Google is vowing greater stability for newly designated Google Enterprise APIs, which include a majority of its APIs across Google Cloud, Google Workspace and Google Maps Platform.
The technology giant is implementing more stringent requirements governing how and when it makes changes to those Google-built APIs, and it’s putting the onus on itself to carry any associated burden, according to Kripa Krishnan (pictured), vice president of Google Cloud and technical infrastructure.
APIs power Google’s products, and it’s faced criticism about its support for customers when it changes or removes its APIs without notice, or it fails to provide enough time for customers to respond, Krishnan said.
“We’re trying to address that problem by introducing the notion of Google Enterprise APIs, which are high-stability APIs that customers can depend on for long-term planning,” Krishnan said in an interview with CRN.
“They are governed by a strict set of requirements about how and when we can make changes to them. We make it really hard to cause breaking changes in these APIs that would require our customers to do work.”
The founding principle of the revised policy is that no API feature may be removed or changed in a way that is “backwards incompatible” for as long as customers are actively using the APIs. The only exception is if there are critical security, legal or intellectual property issues caused by an API feature.
“And if such a change of an API is unavoidable, then the burden is on us to make the experience as effortless and painless as possible to our customers,” Krishnan said.
Customers will get a minimum of one year’s notice of a coming change, and the feature will continue to operate without issue during that time, according to Google. It will provide customers access to tools, documents and other materials to migrate to newer versions – where available – that have equivalent functionality and performance. Google said it also will work with customers to help them reduce their usage to as close to zero as possible.
The applicable APIs will be labeled as Google Enterprise APIs in Google’s API Library and Google Cloud Marketplace. The label distinguishes them from other Google APIs, such as those supplied by teams outside of Google Cloud.
Google has piloted the new API policy with its engineering organisation for several months. Any change it introduces to an API must be reviewed by a centralised board of product and engineering leads and follow a rigorous product lifecycle evaluation.
“We’ve always had something for deprecations and breaking changes, but I think that we had to reframe it as the organisation got to hypergrowth,” Krishnan said.
“Our policies did not scale with the size of the organisation we were. They were written for a different time when the teams were smaller, had a smaller customer base, and they were moving more nimbly. So while we had the policy, it was not sticking, and it came across...as a lot of churn to a lot of folks.
"Everybody got involved to rethink this, because it was a fundamental mindset change for the organization to really put customers front and centre before we start making these changes. We basically have the muscle of the senior-most folks all the way up to (Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian) behind the change.”
The “door is open” for other Google-built APIs to become Google Enterprise APIs.
“This is not just about the technology in cloud products, but our own workflows and practices to make the customer experience with us better and more dependable,” Krishnan said.
“And the big thing is this even if we slip up – I mean, it’s tech everybody does – we have strong vetted principles to help us recover from them super quickly. We know what our north star is.”