Essential guide to API management and application integration
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For die-hard sports fans, having the most up-to-date statistics in an easy-to-read fashion isn't something that is just nice to have, it's a way of life. When Philadelphia -based NFLdata.com decided it was time to update its application programming interface (API), the company tackled the challenge head-on to find a cost-effective, reliable solution to meet clients' expectations.
NFLdata.com is still a relatively young company, with ambitions of expanding to cover more sports down the road. With that in mind, CEO Scott Gimpel needed a platform that could be built upon and would allow data to quickly be presented in an aesthetically pleasing way.
Specific requirements for an API service
The IT team had already developed an API, but Gimpel noted many of the desired features necessary to push his company forward would require a lot of time. In an effort to save time on labor, Gimpel looked to outside API service vendors. Like many other businesses, in the early stages or not, affordability was a must. Some of the wish-list components included:
- Caching functionality
- Developer portal
- Rights management
Going through the API evaluation process
It's one thing to reach the point where a business knows it's time to upgrade its API, it's another to know just how to go about it. Gimpel said he waded through several other vendors, including Mashery and Apigee, but ultimately went with Apiphany. The vendor was spot-on in a couple of areas on Gimpel's requirement list.
"We looked at some of the bigger, more established companies that do API services," said Gimpel. "One of the problems was that since we are a smaller business, they weren't affordable for us. It was too much of an up-front commitment, too much up-front capital."
Expensive, multiyear commitments were a big turnoff for Gimpel, who said Apiphany was much more flexible with its payment options. The vendor allows NFLdata.com to pay it month to month, which is key for the company, since revenue varies depending on whether the NFL is in season.
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While cost is certainly an important factor, it doesn't trump everything. The type of technology used was also something the CEO took into account. "All of our stuff is Microsoft-based, all their stuff is Microsoft-based, so that helped us feel that our systems would interact well together," said Gimpel.
Offering a system that would make things easy for the NFLdata.com team wasn't the only thing Gimpel kept in mind; he also wanted to streamline procedures for people who use his service. Apiphany was able to offer some important customizations, such as making it possible for users who sign up on the NFLdata.com site to automatically be registered in the developer portal.
"That was a huge thing for us because then people wouldn't have to have two accounts," said Gimpel. "We had all of these users in our database, and that was sort of a technical hurdle; we didn't want to have people create two accounts with different passwords they'd have to remember."
Scoring an API service touchdown
It wasn't that smooth of a transition only because we had a lot of people on our old platform.
Like any company who takes on a new technology task, Gimpel's team learned a bit about what they will do differently when it does expand its sports coverage in the future. For example, user migration wasn't without snags.
"It wasn't that smooth of a transition only because we had a lot of people on our old platform, so that was a curve to get through," said Gimpel. "We are still getting people migrated to a new environment, but it's a lengthy process. You send people emails about it and they just ignore them, but you also can't pull the rug out from under them because they are depending on you."
Since the company so far is pleased with its new API, when NFLdata.com expands it's anticipated to go smoothly and simply build off the existing platform. Unlike what was initially done, the company won't waste time doing some things on its own.
"Before we got integrated into the platform, what we did was we built some things ourselves, like user management, into our website. That took time and it had bugs and we had to test it, fix those bugs and get it working," said Gimpel. "Now being able to piggyback on the new platform, we won't even bother with any of that stuff. We'd focus on data and structuring that part of it."
Maxine Giza is the associate site editor for SearchSOA.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.