IBM quietly launched a Web API management service this week called the Cast Iron API Cloud that illuminates a keener focus on app development and a hard push to attract developers to build mobile apps on its new expert integrated systems technology.

The new API management service has a bit of a mysterious edge to it. IBM unveiled it in an announcement on Tuesday for Cast Iron Live V6.2. For more information, the announcement refers to the Web address:, which bears nothing but a Javascript enhanced “coming soon,” style page for the IBM Cast Iron API Cloud. IBM acquired Cast Iron Systems in 2010. Cast Iron Software is a Service (SaaS) and cloud application integration technology. In its announcement, IBM said the Web API management service consists of both API and integration services.

The messaging on the Cast Iron place marker reveals the connection to IBM’s expert integrated systems technology which it unveiled a few weeks ago in New York as part of its Pure Systems launch. It states:  ”Create APIs rapidly using configurations, not code.” It also states the benefits of reaching external developer communities, another core message IBM is putting forth. That matches what Websphere Chief Architect for Cloud Platforms Jason McGee said in a recent webinar about the technology themes IBM plans to focus on at IBM Impact. Expert integrated systems are expected to play a central role at the conference.

Pure Systems is IBM’s version of a converged infrastructure. It’s designed for implementation inside an enterprise data center. It’s a big box technology with converged compute, storage and networking. It’s based on patterns technology, meaning knowledge about all aspects of building, deploying and managing applications is hardened into the expert integrated system. Patterns come from the knowledge developed through customer engagements and IBM’s vast experience in building out data centers.

In the webinar, McGee describes a configuration process for building apps. The user draws it out and the app configures itself through the patterns embedded in the expert integrated system technology.

The new service comes to market as mobile’s role in the enterprise continues to escalate.

For years, service oriented architecture (SOA) served as the method for pulling data to create “services” that standardized business processes. About six years ago, developers began pioneering the use of APIs for Web apps. Twitter followed with a full set of open APIs that demonstrated what can come when data flows freely between apps. That move made Twitter one of the most popular and fascinating applications of modern times.

But five years ago it did not make sense for IBM, and other enterprise vendors to adopt such developer centric policies. Today it’s different. APIs are main stream, REST is the preferred protocol and enterprise shops are deploying OAuth as a way to authenticate users across dozens of services.

The opportunity now comes with pushing data to mobile clients more than using SOA to connect business processes. The winners will be the ones who can convince developers to work with them to develop apps for end users.

Which all shows why IBM will focus so intently on developers at the IBM Impact event starting tomorrow in Las Vegas. This video says it all. IBM is investing big-time in building out developer communities.

IBM will compete with a new generation of API management companies, including Apigee and Layer 7. These are companies that represent how SOA is morphing into Web API management.

Data integration services such as Talend, SnapLogic and SimplyBox also compete with Cast Iron, offering solutions that address both data management and application integration needs.

In the past 18 months, Layer 7 has hired about 30 people from IBM. Most have been out of the Websphere Group with others from Tivoli and the Global Services group, said executives with Layer 7 in an interview Friday.

Matt McLarty of Layer 7 came from IBM where he was a technical sales leader in the Websphere division.  We discussed how the IBM approach to API Management is initially SaaS-based, which differs from their predominantly on-premise solution approach. The goal is to sell the full solution – the infrastructure, the middleware and the accompanying services. Companies like Layer 7 sell API management technologies. They offer API proxy and API portal components, but work with a number of back-end API hosting platforms. This differs from IBM’s host-it-all approach.

The Rule of Three

At IBM Impact next week, we’ll hear quite a bit about IBM’s approach to mobile development and how it couples with what IBM Fellow Jerry Cuomo compares to a two-shot espresso.

The first shot of espresso comes with taking the rule of three approach. Three different mobile apps for three different mobile platforms means you need a development process capable of standardizing the way multiple apps can be deployed across multiple platforms. The second shot of espresso comes with integrating Worklight into IBM. Worklight is the mobile enterprise development platform that IBM acquired earlier this year. Worklight will integrate with IBM’s expert integrated systems.

Little else is known how these expert integrated systems will fit with IBM’s mobile application development strategy. Still, the differences to companies like Layer 7 are striking and shows how the market continues to fork.

The entrenched powers will use their muscle in the market to build on-premise solutions for building mobile apps while the new players will leverage the cloud as much as possible to build-out services for its customer base.