In a world of web-based services that depend on aggregating other data sources, your product will only be as strong as your weakest API call. We are seeing the emergence of new ecosystems of data built around cloud providers and popular APIs such as Twitter’s.

In a world of web-based services that depend on various other services, like Twitter or Google Maps data, your product will only be as strong as your weakest API call. I’ve found it’s actually a fun topic to discuss. For developers and web-based businesses, thinking about and managing federated flows of information has a big impact on the end-user experience.

I moderated the Can You Run a Serverless Business panel a few hours ago, and two of the panelists brought that up as an issue, with Jim Louderback of Revision3 (an occasional columnist for GigaOM) saying that at one point he ended up slowing down that company’s video delivery because it had relied on too many services located in the cloud, a sentiment echoed by Ethan Kaplan of Warner Music. It’s a topic I discussed yesterday with Sam Ramji, at Sonoa, which offers a service that helps track the health of APIs.

But after surveying the audience at the panel via a show of hands as to what type of different web and cloud services they use, it was clear that most were using a mix of software, platforms and infrastructure as a service, with some also using traditional hosting or running their own data centers. Information technology has always been a confusing mix of gear and services, but it seems like that complexity is only expanding in terms of how and where you can build an offering as well as the “partners” whose APIs you might use to build a product.

Making all of those elements work together, ensuring a good user experience, and eventually delivering service-level agreements seems inordinately complex, but if done right we should see the emergence of new ecosystems of data, maybe built around cloud providers like Amazon or Google, or maybe popular APIs such as Twitter’s. But like any ecosystem, the effects of small breakdowns will ripple throughout the whole, something we’re for which only now beginning to react and build tools and contracts.

For the GigaOM network’s complete SXSW coverage, check out this round-up.

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  1. Ralph Haygood Tuesday, March 16, 2010

    What would worry me most would be relying on something like Facebook Connect for my users just to get into my service, especially if they’re paying customers. The question isn’t just what if it goes down but what if a user gets shut out of his Facebook (or whatever) account because Facebook’s automatic monitoring decides the user is doing something spammy? It does happen, and it can take days for such users to get back into their Facebook accounts, during which time I presume they can’t log into anything via Facebook Connect.

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