The Next Managed Services Battleground: APIs

The Next Managed Services Battleground: APIs

PuzzleI wrote that same headline for one of my blog entries about a year ago. Even today, I believe that open application programming interfaces (APIs) will be the difference between success and failure in the managed services industry.

The latest example: Autotask is writing to Kaseya's APIs, in a bid to build tighter integration between the two automation platforms. Plenty of other companies are kicking around the API concept in a bid to snap their platforms together.

In some ways, the current API movement mirrors the early days of Microsoft Windows. MSPs that study Microsoft's rise in the operating system world are bound to thrive in today's software industry. Here's why.

Independent software developers -- rather than end-users -- helped Windows achieve critical mass in the 1990s. As more and more ISVs wrote to Microsoft's APIs, the software giant's operating system suddenly reached its tipping point.

Now, apply that lesson to today's managed services market. VARs and managed service providers don't have the time or money required to piece together multiple third-party platforms. Instead, they will depend on platform providers to build hooks between their offerings. They'll also look for applications that snap into MSP frameworks.

That's where APIs enter the picture. In the case of Autotask and Kaseya, MSPs say they are leveraging newfound integration between the two platforms to deliver integrated reporting and workflow to their customers, according to a Kaseya release.

For mutual Autotask-Kaseya customers, the APIs are a potential win-win. But the MSP industry as a whole will need to find a way to make sure individual platforms snap together into integrated solutions.

Now, for the challenge: If every platform provider introduces its own set of APIs, software developers could wind up with a confusing mix of options. Chances are, the industry will consolidate around a few platforms that have the richest APIs -- much in the way that the operating system world has consolidated around Windows, Unix, Linux and Mac OS X in recent years.

The key takeaway for the MSP industry: Make it easy for software developers to support your platform, and the customers will follow.

TAGS: Technology
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