by Martha Heller

IoT and Mobility Make APIs a Hot CIO Topic

Apr 08, 20156 mins
CIOInnovationIT Jobs

Brian Lillie, CIO of Equinix, thinks CIOs should start to care

brian lillie Equinix

We are clearly in the age of “I want what I want when I want it the way that I want it.”  Our new highly demanding (and a perhaps a bit coddled) consumer culture presents great opportunity and great challenge to businesses who must rethink their approach to consumer and employee engagement.

According to Brian Lillie, CIO of global data center provider Equinix, APIs are the mechanism by which CIOs can rise to the occasion of our new “always-on,” extremely mobile culture.

An API, as I’m sure you know, is an application programming interface that lets you programmatically, without manual intervention, extract data from a source or target system with great efficiency. “APIs are a set of software resources that enable developers to create applications very easily,” says Lillie. “They are the primary way to unlock data from systems of record without requiring a form or screen to type in commands.”

Let’s say, you are housing a massive data lake.  By using APIs, you can call on that data to serve enterprise or mobile applications. “CIOs should care a lot about APIs, because they are a way to unlock data and make it available to enterprise applications, customers and partners,” says Lillie.  “APIs can liberate your data.”

Using APIs to unlock trapped data and value

Most CIOs have some older applications that serve their purpose, but because those applications have an undetermined shelf life, they are not worth investing in until they have run their course. “Writing reports on these old systems takes a lot of work and a lot of people,” says Lillie. “But if you put a handful of APIs in front of that old system of record, you can expose the trapped data to developers who can easily extract it.  APIs eliminate the need to write custom reports in archaic languages, like COBOL. It’s a powerful way to give self-service to your organization.”

Equinix is putting APIs in front of an on-premise capacity management system to extract the data that sales people need in their mobile applications, for example. “Our sales people needed access to trapped capacity data to make accurate offers to customers globally, and APIs allowed fast access to the right data at the right time on their mobile device,” says Lillie. “The APIs add value both to internal employees and the customers they serve.”

APIs and the Internet of Things

“With the Internet of Things, we are going to see a tremendous number of devices and consumer products producing and communicating a huge amount of data,” says Lillie.  “Over time, every one of these devices will have the ability to communicate via an API in an integrated, consolidated and standardized way.” To Lillie, this is the most exciting aspect of APIs. 

“When APIs meet the Internet of Things, the result is going to be game-changing for most companies,” he says.  “IoT use cases are surfacing every day, from GE’s need to manage petabytes of data produced by a single jet engine to Equinix’s challenge of exposing power and network records for simple consumption by its customers.”  All of this is done through big data platforms – online clusters at the edge, analytical clusters in the core and of course, APIs. “Big data, mobility and APIs; they go hand in hand in hand,” says Lillie.

Using APIs to work better with service providers

“At Equinix, we offer global network neutral colocation services,” says Lillie. “Our data centers are connected to over 1,000 network service providers and more than 450 cloud service providers. As the cloud has evolved, customers want to connect directly and programmatically to cloud service providers and build highly optimized hybrid clouds. With APIs, our customers can query our systems and ask what services,  like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform, are available and where and then place connectivity orders.”

Given that APIs are bringing dramatic change to the way companies turn systems of record into systems of engagement, capitalize on the Internet of Things, and work more closely with service providers, CIOs had better get started.

Get educated:   “If you are still wondering about the benefit of APIs, get educated,” suggests Lillie.  “Talk to your peers and to the leading API vendors.  But either way, you have to get personally involved, since APIs are your key to innovation.”

Start small:  “Take a few of your more risk-taking software engineers and give them a challenge,” suggests Lillie.  “Tell them to look for opportunities to deploy APIs to unlock trapped data in your systems of record.  They should spend a few weeks on that and report back.”

Get started:  “Once you’ve energized your ninja software team to find use cases, start a pilot project that is low risk,” suggests Lillie.  “Once you see the power of how APIs can turn a system of record into a system of engagement, you will be sold.”

About Brian Lillie

Brian Lillie joined Equinix as Chief Information Officer in September 2008. In this role, he focuses on product development and information technology initiatives as well as improvements to internal efficiencies and global scale systems. Prior to joining Equinix, Brian held several senior-level executive roles at VeriSign, including Vice President of Global Information Systems and Vice President of Global Sales Operations. Additionally, he was Senior Director of Enterprise Applications at Silicon Graphics (SGI), and held several leadership roles in the U.S. Air Force. Brian received an M.S. in Management from Stanford University, an M.S. in Telecommunications Management from Golden Gate University, and a B.S. in Mathematics from Montana State University. He was named the 2014 Silicon Valley CIO of the Year by the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

About Equinix

Equinix, Inc. (Nasdaq: EQIX) connects the world’s leading businesses to their customers, employees and partners inside the most interconnected data centers. In 33 markets across five continents, Equinix is where companies come together to realize new opportunities and accelerate their business, IT and cloud strategies. In a digital economy where enterprise business models are increasingly interdependent, interconnection is essential to success. Equinix operates the only global interconnection platform, sparking new opportunities that are only possible when companies come together. Equinix was founded in 1998 and is headquartered in Redwood City, CA.