What Does Cloud Application Programming Interface (Cloud API) Mean?
A Cloud API is a software interface that allows developers to link cloud computing services together. Application programming interfaces (APIs) allow one computer program to make its data and functionality available for other programs to use. Developers use APIs to connect software components across a network.
Cloud APIs are often categorized as being vendor-specific or cross-platform. Vendor-specific cloud APIs are written to support the cloud services of one specific provider, while cross-platform APIs allow developers to connect functionalities from two or more cloud providers.
Cloud APIs are often categorized by type:
- PaaS APIs: Platform as a Service APIs provide access to back-end services such as databases.
- SaaS APIs: Software as a Service APIs facilitate connections between cloud services at the application layer.
- IaaS APIs: Infrastructure as a Service APIs enable cloud-based compute and storage resources to be provisioned and de-provisioned as quickly as possible.
Techopedia Explains Cloud Application Programming Interface (Cloud API)
When a cloud provider creates an application or service, they also create APIs so that other software can communicate with that software or service. The components of an API ecosystem include the following:
Assets - Information to be shared internally and/or externally with end users.
APIs - Connect assets to end users.
Developers - Create applications that can use APIs to share assets.
Software - The applications that use APIs to provide services for end users.
End Users - People or programs that request and are granted access to assets through an API.
Cloud API Protocols
The protocols that support Cloud APIs include:
REST -- RESTful APIs use the HTTP protocol to perform functions such as creating, reading, updating, archiving and deleting records. RESTful APIs use Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs) to exchange data.
SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) -- SOAP APIs use the XML protocol in addition to HTTP to transfer data. Generally speaking, SOAP APIs are stricter and more heavyweight than RESTful APIs.
JSON-RPC -- This type of remote procedure call uses JSON formatting instead of XML to transfer data. Because RPC APIs are more challenging to maintain and update than RESTful APIs, their use has declined over years.
Cloud API Security
Many of the threats to cloud APIs are the same for other technologies in terms of threat actors and attack vectors. Unprotected APIs introduce cybersecurity risks and can be used as an unauthorized entry point into an organization’s network and databases.
Authentication and authorization mechanisms such as OAuth2.0 and OpenID Connect can mitigate the chance that a vulnerable API can be used to launch a lateral attack.
Popular Cloud APIs
Popular cloud APIs and platform bundles include the following:
Google Cloud APIs
Google Compute Engine API - used to create and run virtual machines (VMs) on Google Cloud.
Google Storage Transfer API - used to transfer data from an external source to Google Cloud.
AutoML API - helps citizen developers to create machine learning models for specific business requirements.
AWS Cloud Control - an integrated set of APIs designed to make it easy for developers to manage these five operations: create, read, update, delete and list (CRUD-L).
Amazon EventBridge (formerly CloudWatch Events) - a cloud-based bus service for connecting applications with data from disparate sources.
Amazon API Gateway - a cloud service for service creating REST, HTTP, and WebSocket APIs at scale and maintaining them throughout their lifecycle.
Azure Communication Services - provides APIs for voice, video, chat, SMS and email. Requires applications to use the same infrastructure as Microsoft Teams.
Azure Cognitive Services - provides APIs for AI services, including speech to text, text to speech, speech translation, speaker recognition, sentiment analysis, natural language understanding (NLU), computer vision, facial recognition and anomaly detection.
Azure API Management - provides developers with an API gateway, management plane and developer portal so they can expose services hosted on Azure as APIs.