Operating Your API In The Cloud Kill Zone
When you operate your application within the API ecosystem of a large platform, depending on the platform, you might have to worry about the platform operator copying, and emulating what you do. Twitter has long been accused of sharecropping within their ecosystem, and other larger platforms have come out with similar features to what you can find within their API communities. Not all providers take the ideas, it is also very common for API platforms to acquire talent, features, and applications from their ecosystems–something that Twitter has done regularly. Either way, API ecosystems are the R&D, and innovation labs for many platforms, where the latest features get proven.
As the technology playing field has consolidated across three major cloud providers, AWS, Azure, and Google, this R&D and innovation zone, has become more of a cloud kill zone for API providers. Where the cloud giants can see the traction you are getting, and decide whether or not they want to launch a competing solution behind the scenes. Investors are tuning into this new cloud kill zone, and in many cases opting not to invest in startups who operate on a cloud platform, afraid that the cloud giant will just come along and copy a service, and begin directly competing with companies operating within their own ecosystem. Making it a kill zone for API providers, who can easily be assimilated into the AWS, Azure, or Google stack, and left helpless do anything but wither on the vine, and die.
Much like other API ecosystems, AWS, Azure, and Google all have the stats on who is performing across their platforms, and they know which solutions developers are demanding. Factoring in the latest growth trends into their own road maps, and making the calculations around whether they will be investing in their own solutions, or working to partner, and eventually acquire a company operating with this new kill zone. The 1000 lb cloud gorillas carry a lot of weight in regards to whether or not they choose to partner and acquire, or just crush a startup. I’m guessing there are a lot of factors they consider along the way that will contribute to whether or not they play nicely or not. There are no rules to this game, and they really can do whatever they want with as much market share and control over the resources as they all possess. It will be interesting to begin tracking on acquisitions and partnerships across all players to better understand the score.
I wrote last year about how the API space is in the tractor beam of the cloud providers now, and it is something I think will only continue in coming years. It will be hard to deploy, scale, and operate your API without doing it on one of the cloud platforms, or multiple cloud platforms, forcing all API providers to operate within the cloud kill zone. Exposing all new ideas to share their analytics with their platform overlords, and open them up for being copied, or at least hopefully acquired. Which is something that will stunt investment in new APIs, making it harder for them to scale and grow on the business side of things. Any way you look at it, the cloud providers have the upper hand when it comes to cherry picking the best ideas and features, with AWS having a significant advantage in the game with their dominant cloud market position. It will be pretty hard to do APIs in the next decade without AWS, Azure, and Google knowing what you are doing, and having the last vote in whether you are successful or not.