API Integration

Last Updated Aug 06, 2021

What is API Integration?

API integration is the connection of two or more APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to allow them to exchange data. For example, you might find a public API that solves one of your software application's problems, and integrate this into your API ecosystem. Or you might tie the Stripe or PayPal payment API functionality into your ecommerce application. This API not only processes payments, but also needs to talk to your customer database to update their payment status. Then, you might want to text them with the Twilio API via SMS to update them on their shipping process, which needs to talk to inventory and the UPS API.

What can I do with API integration?

Integrating APIs has some similar ideas to setting up webhooks. We are tying REST APIs together so they talk to each other and maximize each piece of data exchanged among them via connectors. We might:

  • Implement headless administration APIs for configuration, administration, and monitoring of web services products.
  • Use GET requests to an internal API to update our sales leads, which then updates our Salesforce CRM with a PUT request.  
  • Turn legacy business processes into an API-sharing SaaS ecosystem.

How do I integrate APIs?

It really depends on what APIs you are using. The first step is to examine your system and look for ways to maximize your API usage. Next, you will need your team to build an integration and automation layer for your APIs, which will orchestra your APIs. This will unfortunately involve manual coding, unless you opt for an Integration as a Service (IaaS) provider or an API integration platform. There are other API integration tools available to help through the API integration process.

Is a Webhook an integrated API?  

There is significant crossover between webhooks and APIs, but they aren't synonymous. The key difference lies in how they get information. An API allows different applications to get data through what is known as _polling_ endpoints. This means that for an app to get new information or notification from a server-side app, they must make requests periodically. This is like repeatedly calling a phone messaging service to check for new messages.  

A webhook does the opposite. It tells the backend server to listen for a certain event at a certain place, and if that event occurs, to tell a certain person. Webhooks are an efficient and powerful way of processing asynchronous data, but they can be a little confusing to start.

Conclusion

API integration exists at the intersection of technical and business problems. How do we use our resources efficiently to delight our customers? If we effectively integrate our APIs, we'll be well on our way. For more information on effective API management and API integration, see API management.

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