In the olden days—say five to 10 years ago, enterprise business systems ran in-house. Although they might use an outside service to do it, if a company needed multiple solutions, they created and managed them in-house. It was expensive, time-consuming, and it tended to lock the company into specific releases of the systems, but that was the way it was done.
Clouds on the Horizon
Then came the cloud, and SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions became commonplace. The problem was, not all solutions ran in the cloud. And not all cloud solutions ran in the same cloud. But even in the cloud, companies still needed their systems to be integrated. For visibility, consistency and efficiency.
Unfortunately, you usually can’t run custom programs in the cloud, especially not if those programs inject data into a system, which is often a shared instance.
APIs are the Solution
An API (Application Programming Interface) is an ideal solution for this scenario. A simplified explanation for how an API works is to say that they evaluate and load data exactly the way a system does if a user is entering data on a keyboard. No junk can get in to gum up the works, because the API rejects any transactions that don’t conform.
And SaaS solutions are updated frequently—many as often as once a day. If a company had to write an interface program and test it against every update, they might never be able to load data. But the system’s API always works.
The same holds true for downloads. Using an API that’s part of an in-house system ensures that all data downloaded from the cloud conforms to the requirements of the system before it’s entered.
An Example of How an API Architecture Might Work
Consider customer records as an example. Assume the SaaS solution has a 10-character customer number field that allows integers only. Further assume the in-house system has a 12-character alpha-numeric field for its customer number, and the system requires at least one alpha character. Somehow, these disparate customer numbers must be reconciled to ensure consistency of data.
The extract program downloads newly added customer records from the cloud. A conversion routine adds the required additional characters and necessary alpha character. Perhaps the company decides to use a ‘D’ for downloads and add a leading zero to fill out the field. Now the data can be loaded into the on-premise system through its API, and the system will validate that the new customer numbers meet its requirements.
The Integration May Need to Be Bidirectional
The same process holds true if moving customer records from the in-house system to the cloud, although it is usually a good idea to designate one or the other as the system of record, where all new records are created and then moved to the subordinate solution.
The beauty of using APIs for integration is the simplicity of moving data from one system to another, ensuring that all systems remain in sync and that invalid information can’t make its way into a system.
What About a Multi-cloud Environment?
The API solution also works if a company is running some of its business solutions in different clouds. Information can be easily moved and validated between clouds, or between cloud and in-house. The result is the ability to integrate disparate solutions rapidly and cost effectively, without having to worry about being stuck on old, unsupported releases.
So, where can you find these APIs?
The most progressive enterprise software companies are turning their enterprise applications into platforms, addressable through APIs across the board. This enables manufacturing companies, for example, to use the system as-is, to extend the system to use company-specific code, or to integrate with point-solutions. The flexibility offered by this strategy is unsurpassed.
Become Adaptive with an API Architecture
As manufacturers strive to become more adaptive, evolving as the business climate and their customer demands change, the ability to move data easily between systems whether in the cloud or on-premise will be increasingly crucial to their success.
Learn more about APIs and how QAD Adaptive ERP offers the benefits of API architecture in its next generation ERP in the cloud.