Denodo: Why data virtualisation is an asset to your API ecosystem

Digital transformation is higher on the business agenda than ever before. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a compelling case for accelerating digital transformation initiatives, and businesses all over the world are considering how they can ramp up their efforts to become a more ‘weightless' version of themselves.

Although every digital transformation journey is different, there is one common denominator that forms the crux of most transformation strategies: application programming interfaces (APIs). Despite being around for some time, it wasn't until the adoption of cloud computing and Internet of Things some ten years ago that APIs would truly make their mark.

Now, it is possible to build business on top of these APIs, creating strategies and ecosystems in turn. By driving interactions between different applications, companies can create new, seamless user experiences by simplifying access to information. Furthermore, by having a more elaborate API ecosystem that allows consumption as well as exposure of APIs, businesses can achieve ‘platform' status in the same way that Uber, Amazon, Apple, and many more have done. 

While APIs serve great purpose, API platforms need a little help. While many businesses have API platforms in their arsenal for monitoring, security, and management purposes, they come with one problem.

API platforms are not optimised for data integration. Thus, they cannot easily or quickly integrate large volumes of data between different systems, which is ironic given that APIs make integration of other components much easier. Either way, businesses need to call in for reinforcement, and data virtualisation is proving to be the right technology for the job.

Why your API strategy needs data virtualisation

Leading the way in data virtualisation is Denodo, a company with a rich solution portfolio that includes enhancing API capabilities. You'd be forgiven for being a little surprised, as we often only discuss data virtualisation in a business intelligence or analytics context. However, Denodo proves very well that data virtualisation could – and should – be part of your API strategy.

Firstly, a quick refresher on data virtualisation (you can find a more in-depth introduction to it here). Denodo's definition sums it up well: “Data virtualization is a logical data layer that integrates all enterprise data siloed across the disparate systems, manages the unified data for centralized security and governance, and delivers it to business users in real time.” What's more, data virtualisation enables real-time data integration without extensive coding and reducing physical data copying. 

The latter makes Denodo especially attractive, as businesses do not have to pay to move and warehouse the data, but can still reap the benefits of bringing it together. Better still, data virtualisation is easier to implement than most other solutions, as it accommodates existing infrastructure in its existing state. So, how does this fit into your API strategy?

Each of these capabilities listed so far can support a variety of API use cases. While Denodo is not an API management tool per se, it offers many relevant functionalities for strategic API implementation. For instance, among Denodo's capabilities, it offers centralised authentication and authorisation, monitoring and access auditing, API integration, and more. These features are, of course, typical of what you'd expect to find in API management tools. In turn, you could almost think of Denodo as a kind of API gateway – but only almost, as Denodo is not intending to disguise itself as one. 

With Denodo, you can use the virtual layer it creates to control and manage access to different APIs. Perhaps more importantly,  data virtualisation allows businesses to expose their data assets more easily and to a wider audience than ever before. The assets in question are your integrated curated data assets, which external entities can get creative with. Paul Moxon, Denodo's SVP Data Architectures & Chief Evangelist, shares a great example in this Denodo webinar of Transport for London (TfL). TfL exposes APIs to build information on trains and timetables. This provides other developers with an opportunity to create mobile applications that share this information for its own purposes (in TfL's case, it'd be something like Citymapper).

Denodo at a Major Semiconductor Vendor

To demonstrate why Denodo is perfect for your API strategy, we will look at a couple of customer case studies. The first customer is a major semiconductor company which was looking to make it easier for its different business units and departments to make use of its data processes. 

This company firstly chose to use API technology and data services. At the beginning, they used more conventional technologies to create these services. However, they quickly learnt that this method was creating a bottleneck and that it was particularly time-consuming. 

In a bid to accelerate their mission, they turned to Denodo and data virtualisation, which proved to be a fantastic decision. Here is a breakdown of what the company found in numbers:

  • Since opting for Denodo, the company now has over 1,000 internal users in data virtualisation
  • The business now has over 1,000 data services in production that consume data from more than 300 data sources
  • Of all the business units within the company, 23 out of 26 are now using data virtualisation. These units are recognising productivity gains increase from 50% to 90%

The numbers speak for themselves. Despite not being the most obvious route for API strategies, data virtualisation can actually be far more effective than more conventional tools.

GetSmarter

GetSmarter, a company that provides online short courses from top universities, is another organisation that leveraged Denodo and data virtualisation to facilitate its API-based initiative.

GetSmarter lacked common definitions for several entities, so the company decided to replace its CRM with specialised microservices to target business contexts or entities (such as enrolment, user interface, and communications). However, this meant that GetSmarter would need to connect to many different databases for reporting. What's more, they needed a way to streamline the new microservices architecture. By implementing this architecture alongside the Denodo platform, GetSmarter was able to simplify data access throughout its organisation.

In particular, data virtualisation enabled GetSmarter to unify access to the disparate sources, allowing them to expose the data from microservices and to deliver it to consumers in a more agile way. As an added bonus, GetSmarter could also take advantage of Denodo's ability to implement global governance protocols across a single point of control. Therefore, GetSmarter could easily ensure compliance with South Africa's Protection of Personal Information.

As a result of opting for data virtualisation, GetSmarter was able to enjoy a real-time, universal access point across all reporting databases. WIth Denodo in tow, GetSmarter could also ensure that students always get connected to the right success manager, and quickly too. 

Of course, the migration to the new infrastructure is a big task. However, by performing a phased migration, GetSmarter could maintain operations, and users would be none-the-wiser to what was occurring in the background. To find out how Denodo also enabled an easy cloud migration for GetSmarter, check out this article here.

Digital transformation will manifest itself differently for every organisation, but if APIs are to underpin these initiatives, then it's in every business's best interests to enhance their API ecosystem. With a highly diverse and impressive customer base, Denodo can make data virtualisation and APIs work for just any business in any industry, including yours too.