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Bridging the Hole Between SaaS Purposes

Bridging the Hole Between SaaS Purposes


A unified utility programming interface (API) is an API that serves as a layer of abstraction that may talk with a number of underlying APIs concurrently. 

Because of this, every object and endpoint within the unified API maps to a corresponding object and endpoint within the underlying API. This permits SaaS corporations to construct a single integration with the unified API and immediately ship integrations with every of the underlying APIs.

On this article, we’ll dive deep into unified APIs, how they work, their challenges and options, and the way they profit SaaS corporations.

What downside do unified APIs clear up?

SaaS consumers have come to anticipate seamless native integrations from the options they buy. Interoperability is now not a pleasant to have however a requirement. Nonetheless, constructing these native integrations with their different instruments is a problem each SaaS firm faces right this moment, because it requires vital engineering sources to ship and keep.

For each integration, engineers should construct safe authentication, comb by the third-party app’s API documentation, implement the enterprise logic required to ship the use case and construct an intuitive configuration expertise for the tip consumer.

And this doesn’t account for all of the work concerned in sustaining and updating the mixing as new characteristic requests are added, when the third-party API releases breaking modifications, and the time builders spend serving to clients debug integration points.

Throughout the context of SaaS integrations, unified APIs emerged in recent times as a solution to deal with the problem of understanding every third-party app’s API documentation.

At its core, this could save engineering groups from continually studying or revisiting the nuances, shapes, and nomenclature for each particular person API, as soon as for each integration.

How do unified APIs work?

Let’s stroll by how a unified API works with a tangible instance.

Think about your clients are asking to your product to combine with their CRM – throughout your consumer base, some clients use Salesforce, others use HubSpot, and a few use Dynamics or Pipedrive.

A unified CRM API would summary the APIs of every of those CRMs by sustaining references to every of the underlying CRMs’ APIs.

unified APIs working example

Supply: Paragon

The instance right here reveals that every underlying CRM has an object that represents a “contact.”

HubSpot calls it a Contact, Salesforce supplies each a Lead and a Contact object, and Pipedrive refers to contacts as Prospects. When a name is made to the “Contact” object throughout the unified API,  the unified API will then reference the corresponding object within the specified service.

Now, object-level references are the primary layer, however inside these objects, there are additionally properties or fields which can be abstracted. Within the instance above, that would embody totally different nomenclature for title, ID, firm, and many others.

So, in case your workforce is constructing a number of CRM integrations, theoretically, you possibly can construct a single integration with a unified CRM API that allows you to ship all of the underlying CRM integrations concurrently.

Class-specific unified APIs

Not all APIs will be unified in a single API as a result of totally different SaaS functions have distinctive knowledge fashions, constructions, and options. 

Subsequently, distributors sometimes provide a number of unified APIs which can be particular to a sure SaaS vertical, reminiscent of CRM, accounting, or promoting, as these SaaS functions may have comparatively comparable knowledge constructions and share many widespread objects or properties.

When designing a unified API, the API supplier should fastidiously select which underlying APIs to incorporate within the unified API, because the extra overlap the underlying APIs have, the broader the protection the unified API can present.

Nonetheless, if the unified API have been to incorporate functions that aren’t as comparable to one another, it will be much less helpful because it would not have the ability to floor all of the objects and properties that the underlying APIs share. As an illustration, a unified API that features a CRM and an accounting utility might not be very helpful as a result of exterior of a “buyer” object, there might not be a lot overlap throughout the remainder of the functions’ knowledge fashions.

What are the advantages of unified APIs?

Unified APIs present a number of advantages to engineering groups that have to ship and keep dozens of integrations.

API abstractions

As a substitute of studying and interacting with the person APIs of every service, your engineering workforce solely must discover ways to interface with the unified API as soon as (per class). 

This not solely makes constructing these integrations simpler and sooner but in addition helps cut back the complexity of integrations. 

Moreover, with regards to upkeep, the unified API vendor is answerable for dealing with the communication with the underlying APIs, which suggests your workforce would not want to fret about breaking modifications being made to one of many underlying APIs. In the end, the unified API vendor can be answerable for updating their abstraction to make sure the mixing continues to work.

Managed authentication

Unified API suppliers typically provide a managed authentication service that abstracts away the complexities of authentication with the underlying APIs, whether or not it’s through API keys or OAuth. 

Once you combine with a number of APIs instantly, you need to handle the authentication course of for each, together with managing consumer credentials and guaranteeing safe token refresh insurance policies. 

On condition that there are various nuances in how every utility handles authentication, this is usually a cumbersome and error-prone process, particularly in case you’re working with a lot of APIs.


