Apigee Unleashes an API Free-for-All

Apigee Corp. , the company that "has an API for everything," is offering its application programming interface (API) management platform free of charge to anyone in hopes of adding fuel to the already hot mobile apps space.

An API is an interface that allows different elements of software to more easily communicate with each other. Developers frequently use APIs in a mobile context to hook third-party applications into the wireless capabilities of an operating system or other application.

Apigee's new self-service platform gives anyone with an app the ability to make 3.5 million API calls per month. An app completes an API call anytime it performs a function or pings the network -- for example, when Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) pulls up information on a movie or Twitter Inc. sends a tweet.

And, if 3.5 million doesn't mean anything to you, Apigee CTO Greg Brail says it's about one API call per second -- enough to create something real but far less than most big corporations use. For those companies that do require more, Apigee offers a premium service starting at $9,000 per month.

It's a self-serve platform, but Brail says that Apigee has improved the user interface and is making a number of tools available to enterprises breaking into the apps space. Specifically, Apigee helps an enterprise transform its data assets into APIs securely and at scale. It provides tools through its recent Usergrid acquisition, such as a social graph, user management, data storage and geo-location, to build a robust app. Then, Apigee simplifies the on-boarding process and helps the company build a developer community around its APIs, as well as provides analytics on the API data. (See Apigee Adds to API Arsenal.)

Apigee's growing API ecosystem
According to the company, which raised $20 million in funding last month, almost 20 percent of the top 100 Fortune 500 companies, including Walgreens and Netflix, use Apigee, making more than 100 billion API calls per month. On the flip-side of the equation, however, the wireless operators, like AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF), are Apigee's biggest partners. (See Apigee Raises $20M for API Expansion, Telefonica Partners With Apigee and KT Picks Apigee.)

By acting as the gateway between developers or enterprises and wireless operators, Apigee finds itself in the same territory as Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), which recently added consulting services and an API methodology to its apps enablement business. While both companies may be competing for operator attention, Brail says Apigee's real competition is customers debating whether to build API strategies themselves or work with a third party vendor. But, both AlcaLu and Apigee are helping get more operator APIs out there, and that's a good thing, he says. (See Alcatel-Lucent Puts Its APIs to Work.)

"[Operators have] run reliable networks for many years, so when they say anyone can build an app to use our network, there's a lot of people saying, 'you better be careful with it,'" Brail said of the operators' caution in exposing their APIs. He said they're coming around, however, and having a gateway like Apigee's in place helps them enforce policies and protect the network.

Apigee also acquired the Wholesale Application Community's technology assets last month. Brail said that the WAC was already using Apigee to launch its API program, so it was a good fit when the consortium threw in the towel. Apigee plans to leverage the WAC's multi-currency billing platform, as well as its connections to the wireless operators -- 24 operators started WAC in 2010 -- to track down more customers. (See Wave Goodbye to WAC.)

"It's a lot more than getting the technology for cheap," Brail said of WAC. "It's good people with good relationships and capabilities we'll be integrating into our platform to make it more powerful."

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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