucent hopes to create a large pipeline of organizations who, having run a successful trial project on apiGrove, will then use Alcatel-Lucent’s commercial solution to fulfill their needs.
In terms of functional breadth, apiGrove supports a scalable approach through clustering, load balancing and request routing. It includes such base functionality as authentication and authorization, injection detection and certificate management. On top of all that the solution includes rate limiting, quota management and transactional record keeping.
The combination of the creative commons methodology, alongside the open source API platform itself removes all practical barriers to organizations trialing an API strategy – of course that’s no guarantee that they’ll do so – carriers are notoriously risk averse and innovation is an oftentimes foreign concept to them.Still, you have to applaud Alcatel-Lucent for at least trying.
In a glimpse of something I contemplated in my previous post, Alcatel-Lucent suggests the tantalizing concept that;
a cloud services vendor could integrate apiGrove into their core stack for managing cloud services, or offer a new cloud application service enabling customers to run their business in the cloud. Or a communications service provider could use apiGrove to address the wide, and fast-evolving array of security or policy management requirements they need to support
Interesting times in the API space for sure.