West Corporation: Redefining enterprise software development with APIs

About West Corporation

West Corporation is a leading telecommunications company dedicated to delivering and improving upon new channels, capabilities, and choices for how businesses and consumers collaborate, connect, and transact. West is the backbone of a communications platform connecting the world while building smarter, more meaningful connections.

Industries: Telecommunications
Location: United States

West Corporation is transforming its communications services business around an API strategy based on Apigee that eliminates outdated legacy technologies while improving technical capabilities and time to market.

Google Cloud Results

  • Offers three tiers of APIs for mission-critical to bleeding-edge application development
  • Reduces duplicative software and increases services that can be delivered as APIs
  • Supports and enables more than 1,000 API developers with in-house Center of Excellence

Reduces cloud platform operating footprint by 30% with Apigee

West Corporation is a next-generation, technology-enabled communications company involved in the second year of a multi-year business transformation. West's journey includes everything from the company's operational model, to automation, to its delivery of a cloud-native platform.

Reimagining application development with APIs

When West started to think about its digital transformation, it wanted to find a way to eliminate the use of middleware while modernizing an approach across the board. The IT organization wanted to adopt a consistent, standards-based strategy and move away from a legacy, monolithic development structure.

"Even though we're a GCP shop, we evaluated other API management platforms. During a three-month evaluation we were impressed by Apigee's relationship with Google, along with the company's ability to deliver a fully realized and commercialized product. We've been very happy with our decision to go with Apigee."

Thomas Squeo, CTO, West Corporation

Recognizing that a focus on end-to-end service and productization was going to underpin their efforts and that an API strategy would be central to the transformation's success, the company's IT team saw their first step as implementing an API management platform. As a prolific consumer of Google Cloud Platform (GCP) products, including Cloud Storage, Dialogflow Enterprise Edition, and a variety of cognitive and artificial intelligence tools, it made sense for West to look to the Apigee Cross-Cloud API Management Platform.

"Even though we're a GCP shop, we evaluated other API management platforms," says Thomas Squeo, West's Chief Technology Officer. "During a three-month evaluation we were impressed by Apigee's relationship with Google, along with the company's ability to deliver a fully realized and commercialized product. We've been very happy with our decision to go with Apigee."

West has over 1,000 developers in its IT organization, who in turn make up many development teams with varying levels of technical maturity. IT leadership recognized the need to take a nuanced approach to API development to facilitate a smooth transformation.

For teams coming from a legacy, monolithic-type approach, APIs can be a relatively foreign concept. Other teams are cloud-native, function-based groups already skilled in composite applications. Most groups fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. Rather than take an anything-goes attitude toward API development, or force teams to adhere to a strict set of development standards for which they may be ill prepared, West took a novel approach.

All APIs are expected to have a consistent level of documentation and to adhere to a set of A-, B-, or C-classed metrics. An A-class API in the West marketplace is mature in terms of software economics and can support applications for mission-critical or operational technology systems. B-class APIs meet well-understood use cases and are ready for use in applications, though some redundancy around them is suggested. C-class APIs are more bleeding-edge use cases and are likely to meet narrow requirements while not yet being ready to have applications built on them.

"The overall capability that was introduced by selecting Apigee together with our own improved skill sets allowed us to become much more capable of working in a market model, something that we had not been able to do before."

Thomas Squeo, CTO, West Corporation

Introducing the Apigee API management platform

Despite differing levels of API fluency inside the West developer community, introducing Apigee was a straightforward process that didn't cause any issues with developers who have faith in IT leadership to deploy the right solution at the right time.

"Our developers know that when we come to them with a solution in place it will be mature, fully featured, and fit for purpose. They're going to use it without any pushback. As IT leadership, we know that if we go out to our people with half-baked, partially working solutions, with most of the functionality still on the roadmap and not available to engineers, they will use something else," says Thomas.

The more than 1,000 full-time and contract developers at West are the target consumers for all APIs across the company. Three classes of APIs are exposed to development teams: One is for infrastructure consumption, one is for product development consumption, and one for external consumption. IT leadership is focused on making sure that developers have all the APIs they need each time they want to make a change to their application. This means that APIs for everything, from GPS lookups for address information to the delivery of an SMS notification to a call log, have to be available on the Apigee platform at all times. West is currently exposing about 40 APIs internally.

Moving beyond legacy technologies

West went through an aggressive consolidation and rationalization agenda to reduce the amount of duplicative software in the organization. At the same time, the company started to look for business areas that aligned with its architecture that could be exposed as APIs. A successful transformation was completed for West's customer experience group, which includes omni-channel delivery, email, SMS, and over-the-top messaging. The CX group's infrastructure has also been completely rebuilt as a set of APIs. Now, applications that do mass inbound and outbound notifications are delivered as frameworks. Those frameworks are consumed as a set of APIs by some audiences, while other teams leverage the entire framework, depending on the complexity of their application.

"APIs go beyond bits and bytes and into software economics. Apigee brings in all of the metrics around how we monitor, monetize, or show chargeback utilization so that we can make smarter business decisions."

Thomas Squeo, CTO, West Corporation

West's initial implementation of Apigee was on-premises, and the company intends to pull it into its Pivotal infrastructure to enable future multi-cloud deployment.

"We consider Apigee a part of our cloud-native platform, which has seen about a 30 percent cost reduction in our operational footprint," Thomas says. "That includes breaking up our software stack, so we can actually leverage a discrete set of APIs that are now consumable by our teams in an end-to-end manner."

API-first product development

From a product development standpoint, the ability to consume the company's most mature, hardened applications as APIs, as well as the opportunity to easily offer its services to third parties, had never been an option for West before.

"The overall capability that was introduced by selecting Apigee together with our own improved skill sets allowed us to become much more capable of working in a market model, something that we had not been able to do before. I love APIs because they reduce time to market," adds Thomas.

West is thinking about how it can leverage the Apigee monetization feature for future development. The IT and Product organizations are working together to evaluate a charge-back model for monetization as opposed to a true margin-based revenue product. Although West is still early in its API journey, it sees great promise for a well-considered strategy.

As new teams come on board through acquisitions and existing teams amplify their skills, the company is rationalizing, unifying, and growing its Apigee implementation. West has gone so far as to stand up a Center of Excellence around APIs, with an entire group dedicated to this area of expertise. The team is responsible for qualifying and onboarding the APIs that get published on the company's developer platform. They're also evangelizing best practices and doing education and enablement as a way of scaling APIs upward and outward.

Says Thomas, "APIs go beyond bits and bytes and into software economics. Apigee brings in all of the metrics around how we monitor, monetize, or show chargeback utilization so that we can make smarter business decisions."

About West Corporation

West Corporation is a leading telecommunications company dedicated to delivering and improving upon new channels, capabilities, and choices for how businesses and consumers collaborate, connect, and transact. West is the backbone of a communications platform connecting the world while building smarter, more meaningful connections.

Industries: Telecommunications
Location: United States
Google Cloud Platform logo

12 Months FREE TRIAL

Try Kubernetes Engine, BigQuery, and other Cloud Platform products with $300 in free credit and 12 months.

TRY IT FREE
Google Cloud Platform logo

12 Months FREE TRIAL

Try Kubernetes Engine, BigQuery, and other Cloud Platform products with $300 in free credit and 12 months.

TRY IT FREE