Saving Time & Simplifying Data Exchange with OData
If the benefits of using a good, RESTful API (Application Programming Interface) are creating a constant, low-level buzz in the informatics industry, then the benefits of using an OData compliant API should be creating a crowd-deafening roar. According to OData.org, the community website for OData aficionados, Open Data Protocol (OData) is “an open standard which allows the creation and consumption of queryable and interoperable RESTful APIs in a simple and standard way.” For the business world, this means saving time and money while at the same time cleaning up your code.
If you’re wondering about OData, here is a brief overview of the benefits of the OData standard…
Question: Why is the OData standard for APIs important?
Answer: First, you need to understand why APIs are great. APIs add a lot of value and give you a lot of power. Leveraging a standard, such as OData, which is the leading standard in RESTful web services, allows both data producers and data consumers to interact more freely. They [web services] understand each other, just natively, because they’re based on the OData standard.
APIs are just growing exponentially. But before you can use them, you need to learn and understand these APIs, so there’s a large investment in time and resources that goes into understanding how to make proper use of these things. Actually, there is a great Core Blog on this topic called, OData and the Exploding API – Using Modern APIs for Interoperability.
Question: Why should people care about OData?
Answer: From a technical standpoint, being based on an open standard provides a lot of advantages. There are many tools and languages that readily support OData and that makes a lot of the heavy lifting go away. When you deal with custom APIs you need to do a lot of work to properly understand how the system works. Whereas in OData a lot of that is built into the specifications, so there is no need to write custom code connections between systems.
From the business standpoint, there are a lot of advantages to leveraging this standard, you get a lot of integration ability for free. It takes a lot of the burden away from dealing with ad hoc, point-to-point APIs. It frees the developers, because all of the work they would have previously done is now handled by the libraries. There are a lot of tools out there that natively support consuming data from an OData compliant data source and you can take advantage of all of them, e.g., Mulesoft, Boomi, and Informatica.
Question: Why are point-to-point integrations difficult?
Answer: Point-to-point integrations with systems are always problematic because you have to learn those APIs and you have to understand those systems. When you can leverage integration platforms with an OData compliant API (there are already connectors built into every major player in this space), you don’t have to do any coding of custom connectors at all. Immediately, out of the gate you’re able to leverage OData APIs in these systems without doing a line of code. These integrations make it possible to virtually bypass the engineers and allow the business people to start drawing the lines (i.e., developing the workflows) between the systems. So if I want to raise an event from our system to say a sequencing run is complete and I want to notify our cloud-based financial system – it’s easy to do.
Question: So what’s the take-away message on OData?
Answer: OData provides a lot of advantages, it accelerates development, it saves money because you’re not coding, and it enables you to be connected to numerous tools that already support using data from an OData source – such as Excel, Tableau, and integration platforms. You get all these benefits without having to write a single line of code. From Excel you can query for data – live data, in real-time. You don’t have to do a thing, except model your data. The OData specification allows for true plug-and-play right out of the box.
OData saves you time, saves you money, helps clean-up your code, and gives you access to free things. Everyone should use an informatics system with an API that supplies these extra benefits. There are enough variables in the lab, your API shouldn’t be one of them.