SDK vs API: What’s the difference in Software developers ?

Software developers use basic tools: SDKs and APIs. In fact, both SDKs and APIs allow you to improve the functionality of your applications without much effort.

What is SDK?

SDK stands for software development kit. SDK, or devkit, is a set of tools for software development for a particular platform. It contains building blocks, debugging tools, and often a framework or a group of code libraries, for example a set of subroutines for a particular operating system.

The standard SDK may contain some or all of the components listed below:

  • Compiler: translates from one programming language to the one you use.
  • Code samples: demonstrates sample applications or web pages.
  • Code libraries (frameworks): provide code snippets commonly used by programmers.
  • Testing and analytics tools: provide analytical data on how the product performs in test and production environments.
  • Documentation: provides instructions for developers.
  • Debugging tools: help developers find bugs in the code so that the published code works as intended.

There is often at least one API in the SDK, because without it, applications cannot communicate and work together.

How the SDK works

The SDK provides tools that help speed up and standardize application development.

Procedure:

  1. Purchase, download, and install the SDK for your platform (e.g., prebuilt build snippets, examples, and instructions).
  2. Open and use whatever APIs and development tools you need to build your new application, starting with the integrated development environment (IDE). This is the space in which the programmer works and the debugging tool is installed.
  3. When developing, use instructions, documentation, code samples, and testing tools that will get you and your team off to a good start.

Examples of SDK use

SDKs are an integral part of mobile app development. SDKs have many uses:

  • SDKs for specific programming languages, such as JSON and the Java Developer Kit (JDK) for JavaScript and Java, respectively, are used to develop programs in those languages in an optimal and standardized way.
  • SDKs for analytics from Google and others provide data about user actions, behaviors, and paths they take through a site or application.
  • Monetization SDKs from Google, Facebook and others make it easy to integrate advertising with existing apps to generate revenue.

Benefits of SDKs for software development

  • Access to components and instructions for software development: for example, the retail SDK contains all the elements needed for applications in that industry (e.g., Favorites, Shopping Cart, Save Order, Checkout, etc.)
  • Accelerated, seamless integration: The SDKs simplify standard processes and provide access to the information you need.
  • Shorter development cycles, improved efficiency of deployment and bringing products to market: Since the SDKs are designed to inform and provide the necessary tools and templates, developers can focus on the development of their product.
  • Built-in support and expertise: no need to search for answers or hire additional experts for your team; the SDKs already contain code written by experts and all the necessary supporting documentation.
  • Cost control: all of the above allows you to stay within budget during development and after deployment.

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What is an API?

API stands for application programming interface. An API, either as a standalone solution or as part of an SDK, facilitates the exchange of data between the two platforms and allows third-party developers to use the functionality of proprietary software.

The API can be seen as an agreement between the two parties. The API not only enables data exchange but also sets the rules.

Since some APIs provide an interface directly, the terms API and “interface” are sometimes used interchangeably.

To be clear, it is worth noting that an API can consist of two components:

  • Technical specifications and documentation: information about the integration and effective use of the API.
  • Interface: accessed either directly, through a keyword (in the case of a webAPI), or indirectly, through a separate interface (in the case of a REST API).

What an API call represents from a technical point of view:

  1. As a user of an application that needs to perform a task, you initiate the task from your application by creating a request.
  2. The API makes a call to the web server, transmitting the request. The API knows where to send the request because it is passed to the API’s endpoint, usually the server URL.
  3. The request is performed by a third-party application or database that provides that service.

API usage examples

  • Mapping APIs are typically used to integrate a map on a web page or in a mobile application.
  • Payment service APIs are typically used by e-commerce companies to improve the flexibility of the buying process, resulting in a larger base of potential customers.
  • Weather service APIs can improve the user experience of sports apps, search engines, etc.

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Benefits of APIs

  • Combining heterogeneous software applications to create a stronger product
  • Reducing the development cycle through automation
  • Reducing the burden on in-house resources
  • Increasing brand awareness and credibility
  • Maximize new services to end users

Do I have to choose between the SDK and API?

No, because as said above, the SDK often has at least one API. They have different functions, but they can work together and help together.

Keep in mind that there are some complexities associated with using an API and an SDK. One of them is the potential vulnerabilities. Another difficulty related to the SDK is the frequency of updates. Therefore, it is important that DevOps teams keep the issue of information security in mind, as well as make sure that components are updated in a timely manner.

The original material is available in English at this link.

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