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API orchestration is the process of integrating and coordinating multiple APIs. Learn more + how OpenLegacy helps with orchestration involving legacy systems.


API Orchestration: What Is It & Why Does It Matter?

Posted by Angela Davis on March 19, 2024
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Lots of modern tech systems and applications rely on a complex network of APIs, working busily behind the scenes to make sure everything coordinates and communicates as it should. 

As tech evolves and becomes more complex, the API networks we use gain complexity with it. Many businesses utilize systems made up of a variety of networks of interlinked APIs. 

All of these must be well organized and orchestrated for each network to operate as it should, and for those networks to work together effectively for the benefit of the system as a whole.

Without API orchestration, you’re at greater risk of your applications glitching out or even — at worst — entire system failure.

Here, we’ll go into what API orchestration is, its benefits, and how it can be done effectively.

What is API orchestration?

How an API works.

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APIs (application programming interfaces) are the parts of a tech system that enable the various components to communicate and work together. 

For example, when you look at a map app on your phone, an API is responsible for carrying data between your geolocation tech and the map’s interface, enabling you to see where you are and what’s surrounding you.

Complex apps, software, and solutions may have a large number of APIs working together as part of an intricate network. API orchestration is about making sure that this network is well organized, well integrated, and operating in smooth, well-coordinated harmony.

Think of it like swans on a lake. When things are working properly, the birds should appear to glide serenely across the surface of the water, effortless and graceful. This is akin to the ideal user experience—smooth, seamless, and satisfying.

But beneath the surface, the swans’ legs are all churning away rapidly to propel them. This is comparable to the back end of a tech application, which relies heavily on a range of APIs all working hard to keep the app afloat. 

API orchestration is all about coordinating your APIs to work together as neatly and efficiently as possible. 

API orchestration and API integration: How are they different?

You may hear the phrase “API integration” used in the same context as API orchestration, but it’s important to point out that these are not the same thing.

API integration is all about adding APIs together in a network and making sure they can interoperate. 

API orchestration, on the other hand, is focused on ensuring that pre-integrated APIs communicate properly together and work in harmony with other APIs and API networks. 

Good orchestration and integration do have some overlap. Good initial integration makes API orchestration a lot easier. Similarly, API orchestration can improve overall integration. 

How API orchestration tools work

There are several major aspects to API orchestration:

  1. Integration. Good integration software solutions, like OpenLegacy, will be able to integrate legacy systems with modern cloud-based technology. This gives a smoother flow of data, which provides a good foundation on which to build a well-orchestrated API system.
  2. Data transformation. It’s a lot quicker and easier to orchestrate your data when it’s standardized. A good API orchestration tool will transform all data involved into formats that can sync effectively with other data in the system.
  3. Logical workflows. Systems, especially legacy systems, may have a complicated range of call-and-response processes, which can be streamlined simply by making workflows more logical. API orchestration tools can help boost workflow functionality through various means, including visual design and automated streamlining.
  4. Automation. API orchestration can help automate everything from workflows to inter-departmental data syncing. Most API orchestration tools will include building and using automation as a crucial part of the orchestration process.
  5. Monitoring. Building a well-orchestrated system is only the first part of the orchestration process. Ongoing monitoring and flagging of errors is also essential. This monitoring and error flagging ensures your API orchestration remains effective and high quality, and that you can quickly make changes and updates when needed.
  6. Retrying. Syncing and inter-API communication can fail on occasion. A good API orchestration tool will make sure any failed communications are retried fast and frequently. Often, the block to communications will pass quickly, so retries mean that the end user doesn’t have to worry about (or, sometimes, even be aware of) the issue and manually make retries themselves.
  7. Security. Security measures are very important, but things like authentication layers can impede the free flow of data between APIs. A good orchestration tool can handle this security layer to make sure that security is handled effectively and doesn’t hold up workflows.
  8. Caching. An API orchestration framework will support data caching too. This means your API requests don’t always have to go through the entire call-and-response process, which in turn can improve speed and performance.

Why API orchestration matters: The principal benefits for enterprises

So, why bother going to all the trouble of API orchestration to achieve APIzation in your organization? Essentially, doing so brings a lot of benefits for businesses. 

Here are just a few of the benefits of API orchestration:

Streamlined infrastructure to improve efficiency

If you rely on a large number of APIs to work together, you may run across issues from having to deal with multiple information sources. Effective API orchestration helps to streamline your infrastructure and ease the flow of data. 

