APIs are Strong Links in the Blockchain

APIs are essential to blockchain tech—and a strong API infrastructure provides a head start in getting value from the blockchain.

Blockchain might possibly be the hottest tech trend right now, but it’s certainly a controversial one. There is still a great deal of confusion about what it does, what technologies it replaces and what technologies complement it. For example, some may expect APIs to fall under the heading of technologies that blockchain will replace. In fact, they are complementary technologies and APIs will play a crucial role in blockchain implementations.

The Future is… Foggy

For enterprise technology leaders, blockchain can be a vexing subject. Many people seem unware of blockchain’s potential uses beyond the arguably over-hyped and over-valued world of cryptocurrencies. The confusion is to be expected when common opinions on the topic range from “It’s the most important evolution in computing since the World Wide Web” to “It’s a meaningless hype that will impact nothing beyond Bitcoin.”

For enterprises that do see potential use cases in their future, the details of how these use cases will be implemented often remain vague. There is perceived dearth of blockchain knowledge in the talent pool and a real lack of clarity about what tools will be required to implement the technology. Here’s some good news, though: enterprises that have invested in a solid API infrastructure are going to have something of a head start.

Strong Links are Essential

You’ve probably seen a blockchain defined in its simplest form many times—as a distributed database where transactions are grouped into blocks that are linked in a chain. The links in this chain are duplicated transactions that connect the end of one block to the start of the next. But the way it all functions securely and reliably is, of course, rather more complex than that. And that’s where APIs start to emerge as the strongest links in the blockchain.

The distributed nature of the way blockchain transactions are created, stored, encrypted and validated requires a type of online communication and integration to which web APIs are essential. And there is a growing pool of APIs offered by organizations like Blockchain.info that can be used in blockchain implementations. Enterprises with API infrastructure and management tools in place will be best placed to leverage these APIs.

According to Bill Oakes, a CISSP and Director of Product Marketing at CA Technologies: “APIs are crucial to whole blockchain transaction process—without them, no one would be able to utilize it.” But without API management infrastructure in place, using APIs to enable blockchain solutions will be an uphill battle. “The ability to apply policies and management to these APIs, to ensure authentication and authorization, is equally important,” says Oakes.

This is particularly the case at this relatively early stage, with the blockchain API landscape constantly shifting. The situation has developed rapidly since the emergence of cryptocurrency-focused APIs. And while organizations like Hyperledger are trying to create stability, there is still a significant need for technologies that provide consistency across API versions and enable fast API creation and scaling.

Simplifying Agile Blockchain with Well-Managed APIs

If we’re honest, right now, there’s only one thing you can say with any degree of certainty about blockchain: it is confusing. Nevertheless, many enterprises see significant potential. The knowledge that it is an API-driven technology and the availability of blockchain APIs could help enterprises cut through the confusion to realize the potential. But only if they have tools that simplify the process of securely and efficiently dealing with APIs.

Agility is a key factor here. APIs and API management technology will make it significantly easier for enterprises to be quick-to-market with blockchain implementations. In the uncertain, ever-shifting world of blockchain, an API-centric approach will also make it possible to “fail fast”, pivot and evolve solutions to get the most from changing specifications and emerging opportunities—to steer a clear course through the foggy future of blockchain.

Sam Macklin
By Sam Macklin | December 01, 2017