EMC has stated that 2016 is the year of all-flash. After attending EMC World 2016, I would say that 2016 is also the year of software and the API. The first morning of the conference, I enjoyed a lengthy conversation with a customer about how they were integrating ServiceNow, ViPR Controller, and their storage arrays by leveraging APIs. There was not a session I attended where APIs were not discussed. In fact, two sessions focused not on a product but on how you can learn to program in order to leverage APIs, while still focusing on your day job.
Just what is an API? API is an acronym for application programming interface. In plain terms, an API enables people to write code into their own applications to utilize a specific piece of functionality within another application. APIs are all about software and accomplishing specific tasks via software integration vs via a GUI.
But wait… APIs are used to connect applications via code? Isn’t that for developers? It is. However, it has become essential for IT Operations to embrace APIs if they want to deliver the efficiency, agility, and consistency that development teams and businesses are seeking.
How can IT operations utilize APIs to deliver efficiency, agility, and consistency? In short, APIs enable automation. During one session at EMC World, it was stated that storage and system administrators managed their environments via GUI in the past. Today, most systems have an API, and management of the environment is split between GUI and APIs. In the future, administrators will primarily utilize APIs to manage infrastructure, both on-premise and in the cloud.
If APIs enable IT Operations to deliver efficiency, agility, and consistency to development teams and the business, how can you interact with and benefit from the APIs built into your systems? There are several ways. Three examples are: leveraging an automation tool built upon APIs, IT Operations writing code to leverage APIs, and enabling developers to build code into applications that leverages APIs.
To demonstrate how APIs can be leveraged, I will use ViPR Controller as an example use case. ViPR Controller is an EMC solution that enables customers to implement Software Defined Storage. EMC has built the code into ViPR to manage a number of storage and data protection solutions via API. Historically, storage was provisioned manually but this led to inconsistency. Once a solution such as ViPR is configured to manage a storage environment, users provision storage via a self-service catalog vs provisioning storage directly from a storage array. When provisioning storage through a self-service catalog, the process is predefined and the storage is provisioned consistently by ViPR each time a request is made via the catalog. ViPR can quickly be configured to manage additional storage environments or provide additional services as business needs dictate, enabling agility. Once the request for storage is made via the catalog, the provisioning of storage services is automated, eliminating the time required for IT to provision storage. This increases the efficiency of the Operations team.
If there is not a predefined integration between ViPR Controller and a specific storage platform, IT Operations can write their own code to integrate ViPR into their storage environment’s APIs. This is accomplished by leveraging the Southbound Software Development Kit that was announced at EMC World 2016. Utilizing the SDK, IT Operations teams can write code one time that can then be utilized repeatedly to deploy storage services within their storage environment in an agile, efficient, and consistent manner via ViPR.
Finally, IT Operations can collaborate with developers and educate them regarding the APIs that are available and approved for their use. Enabling developers to have direct access to APIs via code allows them to include code within applications that is required to provision and manage the infrastructure that supports their application.
ViPR is not the only EMC solution leveraging APIs. Virtually all EMC products include APIs that enable businesses to leverage automation tools such as ViPR, vRealize Automation, and ServiceNow to automate the provisioning of services for users via a service catalog. APIs also enable businesses with the flexibility to develop their own code, whether for use by the IT Operations team or by the developers within business facing applications. No matter the use, when leveraged correctly, APIs help to deliver the agility, efficiency, and consistency businesses are looking for in their IT environment.