If you are thinking about skipping this post because you are not a developer, or think APIs are irrelevant to you, stop! You are missing the point of an important trend in both security and development. Today we launch our research paper on API gateways. It includes a ton of information about what these gateways are, how they work, and how best to take advantage of them. Additionally, we describe this industry trend and how it bakes security into the services. Even non-developers will be seeing these and working with one in the near future.

On a more personal note, I need to say that this was one of the more fun projects I have worked on recently. The best research projects are the ones where you learn a lot. A full third of the content in this paper either was previously unknown to me, or I had not connected the dots to fully realize the picture they create, before Gunnar Peterson and I started the project. And for you jaded security and IT practitioners who have seen it all, I am willing to bet there is a lot going on here you were not aware of either. Going into the project I did not understand a few key things, such as:

  • That lumbering health care company exposed back-office services to the public. Via the Internet? They can’t get out of their own way on simple IT projects, so how did they do that?
  • I understand what OAuth is, but why is it so popular? It doesn’t make sense!
  • How did that old school brick and mortar shop deliver Android and iOS apps? They don’t develop software!
  • Someone is making money with apps? Bull$!^&: That’s ‘labor of love’ stuff. Show me how, or I don’t buy it!

The word ‘enablement’ is one of those optimistic, feel-good words product vendors love. I stopped using it when I started working at Securosis because we hear a poop-storm of bloated, inappropriate, and self-congratulatory terms without any relevance to reality. When I am feeling generous I call it ‘market-leading’ optimism. So when Gunnar wanted the word ‘enablement’ in the title of the paper I let out a stream of curse words. “Are you crazy? That has got to be the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. Security tech does not enable. Worse, we’ll lose credibility because it will sound like a vendor paper!” But by the end of the project I had caved. Sure enough, Gunnar was right. Not purely from a technical perspective, but also operationally. Security, application development, and infrastructure have evolved with a certain degree of isolation, which enables companies to provide external services while satisfying compliance requirements, often despite lacking in-house development skills.

Anyway, this has been one of the more interesting research projects I have worked on. Gunnar and I worked hard to capture the essence of this trend, so I hope you find it as educational as I did. We would like to heartily thank Intel for licensing this content- they have an API Management solution and you can download the report from Intel’s API Gateway resource center that has tutorials and other related technical papers. We’ll have an upcoming webcast with Intel so I encourage you to register with them if you want more details. You can also download a free copy from our library : API Gateway research.