Look for a JSON-based API
If your company isn’t already using a cloud-based business application, there’s a very good chance that they will be in the next year or so. What makes me so sure?
- IDC reports that cloud-based application revenues will reach $67.3 billion by 2016
- Cisco’s Global Cloud Index reports that global cloud traffic will be two-thirds of all data center traffic by 2016
So if your company is looking for a new, or even a replacement cloud-based business app, you’re probably also thinking about how it will integrate with your existing application environment. That means you’ll need to take a very close look at the application’s API (Applications Programming Interface) – and how it will exchange data with other business applications.
Today, the two most common data interchange formats for API’s are:
- XML (Extensible Markup Language) – a format that was derived from Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML)
XML has many adherents. After all, it’s a text-based language (that people can read) and it is position independent. However, in almost every respect, JSON’s capabilities match, and often exceed those of XML using a much smaller grammar. And JSON’s grammar can be manipulated either directly or by high quality libraries in practically most of today’s languages.
What else makes JSON as good as, and usually better than, XML in an API?
- It is easy for anyone (even non-programmers!) to read (easier than XML) and machines can read and write it more easily as well.
- It has a robust data structure.
- JSON is designed for data exchange, XML for document exchange. XML requires the translation of the data structure into a document. This can be a complicated and time-consuming process. JSON structures by comparison, are based on arrays and records – the essence of pure data.
- It’s simpler to implement (the smaller grammar makes it much easier and faster to integrated and simplifies troubleshooting as well).
And for those of you with existing XML-based API’s that are concerned about bringing in a new application with a JSON-based API – don’t be. XML vocabularies can be automatically converted to JSON making the transition to JSON simple and uncomplicated.
Maintaining the information flow between business applications is always critical. Every department – from finance to product management – needs access to a common set of data. Data that will help the business grow and maintain profitability.
As your company begins the process of entering the world of cloud-based applications, or looks for a new or replacement “best of breed” solution, make sure to spend time examining the maturity and architecture of the application’s API. Pay special attention to how data will be exchanged with other applications.
Then look for the cloud-based application who’s API integrates the simplest, most efficient data exchange format currently available. The format that anyone or any machine can read, is the easiest to troubleshoot and supports fast implementation and integration. Look for the API that uses JSON for data exchange.
By Andronikos Nedos
Software Architect / Fieldaware