Cisco Partners: New API-First Strategy Will Help Drive ‘Automation’ And ‘Efficiency’

Partners tell CRN that Cisco’s newly established ‘API-first’ stance may not be ‘sexy’ and will be hard work, but it’s very important to the channel, especially as they begin to build out their own services.

Cisco Systems is committing to helping developer partners craft digital experiences but to do that, APIs can’t be afterthoughts. They have to be part of the product, according to Grace Francisco, vice president of developer relations strategy and experience at Cisco.

To that end, the tech giant at Cisco Partner Summit 2022 revealed that it is rolling out backward compatibility on several Cisco offerings so that APIs work on every subsequent version release.

Backward compatibility, Francisco told CRN, is key to the design, documentation and support process of Cisco APIs. This includes implementation of change logs, appropriate notification timelines for any API changes, deprecation notices and API versioning.

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Francisco is calling it an “API-first” strategy.

“For us, as a company that started with hardware and now has a big focus on software, we really needed to start to look at how we’ve been publishing APIs from a development strategy, working across all the different teams and starting to set real standards around our APIs and how we’re publishing our APIs to our partners and developers,” she told CRN.

[Related: Cisco Security Portfolio Gains New Features, Firewall Aimed At Hybrid Work Protection]

Backward compatibility will be introduced for Meraki Dashboard API, Cisco Identity Service Engine API, Nexus Cloud API, SecureX Threat Response API, Cloud Security Open APIs, Cisco Partner Experience Cloud API and Webex API, according to San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco.

The company said that backward compatibility of APIs is planned for more Cisco offerings down the road, including ThousandEyes API, Cisco Spaces API, AppDynamics Cloud APIs, Cisco DNA Center API, NSO Northbound API, Crosswork CNC API and Cisco SD-WAN (vManage) API.

“We have lots of products at Cisco and a lot of heritage in our portfolio; we don’t want to boil the ocean. We’re starting with that strategic list and from my perspective, once the train starts running and you have the key products going, that will carry forward a lot of [momentum] and set that example,” Francisco said.

The effort is supported by API Insights, an open-source project, which helps track and improve API quality. API Insights is now available for developers and DevOps, SecOPs and so-called DevSecOps teams on GitHub.

“We’ve been telling [Cisco] for years this is the direction they need to go,” said Neil Anderson, area vice president of cloud and infrastructure solutions for Maryland Heights, Mo.-based Cisco Gold partner World Wide Technology. “Customers want east-west integration and the only way to do that is with APIs. A lot of our customers are building an automation layer on top of these products and having great APIs is the only way to do that.”

Cisco’s newly established “API-first” stance is very important to partners, especially as these companies begin to build out their own services, said Richard Simmons, group vice president of strategic alliances for Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based Cisco Gold partner Logicalis.

“If we say we want this sustainability metric, we’ve got [nearly] 22 different systems we’ve got to go and try to get data from, which is really difficult. Part of [Cisco’s] challenge is they’ve done a lot of acquisitions and there’s still a lot of separate products. For us, being able to have that as a platform with APIs that we can program into—we need that if we’re driving automation and efficiency,” he said.

The strategy may not be “sexy” and it will be a lot of work, Simmons added, “but it will make life a lot easier.”