IBM's next big Bluemix move: API management

Amid stiff competition, IBM is leveraging Bluemix's API capabilities to transition to a services company

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In Mike Nichols' 1967 film "The Graduate," one character has sage words of advice for young Dustin Hoffman's character: "Plastics. There's a great future in plastics!" Today, the advice to a company involved with modern IT could be cast as: "APIs. There's a great future in API management!"

Which is what IBM is about to try with Bluemix.

One of the latest additions to the platform (already an API-driven endeavor) is IBM API Management, an attempt at creating a version of other services that allow both the creation of new APIs and resynthesizing existing ones.

API Management provides two basic sets of services: discovery and design. The former lets you pick up on existing REST and SOAP services. The fact that SOAP is mentioned by name in IBM's documentation (along with service registries "such as those on z/OS") indicates how IBM is trying to make this as useful as possible to its existing, legacy customer base. Meanwhile, the design services allow APIs to be built from scratch, imported from Swagger or WSDL descriptions, or composited to form new APIs.

Much else of IBM's other claims with API Management should sound familiar to those already involved with the minutiae of API management: access and version control, rate limiting, gathering performance metrics, and sharing created APIs with other developers.

As with IBM's other Bluemix services, the costs are based on usage. The first 5,000 API calls per month are free (with the next 100,000 going for $5.65), and additional charges apply when more than one developer is involved or operations exceed the base 50MB of storage reserved for analytics use.

APIs are fast becoming the building blocks of a microservices-driven world of IT, and companies all across the map have been stumping solutions in the same "don't build it, take control of it" vein. IBM is entering an already-bustling field, with new products and takes on the concept emerging constantly. This past month, for example, Mashape emerged with an API management system that's also designed to do cover many of the same tasks IBM is claiming for API Management.

IBM is transforming into a services company, and to do so, it's leveraging Bluemix as a provider of API-accessed services. Existing functions like the Private API catalog, a way for organizations to selectively republish their own internal APIs through Bluemix, have hewed close to this new territory and may help IBM get a leg up on the competition.

IBM's bet is to have Bluemix be the differentiator due to how it can hook up and repurpose other items. Still, IBM will have to find a way to make its offering integrate as seamlessly and painlessly as possible with the existing ways organizations are already building and deploying APIs, lest they lose out to lighter and nimbler competition.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.