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In many ways, integration is the lifeblood of the channel. Without opportunities to integrate things, there isn’t much call for IT services.

Without integration, the most any solution provider can really do is resell a piece of software or hardware and, hopefully, be asked to install it. There’s not much money in that. Solution providers make real money only when applications and systems need to be integrated.

When it comes to integration, a revolution has been taking place over the last couple of years that has benefited the savvy solution provider. Applications large and small are being increasingly deployed with RESTful application programming interfaces (APIs) that make it much easier to integrate applications and systems. (The REST in RESTful refers to Representational State Transfer.)

In the short term, those APIs mean more integration opportunities, and ultimately, this makes it easier to generate high-margin services revenue. In fact, many believe an entirely new digital economy is emerging around these APIs—many of which are being used to create new digital channels across a broad swath of vertical industries.

Perhaps even more intriguing is the fact that, over time, APIs will break down the barriers between applications all together. Instead of having separate applications that have their own unique user interfaces and workflow engines, in time, there will emerge “headless” application services in the cloud that act as business logic engine without a dedicated user interface that one day will also share access to a common “data lake” built on top of Hadoop.

As this API economy continues to mature, the IT channel should be playing a crucial role in laying its foundation. After all, data still must be managed, and APIs not only don’t write themselves, but somebody has to make sure they are consistently applied and regularly updated.

The opportunity APIs present to the channel can’t be understated. Entire industries will be transformed based on who comes up with innovative new business models based on the ability to easily stitch together multiple applications and business processes into something that creates new value for the business.

The cloud, of course, is a big part of that phenomenon. But APIs are hardly limited to cloud applications. Just about any application that touches the Web can be made more accessible via either an API or a connector that provides a higher level of abstraction.

In fact, the limiting factor of the API economy at this point is not the technology. Rather, it’s the imaginations of the solution providers that should know best how to tap into an emerging API economy, which with each passing day, grows exponentially larger in ways most organizations won’t actually see until some solution providers open their eyes to all the possibilities.

Michael Vizard has been covering IT issues in the enterprise for 25 years as an editor and columnist for publications such as InfoWorld, eWEEK, Baseline, CRN, ComputerWorld and Digital Review.