Last week Apigee held their I Love APIs 2014 (#ILoveAPIs) conference in San Francisco at Fort Mason. These are some of my take-away’s and general thoughts of the conference for the one and a half days that I attended.

  • This was the 2nd year that Apigee has held the conference. The conference appeared to have doubled in attendees from the prior year. My sources tell me there were approximately 1600 registered attendees. Compared to other API conferences this was by far one of the largest. The messaging continues to be why companies must make a digital transformation leveraging APIs to accelerate this.
  • This year there seemed to be a bit more focus on how APIs can help with big data challenges, as well as predictive applications. This was evident with their announcement of Apigee Insights and big data session track. Insights is the big data predictive actions platform that enables the enterprise to increase revenue and customer satisfaction with API-powered predictive apps that anticipate and adapt to the needs of each customer.
  • Apigee also did a deep dive on a predictive app using their Insights product. The demo showed an iPhone shopping app that made marketing offers based on the habits of the user. This demo used Apigee 127 (GitHub), a model-first toolkit for building rich, enterprise-class APIs in Node.js on your laptop. They also included a demo of a data scientist using R-Client to build predictive models.
  • I attended the Adaptive Applications: Reimagine the Future session within the big data track. Mike Gualtieri of Forrester Research presented at this session. He has some very good points in his presentation. He cited that 30% of business decision makers are confused about big data and that big data (data++) means all the data available to you, not just unstructured data. It should also include binary data, something people forget about. Only 12% of enterprises unlock the real potential of data due to soiled data. Predictive analytics is the next wave of innovation. Netflix’s recommendation feature is an example of predictive analytics. Adaptive apps anticipate a customer’s intent. APIs are the hooks to help deliver predictive analytics and apps. SOA, API and DW teams need to be aligned to deliver the foundation for predictive apps development. Check out Apache Mahout, Weka (Waikato Environment for Knowledge Analysis) and for machine learning libraries and the R scripting language for statistical computing and graphics.
  • I really liked the dedicated business track that Apigee had for the conference, something you don’t see at other API venues. In my opinion, this is a key track for companies and the industry especially in these early stages of API adoption for enterprises.
  • Analysts cite that by 2020 there will be 50B devices in the world. Apigee was adamant that companies need a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) as executive sponsor and champion for supporting digital transformation. Some examples showed this as a new position or a role for an existing position at the C-level. More importantly, it is someone who can communicate opportunities rather than the dangers of a digital transformation, as well as help educate the management team on the transformation.
  • Apigee did something unique during the keynote and that was to hand out Digital Accelerator Awards to their customers that were leading the way on the digital transformation for their company. Some of the winners were: Pearson, Walgreens, and McCormick.
  • During a 1st panel discussion with Walgreens, Accenture and Tradier it was stated that industries are using APIs to leap frog more advanced competitors and gain an advantage that would have not otherwise existed. It was recommended to not focus on the cost, but rather focus on the business value and the ROI.
  • In another panel discussion called Digital Transformation: Beyond The Bits they again focused on the importance of the CDO and on ROI. They thought the need for the CDO is to align the executive team, but also help put in governance models to help the business prioritize and adopt this journey.
  • In the panel discussion on Digital Pioneers with Edmond Mesrobian (Expedia), Jerry Wolfe (McCormick), and Joe Tobolski (Cognizant), they provided thoughts on innovation and enterprise adoption. The cost of experimenting is dropping, and it pays to try new things. However, do it quickly and measure the feedback loop. Experiments a year ago might be relevant now, customers are quickly catching up. Getting analytics into APIs is the next big challenge. Models need to be callable. You’ll need to convince through results. Companies need talent that are learners, passionate, willing to preservere. Solve business problems. Find developers and supporting talent that want to solve business problems. Not just IT execution. Let developers in on the conversation and you will empower the developers. The challenge will be for companies to pivot and scale in the new digital world. Those that invest will reap the rewards.
  • The last session I attended was on Hypermedia within the API track. LL Bean presented their use of Hypermedia. LL Bean has been evolving their API catalog since 2003. They wanted to use hypermedia to help with developer usability. The implementation of hypermedia added complexity to their testing and had to move to BDD (Behavior-driven Development). The hypermedia specification is still evolving and more tools are needed to support hypermedia adoption. e.g. hypermedia browsers

Overall a great conference put on by Apigee. There were a lot of energized API developers and business folks looking to learn. Fort Mason is a great venue, however, many of the sessions were hard to hear since the rooms were only partitioned by large curtains, so other sessions bled into one another. I found getting to the session early and sitting in the front helped. Apigee is growing, the API market is growing, and more companies are looking for a competitive edge. This is a recipe for success for Apigee. I’m looking forward to next year’s conference.

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