How a memo from Jeff Bezos catalyzed Kong's quest to connect APIs for the enterprise


Started as Mashape by two Italian co-founders, Kong Inc. has emerged as a prime example of the power of APIs. It, along with much of the enterprise computing world, has Jeff Bezos to thank for that.

Amazon Inc.’s chief executive famously issued his “API Mandate” in 2002, which ordered that all of his company’s teams would expose their data and functionality internally through service interfaces.

Bezos would back up his API commitment years later by becoming an investor in Kong, which creates software and managed services that connect APIs and microservices within and across clouds. The investment is showing signs of paying off, as the startup’s founders have reported significant revenue growth over the past two years.

“What they were betting on at that time was that APIs were going to be the future of how software was built and how developers interacted with software,” said Mike Bilodeau (pictured), director of corporate development and operations at Kong. “The whole memo that Jeff Bezos wrote about ‘build an API or you’re fired’ was certainly an inspiration to us.”

Bilodeau spoke with John Walls, host of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s livestreaming studio, during the AWS Startup Showcase Event: Innovators in Cloud Data. They discussed how Kong’s solution helps businesses manage API growth, enabling developers to meet demands for faster software deployment and security, helping one large customer transform its entire stack, and the value of open-source contributions. (* Disclosure below.)

Managing the API connections

The Bezos investment and Kong’s entry into the API support space coincided with the growth of microservices and distributed systems. This led enterprises to search for solutions that could manage a rapidly expanding ecosystem of APIs to run critical segments of the business.

“This is a problem that a lot of enterprises have, especially now that they started to get to microservices and started to have more distributed technologies,” Bilodeau said. “Kong is really a way to manage all of those APIs, all of the connections through different microservices through a single platform, which is Kong Konnect. Now that we have Kubernetes and the birth of a service mesh — Kong Konnect — all of those connections can be managed, secured and made reliable.”

One of the key advantages offered by API management is speed. The challenge facing developers today is to generate software that can keep pace with business and technology needs.

“It’s really about allowing people to build software more rapidly,” Bilodeau explained. “All of these different innovations that have happened with cloud, virtualization, containers, Kubernetes and microservices are really focused on making it so that developers can build software a lot more quickly. A huge driver out of this is making it easier for developers and organizations to bring new technologies to market.”

Another key driver involves security. Although the move away from monolithic applications toward microservices has theoretically created more work for malicious actors to hack systems, securing the new, more distributed landscape presents challenges of its own.

“We’re looking at security as a really big component,” Bilodeau said. “If you have a huge monolithic app, it can become very challenging to actually secure that. If someone gets into the initial app space, they’re really past the point of no return and can get access to some things you might not want them to. Instead of thinking of it as having one wall around everything, you now think of it as a series of walls. You’re creating more difficult ways of accessing information for attackers, as well as more layers of security.”

Support for Cargill and open source

Kong’s solution has resonated with larger enterprises. Its customer base includes Verifone Holdings Inc., Samsung and Papa John’s Inc. One of its customers, the multinational food supply chain company Cargill Inc., embarked on a major transformation of its digital infrastructure.

“They were modernizing their entire tech stack,” Bilodeau said. “As they were looking at how they could distribute the new APIs and services they were building, we were helping them with every piece of that journey. We were able to give them a lot of confidence in being able to rapidly move a lot of software over from these tried-and-true older, legacy ways of doing things to a much more cloud native build.”

Kong’s support for Cargill also highlights another key dynamic for the startup company. Kong’s platform is based on open-source technology, and Cargill was instrumental in contributing to the community of open-source projects that helped the firm get its start.

“We got a lot out of them because they were open-source users,” Bilodeau said. “They were helping us before they even became paying customers just by testing the software and providing feedback, putting it through its paces and using it at a scale that’s hard to replicate.”

Kong’s story is one of seizing the opportunity to meet a critical need within the enterprise computing world as technology migrated toward microservices and APIs.

“That’s the beauty of the way this space is shifting, Bilodeau said. “It’s going towards the way of the most practical solution to get to business value.”

Watch the complete video interview below, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s coverage of the AWS Startup Showcase Event: Innovators in Cloud Data. (* Disclosure: Kong Inc. sponsored this segment of theCUBE. Neither Kong nor other sponsors have editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)

Photo: SiliconANGLE

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