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    IBM Acquires StepZen to Boost Data and GraphQL API Capabilities

    IBM is expanding its API management and creative capabilities by acquiring privately held StepZen. The acquisition, announced on Feb. 8, is the first of 2023 for IBM. The financial terms of the deal are not being publicly disclosed.

    Privately held StepZen was founded in 2020 and has raised $8 million. The company develops a GraphQL API server technology designed to help organizations create and manage APIs across an enterprise more efficiently.

    GraphQL is an open-source API protocol specification that originated at Facebook and, in recent years, has been developed under the governance of the Linux Foundation's GraphQL Foundation. Multiple vendors provide commercial GraphQL services today, including Apollo, Hasura, and Rapid.

    "We think StepZen's approach is highly differentiated in the market," said Madhu Kochar, vice president of product development for automation at IBM. "With StepZen, a GraphQL API is composed using declarative building blocks. StepZen offers an API directory of prebuilt connectors for many data sources — critical for businesses with a hybrid cloud environment with data stored in many different places and structures."

    How StepZen's GraphQL Technology Will Help IBM's Customers

    Ease of use is at the foundation of StepZen.

    StepZen has powerful introspection techniques that enable an API to be created in a few lines of code, according to Kochar. Behind those few lines of code, users benefit from more than 500,000 lines of code written by StepZen engineers for query optimization, data protection, and deployment, leading to a faster time to success for a business's GraphQL initiatives.

    Connecting to data located in different sources is a core capability of StepZen. Kochar noted that StepZen helps users access data that lives in SQL and NoSQL databases, enterprise apps, software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps, and microservices.

    With its IBM API Connect technology, IBM already had API capabilities, which help organizations create, manage, secure, socialize, and monetize APIs.

    "The acquisition of StepZen expands our capabilities to now include creating GraphQL APIs," Kochar said. "StepZen is joining the IBM Software team. We see potential use cases and synergy emerging across our intelligent automation solutions like IBM API Connect and in data and AI with data management and data fabric."

    The Enterprise Use Case for GraphQL

    The most commonly used API approach has long been REST, with GraphQL steadily gaining momentum.

    One of the challenges surrounding modern application development is that organizations have so many options for where they deploy and run their applications and different models of data structure and hosting options, Kochar said.

    "One trend helping organizations tackle the complexity of accessing their data and application ecosystems in these diverse and distributed environments is graph-based programming, which GraphQL popularized," she said.

    According to Kochar, GraphQL is emerging as an alternative and a complement to REST APIs because it enables declarative data fetching via a single API endpoint that returns the specific data you want from multiple sources. She added that it's ideal for use cases where the application needs a specific set of data and data that must be stitched together from numerous sources.

    For example, a customer's bank account record might include an array that references other finance products that the customer holds. If an application client wants to retrieve the bank account details for a specific customer and details of the different finance products for that customer, then with a REST API, the client would first retrieve the bank account details, then make separate requests for each of the other products. A GraphQL API can be designed to allow the client to retrieve all this information in a single request.

    "Enterprises have a wide variety of needs and use cases," Kochar said. "We believe that REST APIs and GraphQL can and should live alongside each other and be selected based on the unique use case."

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    About the Author

    Kamal Rastogi is a serial IT entrepreneur with 25 yrs plus experience. Currently his focus area is Data Science business, ERP Consulting, IT Staffing and Experttal.com (Fastest growing US based platform to hire verified / Risk Compliant Expert IT resources from talent rich countries like India, Romania, Philippines etc...directly). His firms service clients like KPMG, Deloitte, EnY, Samsung, Wipro, NCR Corporation etc in India and USA.

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