Speaker Interview: Nathan Brock & Rafal Jachimczyk, BBC

We feature Nathan Brock and Rafal Jachimczyk, speakers at the upcoming 2018 Platform Summit.

The Nordic APIs Platform Summit is renowned for its myriad of speakers from different industries and verticals. In advance of our 2018 offering, we sat down with two speakers from media and broadcasting – Nathan Brock, Principal Software Engineer, and Rafal Jachimczyk, Senior Software Engineer – who both work on the API Management team at the BBC.

The Role of API Management at the BBC

APIs have an increasingly important role to play at the BBC, in delivering content to front-facing products and partners. For over 100 years it has traditionally been a “linear broadcast company”, but is experiencing a paradigm shift in how it distributes content.

Nathan and Rafal describe this as “the next chapter” which:

“… will see us become an Internet first platform. This shift requires an open API landscape that supports standardized system communication.”

Clearly, API management is fundamental to getting this right. Nathan and Rafal see their role in the API Management team as providing the means to enable the “vast” API landscape in the BBC. It’s a work in progress, but they see the team as leading by example with the goal of making the API space “more unified and easier to consume”.

Challenges in API Delivery

That ease of consumption is difficult to achieve, however in a fragmented landscape of standards adoption. The team finds themselves working with a multitude of different integration patterns with their partners. Nathan and Rafal give examples where:

“some parties still exchange data with us via FTP connections, wheres others are happy with JSON APIs”.

They see the future as being one driven by both standards adoption – both in API style and security – and greater means of API discovery will become commonplace. Rafal predicts this move to standardization will be driven by the Internet of Things, and that:

“we will see new era of both API and user/machine facing applications where a single identity is used to navigate the rich ecosystem…human identity and machine identity [will be] working together in a coherent API landscape”.

Nathan also cites the technology challenge inhibiting standardization, especially around HATEOAS:

“…there’s no equivalent to HTML in the API space at the moment. HATEOAS hasn’t been adopted at the rate people expected, this idea of a common client being able to traverse an API that tells the client where to go instead of being asked has yet to be realized.”

However, standardization and discovery are not the only challenges that manifest themselves at the BBC. Rafal defines internal discovery and reuse as being something the organization could do better:

“We don’t dog-food our APIs enough. We need more of that to understand how easy our APIs are to use by third parties.”

Nathan also cites:

“a growing numbers of autonomous teams across the organisation, whilst still providing a common and unified onboarding process and access platform”.

The Nordic APIs Platform Summit

Nathan and Rafal are obviously looking forward to speaking at Platform Summit and have a number of items on their agenda for their talk:

  • The BBC is a huge organization and they have some unique insights in delivering API management at scale.
  • Delivering at scale has meant customizations in their approach, including delivering their own proxy software and filling in where commercial API management products miss the mark. The guys are keen to share their experiences in this space, and what they describe as “our need for modularisation”.
  • They’ll also discuss how the API Management team incorporates and imbibes ideas from many different autonomous teams across the organization.

Whilst it’s their first year speaking they have both attended the Platform Summit before. They highlighted two talks from last year that really resonated with them:

To finish, Nathan summarized the experience of the Summit:

“It’s great to see passionate and interesting people come together in one place to share their ideas and thinking of what we are as an industry and where we’re heading”.