From On-Premises to Cloud APIs: A Meta Example
Meta is the latest major tech player to recently announce broader developer access to their WhatsApp Cloud API. Meta owns several social media and messaging platforms including WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram. In addition to providing an app and an on-premises API, WhatsApp is opening access to their cloud API, previously limited to a group of partners in beta testing, in order to increase their market reach to include smaller companies.
API producers continue investing in cloud APIs. However, on-premises APIs are still widely prevalent, especially in some highly regulated industries. For some behemoth enterprises still only dreaming about cloud solutions and companies embracing cloud-native trends, more investment in cloud APIs is welcome news.
Why is Meta, like so many other API providers, doing this?
What is an on-premises web API?
An on-premises web API is one that is deployed on infrastructure owned and managed by the consumer. For example, if you used the WhatsApp Business Platform on-premises API, you could choose to host it on a private server in your on-site data center behind your own firewalls.
Certain industries like artificial intelligence (AI) and electronic data interchange (EDI) frequently provide their solutions as on-premises APIs, even though most now offer cloud or hybrid solutions. And for API consumers, many large enterprises, especially those facing regulatory or compliance requirements, still choose to adopt on-premises APIs.
The following are notable features of on-premises APIs:
- Provision and manage your own infrastructure
- Control your own data for security regulations or compliance requirements
- Administer your own software updates
- Monitor and manage your own uptime
- Manage your own certificates
What is a cloud web API?
A cloud API is one hosted by the API provider and deployed on infrastructure owned and managed by the API provider, instead of the consumer. For example, Meta’s cloud API is deployed on Meta’s infrastructure. The WhatsApp docs outline the differences between their on-premises and cloud APIs in more detail.
Adopting cloud APIs significantly reduces the barriers to entry, and speeds time to implementation for consumers. Developers can develop an integration in minutes, instead of weeks.
The following are notable features of cloud APIs:
- Faster time to implementation
- Scale up and down usage without incurring incremental infrastructure costs
- Your anonymized and aggregated data may be used to improve the product (such as with refining machine learning models)
- Usually no control over when updates are administered
Is cloud the future?
For every startup that adopts the latest technologies splashing the headlines, there are ten more well-established businesses that are maintaining legacy code and juggling industry regulations. For API providers, the decision is simple. It’s not a competition between cloud APIs and on-premises APIs. Providers, like Meta, will continue supporting both as long as consumers demand both.
Let us know in the comments below if you observe these same trends within your industry.