The other day, I was looking at a car rental website to book a reservation. To my surprise, what followed were numerous advertisements popping up on my web browser – all much better deals than those on the site I was searching! I was amazed. I wondered how my single search result could personalize the kind of advertisements that appear in my web path every day and how the web is becoming more personal for us over time. This personalization is achieved through data-sensing our daily browsing capabilities.
MEANING AND IMPORTANCE OF DATA
Raw data describes the facts and figures that a company receives, processes, or stores every day as daily transactions occur in its business area. For example, in a retail environment, each sale is recorded. However, not much insight can be derived from reading or analyzing data in pure isolation. Data analysis generates more and more insights as it is gradually processed to add context, relevance, and purpose. That’s when it starts to be known as “Information.” Information today might help cure a disease, boost a company’s revenue, make organizational processes more efficient, assist in informed-decision making or even generate those “personalized” ads you keep seeing everyday.
Data itself can render in many forms. Anything that has to do with my personal vital stats, health information, and security-related information could be termed as “personal” data. Similarly, anything I explore on internet, that is pushed to my web client from a public network based on my search results can be termed as “website data” or simply web data.
Another completely different kind of data, which is gaining significance nowadays, is “sensory” data, which can be collected using sensory devices connected to bodies and can be used in many forms to gain useful insights.
We know it’s not just a decade to “be right,” but instead “be right and be fast” about it. Organizations are evolving faster than we have ever known before. Requirements change every day. Such a high pace of information gathering has made some in-memory solutions such as Spark and noSQL databases extremely popular and desirable. Everyone needs a mechanism to not only get information, but also get it fast and more accurately for business decision-making. One practice that has come of age to achieve these new goals is the use of APIs to fetch data on-the-fly. Yes, APIs can be extremely useful, and there are advantages of using APIs to expose data and collect it from data sources.
ADVANTAGES OF APIs
- Interoperability: APIs can fetch specific data from sources based on transaction records stored in systems. However, when data that is sought from different areas can be combined in a similar context, it can provide meaningful insight. For such implementations, APIs can be great candidates.
- Data formats: APIs prefer to fetch data in JSON format for its advantages but can also fetch data in XML format if need be. This change of data format can be quickly applied when data is retrieved using APIs.
- Abstract multiple layers: As outlined in this post on mitigating security risks with APIs, APIs can provide multiple abstraction layers: core system layer APIs (sitting on a data layer to fetch data using API calls), processing layer APIs (sitting on gateways), and experience layer APIs (shared with external developers to build their apps against). This kind of multi-layer architecture helps to separate areas of concern and secure layers across an enterprise very efficiently.
- CRUD capability: End users with NO database experience can efficient do CRUD on data with APIs. This is one of the most important reasons why having a layer of APIs on top of core data layer would be a huge advantage for any service layer. Any appropriate person with desired level of authorization can get access to data from core sources and perform “read and write” transactions on the data with the help of API layers, without real in-depth knowledge of database systems. Technologies are evolving nowadays which ensure ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, and Durability) properties of databases even with provision for accessing and updating them with API calls. CA Technologies have created one such tool called Live API Creator, which does the same thing.
- Customer personalization: Leverage these new technologies to reach customers at more personal level.
With the need to reach your customer base in any business at much faster and personal level, it has become important for systems to perform efficient information mining, use techniques that require lesser learning curve and hence provide much faster time-to-market. Having APIs to do all the data learning and hence help in information mining is going to definitely provide any organization an edge over its peers in the market.
If you’re just getting started with APIs in your data integration strategy, take a look at our new guide for the steps to take and questions to ask for a solid API foundation.