This can be particularly beneficial when mixing API types, like REST and SOAP APIs, which is something you may need to do when integrating legacy systems.   

Greater agility and scalability within systems

API management market size, 2022 to 2032.

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Good API orchestration makes your systems much more flexible and scalable. This is a big advantage for any company. 

The rate of tech evolution means organizations that aren’t able to rapidly adapt and update their systems will quickly be left behind. So, the flexibility and scalability that API orchestration can give is a must for any company wanting to forge ahead in 2024 and beyond.

But how does API orchestration give greater agility and scalability? Simply by making it easier for companies to add new integrations and make important adjustments. 

API orchestration can make any system a lot more efficient, which in turn adds a huge amount of flexibility. A well-orchestrated API system can be changed and upgraded at speed, while a poorly orchestrated one will take a long time to scale.

Improved customer experience

Ultimately, API orchestration makes your systems run more efficiently. This passes many benefits onto the customer, including:

  • A smoother digital experience
  • Technology that operates as it should (and does so quickly and efficiently)
  • A more organized and effective customer service experience
  • A more coherent and cohesive brand experience
  • Greater productivity, leading to faster and better updates, patches, etc.

All of this has the combined result of greatly improving your customer experience. Your customers will reward this with loyalty, more conversions, and a boosted bottom line.

Real-world examples of API orchestration

A graphic explaining API events and commerce services as a real-world example of where API orchestration is vital.

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One of the best ways to understand API orchestration and its benefits is to put it into a real-world context. So, here are some examples.

  • eCommerce. eCommerce operations have a lot of moving parts, and they often need a complex network of API microservices to make their systems run efficiently. APIs will likely be involved in everything from order processing to inventory management and courier logistics. Good orchestration makes sure all of these systems sync up at the right time and in the right sequence.
  • Healthcare. API orchestration within healthcare ensures patient records and referrals get to the right people at the right time while—crucially—protecting sensitive patient data. 

Orchestration is particularly relevant to wearable health devices such as diabetes ports. In this case, it ensures blood sugar data is quickly transferred to the patient’s app or notifier so they can take action as soon as it needs attention.

  • Logins. Without good API orchestration, logins would be a nightmare. Logins—especially social ones—use API orchestration to keep the process as smooth and fast as possible while maintaining security at all times. 

For example, when using a social login, the API orchestration tools involved will work hard behind the scenes to reach out to the server, authenticate your data, and sync it with the third-party site you’re trying to log into, all without forcing you to input your details.

Where API orchestration can get tricky, and how OpenLegacy can help

API orchestration is often complex, but it’s trickiest when you’re working with legacy systems. For example, these may require a specific API flow to work properly, or you might need to add a huge amount of context data to a legacy API to integrate it effectively with other systems.

All of this makes legacy API orchestration complicated and often frustrating. 

Luckily, OpenLegacy Hub can help. Our platform helps define your API system, enabling you to understand, integrate, and orchestrate it with ease. 

As well as simplifying API orchestration, you can use OpenLegacy Hub to manage digital systems, undertake legacy application integration, extend your digital systems, and more. 

Why not sign up for a free demo today to see what OpenLegacy can do for you?


API orchestration FAQs

What is an orchestrator API?

An orchestrator API (sometimes also referred to as an orchestration API) is responsible for managing other APIs in the most efficient way possible. It will do things like coordinate API sequences, retry failed processes, and help to standardize relevant data.

What’s the difference between orchestration and workflow?

Orchestration is often a vital aspect of efficient workflows, but the two are not the same.

Workflows involve moving a process from one stage to another. They’re usually short and are often automated.

Orchestration involves organizing processes and systems to make them more coordinated and efficient. Workflows are often a big part of this, and workflow orchestration is a vital aspect of any good API orchestration effort—but they’re a part of the whole system rather than the entire thing.

What’s the difference between orchestration and automation?

Automation involves setting up processes to run automatically and without manual intervention. For example, an automated email will be sent to a recipient in response to a trigger action, like ordering a product. No human has to press the button to launch the email—this happens automatically.

Orchestration, on the other hand, involves organizing and coordinating processes. It can be used to organize and even enable automation—but not all orchestration processes are automated, and not all automation is orchestrated.

What is the orchestration layer?

The orchestration layer is an organizational layer of data architecture. It’s responsible for things like transforming data, managing authentications, integrating legacy and new architecture into the wider system, and managing API interactions.

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