API Management for Edge Computing

February 20, 2019 Rahul Agarwal

The Internet of Things (IoT) has a lot of things, and they’re multiplying. By 2020, there could be anywhere from 20 billion to 30 billion internet-connected devices, not counting smartphones, laptops and traditional computers.

These devices are doing everything from monitoring power grids to tracking shipments to monitoring the health of ambulatory patients.

Most IoT devices are valuable only if they’re connected to other applications and data repositories. A mobile patient monitor, after all, is useless if it doesn’t report back to a nursing station or a healthcare application.

As the number of IoT devices multiplies, the work of managing all those devices and exchanging data with them becomes increasingly complex. Simply connecting thousands or tens of thousands of devices directly to a critical business application is impractical. The flood of traffic would congest the network and overwhelm the CPUs running the application.

Instead, communications are staggered across multiple layers: from applications to gateways, possibly to micro-gateways, and to devices themselves.

All those applications, gateways and devices need to be integrated. Increasingly, they’re connected through application programming interfaces (APIs).

An API is a set of subroutine definitions, communication protocols and tools for building software connections. It’s an interface that helps other authorized pieces of software submit requests and control the functionality of an application or a service.

APIs have evolved over the years. They used to be highly proprietary and difficult to work with. Later, enterprises and vendors alike recognized the value of industry standards. Understanding the evolution of APIs and API integration is important for understanding approaches to managing large-scale IoT systems.

To learn more about how the Boomi platform can help organizations build and manage APIs, contact a Boomi integration specialist.

The Evolution of API Management

We’ve seen several generations of API management approaches. First there were enterprise service buses (ESBs), which served as a common conduit for communications among monolithic applications.

Next, in the days of service-oriented architectures (SOA), large, complex monolithic applications were run on-premise, and other application and XML services needed to integrate with them through complex simple object access protocol (SOAP) APIs, which often connected through an ESB.

The next evolution of API management replaced tight integrations through SOAP with more flexible integrations with representational state transfer (REST), a simpler architectural style that relies on a stateless protocol and standard web operations.

Even when connecting over REST, which took less time than SOAP integrations, clients and applications usually connected through gateways. The applications were still large, monolithic applications, often developed using waterfall methodologies with long development cycles.

Today, enterprises are replacing those monolithic applications with microservices — features and services that in aggregate compose a complete application but that can be developed, deployed and managed separately.

Microservices offer organizations several benefits. Developers, rather than middleware vendors, decide how to partition services for optimal performance, and features are handled by small teams that work very efficiently.

Because features can be updated as needed in a service-based architecture, organizations using these new modern applications gain agility. And because microservices are smaller than entire applications, they can run on edge devices with limited CPU and storage, such as IoT devices and edge gateways.

Dividing applications into feature components and microservices makes integration and API management more important than ever. Components and services, which used to be simply different parts of a single application, now need to be integrated in order to work in a coordinated fashion, delivering the capabilities that users need.

Fortunately, Dell Boomi can help organizations develop, deploy and manage APIs for even the most distributed IoT configurations.

Boomi Atoms and API Management for Edge Computing

When applications are divided into microservices or smaller applications accessible through APIs, it’s critical that organizations have a fast, efficient and scalable way of connecting APIs.

A Boomi Atom is a small, efficient building block for a developing, managing and scaling applications based on APIs. An Atom is a small, highly-efficient runtime engine that provides API connectivity along with compute resources and business logic. Organizations can deploy an Atom wherever an API needs to be hosted and managed, even on edge devices and gateways.

Boomi employs a federated model of services for hosting and managing APIs for business applications, as well as for interfacing with applications and data on edge gateways for IoT deployments. Effectively, Boomi Atoms function as mini software-defined gateways, or bridges, connecting applications with device data. In addition, with the Boomi Environments support, deployment of Boomi Atoms on edge gateways can be easily managed from the cloud for a large deployment of gateways.

Using the Boomi unified integration platform, IT organizations can:

  • Build and Integrate APIs — Build APIs through a visual design-first experience and expose real-time integrations effortlessly.
  • Operate and Manage APIs — Centrally test and deploy APIs, enforcing the relevant contracts and policies in a hybrid environment using the API Gateway while monitoring the health of APIs with usage dashboards.
  • Share and Engage With APIs — Engage API consumers using the API catalog and developer portal to create a rich API ecosystem.

And with Boomi, you can do all of this quickly, efficiently and securely — exactly what is needed to support edge computing and the IoT.

To learn more about how the Boomi platform can help organizations build and manage APIs, contact a Boomi integration specialist.

About the Author

Rahul Agarwal is Dell Boomi's product marketing manager for API and emerging technologies.

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