APIs vs SDKs and What They Mean for Your Supply Chain

February 8, 2018

With the industry’s tech landscape changing at such an impressive pace, many companies find themselves rushing to keep up with new terminology in order to make the best, most educated decisions for their companies. One of the most important technological innovations in supply chains is the adoption of APIs, which often come packaged inside of SDKs. If that sentence was a little confusing to you, you’re definitely not alone. That said, it is important to know the difference. That’s why today we’re going to focus on defining API and SDK, and explaining why they’re important components of a modern technological infrastructure.

Defining The Terms

API – An Application Programming Interface allows different pieces of technology to communicate or interact. That sounds a bit broad, but that’s because APIs perform quite a variety of functions across different systems and technologies. APIs translate the input of physical technologies, like a mouse of keyboard, into something software will understand. They can also allow to different softwares to share information, serving as a kind of translator between the two. Essentially, APIs help technologies understand each other by normalizing the formats they use to communicate back and forth.

For example, many apps are able to provide location data by leveraging the Google Maps API, and other apps can even use APIs to browse the web for relevant information. It’s all about getting two different tools to work together.

SDK – A Software Development Kit contains just about everything a developer needs to write software for a particular project. For example, in order to write apps for your cell phone, or create games for a video game console, you need an SDK for that particular operating system. SDKs contain tools like licenses, documentation, guides, samples of code, and more—anything that a developer might need to start creating software for a system, they even occasionally contain APIs!

Main Differences – SDKs help developers build software, APIs help disparate systems interact with one another. APIs can be used by anything that is capable of interfacing with them, SDKs help you build things that are capable of interfacing with APIs. You don’t necessarily need an SDK in order to integrate with an API, but in many cases they do make the process easier.

What This All Means For You

Like most companies across the modern supply chain, you probably connect to a few different systems through different piece of technology, and your supply chain partners probably do too. In order to ensure that all of your systems are communicating properly both internally and externally, you need APIs. In many cases, those APIs are going to be a part of an SDK, that helps your tech team make sure they’re setting everything up properly. Defining clear ways for developers, customers, and partners to interact with your code, services, and applications means that you can continue to operate fluidly. You won’t break integrations because you have the tools you need to integrate properly—those tools being APIs and documentation, which are sometimes packaged in a larger SDK.

Both APIs and SDKs exist to make it easier for your company to adopt or develop new technology, and one of their most practical uses is to help you connect to your supply chain partners. They’re your IT team’s best friends as they look to integrate with certain technologies, and they’re crucial components of the modern technology infrastructure your company needs to remain competitive as the supply chain continues to evolve.

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