May 24, 2013

Getting a start with network management – what is an API?

What is an API?

In this case an application programing interface (API) is an interface into the main network management system (NMS) providing the tools and services necessary to allow various third party applications to interact with the main NMS. This modular approach to network management helps each management application developer save money and development time by focusing on the areas that are specific to their business. For instance a network management solution like Enterasys® NetSight™ focuses on network and infrastructure management while a management solution like Mobile Iron® is focused on mobile device management (MDM).

In the end the real winner is IT and users, by allowing each application developer to focus on their areas of expertise verses the impossible task of trying to do it all.

The API acts as an interface between various applications and allows developers to share data and services without actually getting into or understanding the underlying code or software of the applications.

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Figure 1 – NMS, API, interfaces, and application modules

Why use APIs

The explosive growth of Big Data, Social Business, Public/Private Cloud, and Mobility has spawned 1000’s of applications targeted at users and businesses as well as purpose built management solutions to manage them. Never before have there been so many tools and so much analytical data available to so many devices accessible from virtually anywhere in the world.

Network management, is no longer just the task of configuring or managing the network, it is the task of managing the business and facilitating the managed easy-access of users to applications and data that they require to perform their jobs. At the same time the NMS has to be secure and control who, what, when and from where the applications and data are being accessed while maintaining detailed accounting records of user access and user activity in order to meet various compliance mandates such as HIPPA, SOX, PCI, etc.

So why do you need an API? An API available through the NMS creates an environment for application developers and IT to work together to share data and services through the API. The end result is a single management framework where the business data, public/private cloud applications, infrastructure, security, access, analytics and users are managed through a single management console verses individual, desperate applications.

Using an API to consolidate multiple management systems into a single management framework allows each business to create or customize a management system that is tailored to the needs of their business, instead of a one size must fit all approach. This also increases IT efficiencies and saves money because fewer people can now control the business network from a single console.

What to look for in a good API

The following represents some of the key areas to consider when looking at APIs.

ü  Standard well defined and understood interfaces into the API such as  XML, SOAP, or REST

ü  Sample code, documentation, and software development kits (SDKs) to make the process of integration quick and easy

ü  Security:

  • Access control into the API
  • Encrypted interface into the API such as HTTPS, SSL, or TLS to encrypt the data and services sharing between the applications
  • Ability to totally lock down the API if it is not being used

ü  Choose an experienced company offering the API that:

  • Offers professional services and can do the actual application integration
  • Will help you do the integration yourself
  • Provides support prior to, during and after the integration

ü  As always a plan prior to combining applications is always a good idea:

  • What is the end goal or requirements for the business NMS – save money, increase business efficiency, reduce network complexity, and so forth
  • What combination of applications will best meet the needs of your business
  • Experienced vendors that will work together with your business to help with the process

The art of network management has been around as long as networks have been around. Network management systems, tools and methodologies will continue to evolve as the size and complexity of networks continue to grow. APIs reduce network management complexities by allowing application data and services to work as a single management framework. This is the second post on the topic of network management please stay tuned for additional posts on this subject.

For questions or help in planning your network management requirements please contact Enterasys through our Web site and we will be happy to help. Also take a look at the OneFabric Connect API and the partners that have taken advantage of this flexible, easy to use programmable.

To share thoughts and collaborate please follow me @sferguso and I will follow you back.

 

About The Contributor:
Scott FergusonWireless Product Marketing Manager

Scott Ferguson is a Product Marketing Manager at Extreme Networks with 20+ years of domestic and international experience in the computer and data communications industry. He has held numerous senior level positions in engineering, product management, and product marketing for start-ups, fortune 500 companies, and business turnarounds in both carrier and enterprise focused businesses. Scott is an industry leader driving hardware and software products to financial success and market recognition, in: security, management systems, network infrastructure, and applications. Scott has held senior level positions at companies that include Apani Networks, Avaya, Colubris Networks, Nortel Networks, and Xyplex Networks. Scott has also been a consultant for companies helping them achieve their business goals through his strategic / business planning, new product introduction, implementation, and marketing skills.

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