What Is a Unified API? When Should You Consider Using One? Posted in Strategy Vyom Srivastava March 15, 2023 Unified API is a type of application programming interface (API) that enables developers to access information from multiple sources through a single interface. In other words, a unified API makes it easier and faster for developers to access data from various databases, applications, systems, and even different APIs. Unified APIs are becoming more popular among software engineers and businesses for their ability to increase productivity, reduce development costs, and simplify the process of integrating different systems. In this blog, we’ll explore what a unified API is and consider its benefits and challenges. We’ll highlight some cases when using a unified API makes sense and look at some examples of unified APIs in practice. Benefits of Using Unified API There are many benefits to using a unified API. Perhaps the most obvious is that it allows for a consistent user experience across all platforms. A unified API essentially acts as a layer between your application and the underlying operating systems. This means that your application code can be platform-agnostic, making it much easier to port to different platforms. In addition, using a unified API can help to improve performance and increase developer experience. This is because a unified API can provide a single access point to tap into many backend services rather than requiring you to build custom integrations for each service. Better designs here can lead to reduced latency and improved overall performance. Finally, using a unified API can help to improve security. This is because a unified API can help to isolate your application from other underlying operating systems. This could prevent potential security vulnerabilities from being exploited. What Are the Types of Unified APIs? Just like standard web APIs, a unified API may come in various styles, including REST, GraphQL, or gRPC. REST: Representational State Transfer (REST) is a popular architectural style for building HTTP APIs and was first outlined by Roy Fielding. GraphQL: GraphQL is an open-source query language that enables developers to easily query multiple fields with a single call. gRPC: gRPC is an open-source Remote Procedure Call (RPC) framework that enables applications to efficiently access data from remote sources. Use Cases for Unified APIs A unified API might be helpful in a variety of scenarios, including: Online retail: Unified APIs can be used to integrate different systems and databases to create an efficient online shopping experience. Mobile applications: Unified APIs can could help develop a mobile app that integrates data from multiple sources. IoT devices: Unified APIs can be used to create connected devices that access data from multiple sources. Big data: Unified APIs can help integrate data from multiple sources to create insights and analytics. Artificial intelligence: Unified API can be used to create AI applications that access data from multiple sources. Challenges of Using Unified APIs As we have seen above, unified APIs have many benefits. However, you should be aware of their limitations as well. For example, a unified API can be complex to develop, and expensive to build and maintain. Additionally, it might be unable to support low latency or real-time data. Or, a unified API may not provide developers with full access to the complete data sources they need. This might make it unsuitable for certain use cases, such as real-time trading. As unified APIs are dependent on third-party services, you might have to rely on those providers to maintain the service. This can lead to a possible service interruption if the providers experience any issues. You should be aware of this risk and have a plan B in case any problems occur. Of course, there are risks when using any public APIs, as they could make data vulnerable to beaches. If you use an open API, your data could be available to thousands of developers. This may pose a risk if one of these developers is malicious and tries to hack your data. On the other hand, private or hybrid APIs are less visible and thus less susceptible to attack. Some Examples of Unified APIs Avage API: A unified API platform that combines various construction relation APIs like Autodesk, BIM, Plangrid, and others. Argyle: Offers a unified API for payroll services. Duffel: A unified API for airline booking. It lets you connect more than 300 airline APIs and book tickets. Apideck: Offers multiple unified APIs in different categories like cloud storage, accounting, CRM, and others. Should You Consider Using a Unified API? As we have discussed above, there are many benefits to using a unified API. It can be used to access information from multiple sources, integrate application software, computer systems, or a combination of both. However, there are some potential risks as well. Now that you know what a unified API is, how it works, its benefits, and its limitations, you might be wondering if you should consider using a unified API or not. Well, APIs that unify multiple backend sources are becoming more important in the modern tech stack. They enable businesses to connect and leverage data from various systems. This meta layer can be used to create powerful tools that can improve productivity. But to make the most out of this technology, you need to choose the right development partner with unified API experience. Final Words In this article, we explored what a unified API is and the key considerations around this technology. Overall, a unified API can be a great tool for developers and businesses needing to aggregate data from multiple sources — especially similar sources within the same vertical. This could reduce the development burden, increase productivity, and simplify the integration process. However, some potential risks are associated with using unified APIs, such as security risks, data loss, and compatibility issues. When choosing a Unified API, make sure to consider these potential risks and weigh them against the potential benefits.