Alcatel-Lucent launches open source platform for API management

The company hopes to drive standardization, and make it easier for operators to open up their networks to developers

In a bid to make it easier for operators to open up their networks to developers, Alcatel-Lucent has introduced an open source and cloud-based API (application programming interface) management platform called apiGrove.

Operators have largely missed the boat on the smartphone application revolution. But by publishing APIs and opening up their networks -- including features such as billing, location and presence information -- to developers, operators can get a second chance to play a more important role.

However, for the promise of APIs to be fully realized, there needs to be standardization of the underlying technology, according to Laura Merling, senior vice president of Application Enablement at Alcatel-Lucent.

"I believe that API management is going to be a part of everybody's business and therefore it needs standardization, and also needs community input on what it should look like," said Merling.

ApiGrove will make it easier for operators to try the concept without having to make much initial investment, according to Merling.

An API mangement platform is used to publish the interfaces, as well as configure rules for how they can be used, including who can access them and the number of transactions that are allowed.

The apiGrove installation package, source code, and documentation are available for download from GitHub. The ultimate goal with apiGrove is to turn in into an Apache project.

"It has been submitted to go through the necessary incubation process, but that takes time ... A lot of it is about community adoption, so we are doing a lot of outreach to drive adoption," said Merling.

Alcatel-Lucent also believes that API management makes sense running in a cloud, as opposed to on-premise in the operator's data center. In addition, ApiGrove could also manage the cloud platforms' own APIs, exposing their capabilities to developers.

The company is talking to a number of cloud providers, and is making interfaces for its own platform CloudBand manageable via apiGrove as well.

Alcatel-Lucent will also offer Premium API Management Platform before the end of the year. Operators will have to pay for this version, which will have more advanced cluster and security features including XML validation than apiGrove, according to Merling.

For example, the Speaker Manager feature lets an operator keep track of rate limiting across a cluster of API management instances.

The Premium API Management Platform will also include a service composition framework, which allows several API calls to be integrated and presented to developers and in the process make their work easier.

The service composition framework currently is being evaluated for being made open source, as well.

The end-game for Alcatel-Lucent is to help turn networks into a software platform, where all equipment comes with an interface for developers, Merling said.

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