IBM Makes a Big Play for the API Economy with StrongLoop

APIs have become essential in connecting systems of engagement with the systems of record typically found on the IBM z System. That’s one reason why IBM earlier this month acquired StrongLoop, Inc., a software provider that helps developers connect enterprise applications to mobile, Internet of Things (IoT) and web applications in the cloud mainly through rapidly proliferating and changing APIs.  Take this as a key signal IBM intends to be a force in the emerging API economy. Its goal is to connect existing enterprise apps, data, and SOA services to new channels via APIs.

api economy ibm

Courtesy: developer.IBM.com (click to enlarge)

Key to the acquisition is StrongLoop’s position as a leading provider of Node.js, a scripting language that has become a favorite among developers needing to build applications using APIs. According to IBM it intends to integrate Node.js capabilities from StrongLoop with its own software portfolio, which already includes MobileFirst and WebSphere, to help organization better use enterprise data and conduct transactions whether in the cloud or on-premises.

These new capabilities, IBM continues, will enable organizations and developers to build scalable APIs, and more easily connect existing back-end enterprise processes with front-end mobile, IoT, and web apps in an open hybrid cloud. Node.js is one of the fastest growing development frameworks for creating and delivering APIs in part due to it similarities with JavaScript. This shortens the learning curve.

Although Node.js is emerging as the standard for APIs and micro-services, APIs still present challenges. These include the lack of an architected approach, limited scalability, multiple languages and point products, limited data connectors, and large, fragile monolithic applications.

Mainframe data centers, in particular, are sitting on proven software assets that beg to be broken out as micro-services to be combined and recombined to create new apps for use in mobile and Web contexts. As IoT ramps up the demand for these APIs and more will skyrocket.  And the mainframe data center will sit at the center of all this, possibly even becoming a revenue generator.

In response, StrongLoop brings API creation and lifecycle support and back end data connectors. It also will integrate with IBM’s API management, creating an API Platform that can enable polyglot run-times, integration, and API performance monitoring. It also will integrate with IBM’s MobileFirst Platform, WebSphere and other products, such as Bluemix, to enable Node across the product portfolio. StrongLoop also brings Arc and its LoopBack framework, which handles everything from API visual modeling to process manager to scale APIs, and a security gateway. Together StrongLoop Arc along with IBM’s API Management can deliver the full API lifecycle. IBM also will incorporate select capabilities from StrongLoop into its IoT Foundation, a topic DancingDinosaur expects to take up in the future.

At the initial StrongLoop acquisition announcement Marie Wieck, general manager, Middleware, IBM Systems, alluded to the data center possibilities, as noted above: “Enterprises are focused on digital transformation to reach new channels, tap new business models, and personalize their engagement with clients. APIs are a critical ingredient.” The fast adoption of Node.js for rapidly creating APIs combined with IBM’s strength in Java and API management on the IBM cloud platform promises a winning strategy.

To make this even more accessible, IBM is adding Node.js to Bluemix, following a summer of enhancements to Bluemix covered here by DancingDinosaur just a few weeks ago. Java remains the leading language for web applications and transaction systems. Combining StrongLoop’s Node.js tools and services with IBM’s WebSphere and Java capabilities will help organizations bridge Java and Node.js development platforms, enabling enterprises to extract greater value from their application investments. Throw in integration on IBM Bluemix and the Java and Node.js communities will gain access to many other IBM and third-party services including access to mobile services, data analytics, and Watson, IBM’s crown cognitive computing jewel.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran IT analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at technologywriter.com and here.

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