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Anthony Papageorgiou Explains API Enablement on IBM Z

Joseph Gulla discusses API enablement with Anthony Papageorgiou, IBM Senior Inventor and Offering Manager for API Enablement on IBM Z.

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This is the first of a two-part series of articles on API enablement on IBM Z®. I have been discussing API enablement with Anthony Papageorgiou, an IBM Senior Inventor and offering manager for API Enablement on IBM Z. Papageorgiou is based at the UK Laboratories, Hursley Park, Winchester in the United Kingdom.
I have vivid memories of when, many years ago, the Hursley Lab took over development of CICS®. The lab’s first release made so many improvements to the product in one release, like the command-level interface, that it was a stunning achievement. Everyone programming using CICS certainly noticed the improvements. For this and other reasons, I was delighted to work with Papageorgiou and his colleagues.

Business of APIs

In this section on the business aspects of APIs, I asked Papageorgiou how he would explain what, in general, is transpiring with the rise of APIs:
Joseph Gulla (JG): There’s a tremendous amount of IT activity around APIs on both distributed and mainframe systems. ISVs are building commercial software, there are open-source efforts and enterprises, customers of API software have organized significant implementation projects. The focus of these projects seems to be to better use applications and data that they already have through an API-driven approach. For people who have been observing this emerging trend but have not dug into what’s going on, how do you explain it to them. What do you tell them?
Anthony Papageorgiou (AP): So the phrase I tend to lead with is this: APIs are your new products and developers are your new customers. The sooner you can start thinking like that, the better. APIs are about so much more than just connectivity. They’re about providing developers with services and data in the most consumable way possible. We have reached a renaissance in the industry where we now have universally adopted standards like REST and OpenAPI. These provide the framework for us to publish interfaces, which can be easily discovered and consumed by any developer on the planet, regardless of language or platform.
By making business services more accessible and easier to use through APIs, enterprises are tearing down massive barriers to innovation. Whereas before developers would have to work closely with service providers to adopt whatever bespoke protocol or library they demanded, now they don’t even need to talk to them. Want to create a fresh experience around a credit card aimed at students and young people? Go ahead. Building a voice-powered chat bot to take electricity meter readings? No problem. Need to provide pay-per-hour car insurance for people on road trips? Consider it done.
At its heart, this is what the API economy is all about: making products and services more accessible, discoverable and consumable than ever before. Of course, like any product, APIs need to be designed, developed, advertised, managed and, in some cases, charged for, and that’s where the plethora of commercial software offerings come in to help companies achieve this rapidly at enterprise scale.

Offerings Related to APIs

In this section on API offerings, I asked Papageorgiou three specific questions relating to product focus, development method and gathering customer requirements for API offerings.
JG: How do you go about deciding where to focus the work you do with offerings from IBM?
AP: That’s a great question. This is a rapidly changing market and picking which technology or trends to support has made the IBM z/OS® Connect Enterprise Edition project the most interesting and engaging challenge of my entire career. The key has been to maximize the amount of input and feedback we get from the market. You can never have too much information.
The art then is to distill this down into common sets of current and future needs (not everyone expresses the same thing in the same way) and identify the next best step based on what will provide the most value to the most people.
JG: What process do you go though to bring new ideas from concept to commercial product? Is it an Agile process? 
AP: Absolutely. The only way we have been able to keep pace with demand is through the use of modern practices like Design Thinking, DevOps and continuous delivery. We work closely with our customers on every new function delivery to ensure that the design is validated before we release. This way of working allows us to deliver new function every month, making z/OS Connect Enterprise Edition one of the most Agile products on the IBM Z platform.
JG: IBM has a long history of working with its customers to get the desired functions into their products. How are you getting customer input for APIs on IBM Z?
AP: Thankfully we have a fantastic customer community that’s more than happy to engage with us on every level. Whether it be working on detailed designs in our Design Partnership, providing suggestions through Requests for Enhancements (RFEs) or Net Promotor Score (NPS) surveys, one-on-one discussions at conferences or customer briefings, or providing feedback on production deployments. It’s really our customers’ passion and enthusiasm for this project that helped to steer us along the right path.

Next Post

Next week, I’ll share the second part of this series consisting of questions and answers with Rob Jones, chief architect for IBM z/OS Connect EE at IBM, and Andrew Smithson, development technical lead. Both work API enablement for IBM Z using z/OS Connect Enterprise Edition. These questions and answers will relate to tooling, RESTful APIs, security and more.
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