IT Leadership

Need to Move Towards API-first Development Approach: Ankit Sobti, CTO & Co-founder, Postman

Ankit Sobti, CTO & Co-founder, Postman

There is an explosion in APIs these days. API is the programming logic needed to access Web applications. Testing them is quite a task for developers. However, with the advent of platforms like Postman, an ecosystem for API development, dealing with Application Programming Interfaces has become simpler. Postman products allow the developer community to share APIs with their peers on a specific project. This, in turn, facilitates the DevOps teams to be able to collaborate while designing software. Postman API development environment is used by nearly five million developers and more than 100,000 companies worldwide. Ankit Sobti (AS), CTO & Co-founder, Postman, in an interview with Muqbil Ahmar (MA), Executive Editor, dynamicCIO, explains how API development platforms are an essential cog in the digital superstructure and need to be as accessible as possible for everyone. Sobti talks about API development and how Postman is helping developers in designing, testing as well as monitoring of APIs.

MA: How do you see the growth of API culture in the context of growing digital adoption in India? How are developers viewing the growing use of API?

AS: Software composition is moving from libraries to APIs. In today’s digital age, companies need to push complex products in minimum time span and constantly scale it. This has led to the need for domain expertise and more focused development. API culture naturally grows, when domain expertise needs to be shared. Let’s take an example of delivery services that are booming in India right now – a lot of components need to come together to build a delivery application, but not all those components need to be built by one development team. They can focus on the core product while leveraging the expertise of partner APIs like payment gateways for payment processing, Google maps for GPS tracking. This automatically leads to dependency on APIs and growth of an API culture.

Developers understand the value of collaboration and are steadily moving towards an API-first development approach. Yes, there are some industries where security plays a very big role and using third-party APIs or partner APIs gets a bit of a pushback but the confidence in both, API security and documentation, has increased year after year.

MA: India is the hub of a bright developer community, housing development centres of several global technology behemoths. How do you see the developer community here faring vis-a-vis competition from other countries like China and how can the developer ecosystem be strengthened further in terms of design and products?

AS: In India, we need a shift in management focus. Instead of focusing on how much time is spent on building something or who are the teams working on it, we need to focus on what’s being shipped. We already have the advantage of global companies establishing themselves in India and seeing India as a technology hub for the world. If we nurture the community with this approach, where you work won’t matter but what you do would. This would not only help grow the current developer community but also give the freelance or consultant models a chance to flourish.

MA: You have recently announced a new API development platform for the enterprise. How do you intend to help businesses with your offering?

AS: Modern software is built on APIs. Companies and developers are building software that exposes APIs. They can be re-composed or connected with other pieces. Entire applications can be built just using APIs. Postman’s goal has been to make the API development process better and faster. We have several tools, all combined together in an API development environment for individual developers to use. Developers first start using Postman, then aggregate themselves into teams. A company itself can be seen as a combination of teams. It is not just the developers that use or build an API though. Teams from different disciplines need to work on the API as it goes from a technical abstraction to a company abstraction. These include QA, DevOps, DevRel and more.

To make Postman a complete API development platform, we are introducing an API as an abstraction in Postman which will help large teams represent schemas, gateways, metrics on top of the collections that they are already collaborating on. This will really help large companies consolidate their entire API workflow on a single platform.

MA: There has been a lot of evolution of modern technology such as microservices, containers and serverless architecture as well as the development of novel workflows like DevOps. Do you think it is leading to growth in API use?

AS: Yes, these are the most exciting technologies for API developers. The complexity of system design has shifted to the complexity of managing interconnected services and APIs have made that possible. Each team in a microservice architecture owns a service and is responsible for that service’s roadmap which, at least in theory, makes that service self-sufficient from development to deployment. Every other dependent service will interact with it through an API. There are a lot of other factors that need to be worked out for these exciting technologies to be ideal, but APIs are definitely the cornerstone of this new age of software development.

MA: With thousands of applications in the market and the customers getting ever demanding, how do you think developers should try to get customer attention?

AS: It’s very important to constantly listen to your customer – for any product or application that you build. Focus of your development team needs to be on the problem you set out to solve and constantly ask yourself and your customers are you still accomplishing that? Postman is built through constant user feedback which gets translated into company roadmaps. Another very essential factor in customer retention is quick delivery time. Hence, leveraging of APIs wherever you can becomes a core part of your development workflow.

MA: How do you differentiate yourself from other competitors in the market? How do you support developers as far as frontend and backend is concerned?

AS: Postman is constantly working towards making the API development process smoother and faster. Our USP keeps evolving as the product grows. From a REST client to a complete API development environment, we have come a long way. Today, a developer can do everything from designing, testing, documenting or publishing your API to collaborating with different teams using workspaces. I would say the biggest advantage of using Postman is the ease with which you can collaborate with different teams and reduce friction. Frontend and backend teams being a very good example of that. Once the backend team has defined and shared an API with the frontend team, they can continue to build the backend system while at the same time frontend teams can build the UI and write the contracts. This reduces the friction and back and forth that we have seen as a common scenario with these core teams.

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