Introduction to Unified APIs for Security Data: What, Why and How?

Leen Security
April 16, 2024

As of 2024, it’s safe to say that we live in an API economy. APIs serve as the backbone of modern software development. It is estimated that over 80% of internet traffic goes through APIs and even though the ‘API revolution’ has been around for a while, it still feels like early days.

Many organizations and developers are now spending the majority of their development efforts on APIs. After all, APIs power a wide portion of web, mobile, and desktop apps today and make it easy to adjust, transform, enrich, and consume data.

The API market continues to grow very strongly at 30% annually. This surge is driven by a rising demand for connectivity, interoperability, and innovation. The continuous progress of APIs can be attributed to two main trends.

Firstly, APIs have become the preferred method for software delivery due to their agility and capacity for rapid innovation and iteration. Secondly, the shift towards cloud, micro-services, and server-less applications has significantly amplified the number of programmable endpoints, necessitating APIs for interconnectivity within increasingly fragmented architectures.

According to RapidAPI’s most recent State of APIs report, there’s also been a significant increase in the utilization of public APIs – third-party and partner-facing APIs over the past four years.

However, despite their undeniable significance, API integration presents a myriad of challenges, particularly in the case of one-off integrations.

One of the foremost challenges of API integration is the time and effort required for onboarding onto a new API. This process involves extensive research into documentation, understanding HTTP methods, and familiarizing oneself with custom objects and fields specific to the API. This initial learning curve can be time-consuming and resource-intensive, delaying the integration process and impeding project timelines.

Moreover, APIs often come with customizations tailored to the needs of the provider, adding another layer of complexity to the integration process. Developers must navigate through these customizations, which may include unique data objects, fields, and endpoints, requiring careful consideration and adaptation within the existing system architecture.

Now let’s say you have done all of that, the real work begins post integration. Maintaining connections introduces additional hurdles. APIs evolve over time, requiring developers to regularly update their integrations to accommodate new versions and prevent disruptions. Outdated documentation and the absence of SDKs in desired programming languages can further complicate matters. And despite the existence of standards like OpenAPI and AsyncAPI, the industry remains fragmented, with each API having its unique characteristics.

This is where Unified APIs come into the picture.

Unified APIs

Unified APIs are an abstraction layer that easily handles communication with many different APIs and backend data models. At its core, a Unified Data API serves as a standardized interface that enables seamless communication and interaction with various data repositories, regardless of their underlying technologies or locations.

Generally speaking, a unified API platform allows you to offer integrations at scale, save developers time, delight end users, expand into new markets, empower your go-to-market teams, and build customer loyalty.

Let’s take the example of Plaid: Plaid offers a suite of APIs that enable developers to easily integrate with financial institutions and access banking data, facilitating services such as account authentication, balance inquiries, transaction histories, and more. By providing a unified interface to interact with thousands of financial institutions, Plaid streamlines the integration process for developers, saving them significant time and effort.

For end users, Plaid's integrations enhance their banking experience by offering seamless access to financial data and enabling innovative financial applications such as budgeting tools, investment trackers, and lending platforms. This delight in user experience fosters loyalty and encourages continued usage of the integrated services.

Unified APIs represent a paradigm shift in how product and engineering teams access, integrate, and leverage data across disparate sources and formats. They offer several distinct advantages:

  1. Scalability: Unified APIs are designed to scale effortlessly, allowing organizations to accommodate growing data volumes and diverse data sources without compromising performance or reliability.
  2. Flexibility: Unlike rigid integration approaches, Unified APIs offer flexibility and adaptability, enabling organizations to easily add or modify data sources and formats as their needs evolve.
  3. Simplicity: Unified APIs abstract the complexities of data integration, providing a simplified and standardized interface that shields users from the intricacies of underlying data structures. This simplification accelerates development cycles and reduces time-to-market for product launches.

The Need for Unified APIs in Security

With the complexity of security tools and platforms growing exponentially, there's a pressing need for a unified approach to integrate and manage the security stack effectively.

Building integrations within the security ecosystem is far from a straightforward task. It involves a tedious, multi-step development process that can be both time-consuming and costly. Let's delve into the complexities of this process and explore potential solutions for streamlining security integrations.

  1. Identifying APIs to Integrate: The first step involves identifying the APIs of various security tools and platforms that need to be integrated into the organization's security infrastructure.
  2. Coding Integrations: Once the APIs are identified, developers must code the integrations, which often involves complex tasks such as pagination, data enrichment, and handling various API endpoints.
  3. Defining a Data Schema and Normalizing Data: Next, developers need to define a data schema and normalize the data from different sources to ensure consistency and interoperability.
  4. Sending Data to Storage/Lakes: After normalization, the data needs to be sent to data storage or data lakes for further processing and analysis.
  5. Setting Up Polling/Streaming and State Management: Depending on the integration requirements, developers may need to set up polling or streaming mechanisms to retrieve real-time data from APIs and manage state information.
  6. Deploying Infrastructure: Deploying infrastructure components such as queues, containers, and servers is another crucial step in the integration process.
  7. Monitoring Infrastructure and Application: Once deployed, the infrastructure and application need to be monitored regularly to ensure optimal performance and reliability.
  8. Ongoing Maintenance for API Updates: Finally, developers must keep up with API updates and make necessary adjustments to the integrations to ensure compatibility and functionality.

The process described above is not only time-consuming but also costly. Companies invest significant resources ranging from thousands to millions of dollars per year in developing and maintaining integrations with other products in the security ecosystem. The costs include engineering hours, infrastructure expenses, and ongoing maintenance efforts.

Streamlining Security Integrations

At Leen, we understand the challenges associated with security integrations, and we're committed to simplifying the process for engineering and product teams.

Our unified API platform offers a centralized hub for integrating and managing various security solutions, eliminating the need for teams to build and maintain custom integrations from scratch.

This unified approach simplifies the integration process for developers. It saves time and effort by providing a single integration point, reducing the complexity of managing multiple APIs and custom integrations/actions. This is particularly beneficial at scale, where it can ease the burden on security practitioners. Moreover, it can also expedite product roadmaps.

Leen builds and maintains connectors with hundreds of security products such as Qualys, Tenable, Snyk, Crowdstrike, SentinelOne, MS Defender, and many more.

Schedule a demo to see Leen in action.