By nature, the unified API makes proxy requests to its underlying APIs. As such, they’ll gather and analyze knowledge concerning the requests made to the third-party functions. Because of this, when a request fails, the unified API supplier can log this occasion and supply particulars on the error message that was returned by the underlying API.

This logging performance will be helpful to your workforce because it permits them to determine points which may be occurring with their integrations shortly. Somewhat than going by the logs from a number of third-party APIs, they’ll depend on the unified API supplier to centralize the logging and error reporting.

With debugging errors, unified API suppliers can typically present extra detailed error messages than the underlying APIs themselves. It is because they’ll analyze the error response and supply extra context across the root reason behind the problem, which might significantly cut back the period of time spent on diagnosing errors and velocity up incident response occasions.

Pre-built consumer interface

Most unified API suppliers present a pre-built interface to your clients to authenticate into an integration, saving you from constructing the configuration expertise your self.

This offloads your workforce from designing the consumer expertise for every integration, which might compound when it comes to time financial savings when contemplating the handfuls of potential integrations you possibly can construct on the unified API.

What are the challenges with utilizing unified APIs?

Whereas unified APIs present the advantages shared above, they’re crippled by some structural limitations that corporations are beginning to develop into extra conscious of.

Use case limitations

On condition that unified APIs can solely summary the “shared” objects and endpoints amongst the underlying APIs, you possibly can solely construct options which can be comparatively easy and generalizable throughout all of the integrations. That is by far the most important limitation of any unified API answer.

Moreover, the extra functions supported inside a unified API, the extra restricted it turns into.

abstract of unified API coverage

Supply: Paragon

Let’s stroll by some examples of those limitations.

Irreconcilable options

If it’s good to construct an integration characteristic that entails performance or properties which can be particular to one of many integrations, that won’t be doable with a unified API.

For instance, let’s say that you just need to combine with a number of buyer suggestions instruments through a “unified suggestions API.” If one device leverages a quantitative mannequin with suggestions scores between 1-10, whereas one other solely collects “detrimental, impartial, optimistic” accompanied by “notes,” there isn’t a approach {that a} unified API can help these use instances, as you can not reconcile these right into a single reference.

Lacking fields

If the property it’s good to replace through the mixing is simply accessible for a selected subset of the supported integrations, that property received’t be made accessible throughout the unified API.

For instance, even when a couple of of the underlying third-party functions have ZIP code as a subject, so long as one doesn’t, ZIP code can’t be accessed as a property through the unified API.

Customized objects and fields

By nature, unified APIs present a set of pre-defined references to every underlying API. Nonetheless, in case you introduce customized objects or fields into the combo, the unified API supplier can’t anticipate what these objects or fields are. Subsequently, they can’t help integrations that contain customized objects or fields.

This is usually a enormous blocker in case your clients require the integrations you present to help using customized objects throughout the third-party functions.

Charge limits

When you’re integrating with a number of APIs without delay through a unified API, you want to concentrate on the speed limits of every API and be sure that your integration logic would not exceed the bounds for anyone API. 

Because of this the logic you construct should adhere to the speed limits of the API with the bottom threshold for charge limits. Put merely, the API with the bottom charge restrict would be the limiting issue to your integration. When you attempt to make too many requests to that API’s endpoints, your requests will begin to fail, even when the opposite APIs within the unified API can technically help that very same quantity.

To keep away from hitting charge restrict errors when making bulk requests to particular endpoints for these integrations, you have to use batching or throttling to manage the speed of requests you ship to every API. 

So, whereas it’s nonetheless doable to work round decrease charge limits, you’ll end up constructing further complexity into your codebase with a purpose to accommodate limitations from any one of many underlying integrations.


Unified APIs typically require that you just authorize entry to all scopes for a third-party service with a purpose to use their API, versus permitting you to pick out particular person scopes for every integration.

Because of this whenever you authenticate a consumer to make use of your integration, the consumer can be compelled to provide you entry to all the knowledge related to that third-party service, not simply the information required for the mixing.

For example, you’re constructing a CRM integration through a unified API, and the CRM has entry to gross sales, advertising and marketing, and buyer help knowledge. When a consumer authenticates their account to make use of your integration, you’d be given entry to all three units of knowledge, even when all of your utility wants is the gross sales knowledge.

This may elevate safety considerations to your clients. To mitigate these considerations, it is necessary to be clear along with your customers about what knowledge you might be requesting entry to and to clarify why you want that knowledge clearly. 

Moreover, provided that the seller typically hosts unified APIs, you’re counting on the seller to make sure that they’ve robust safety measures in place to guard your customers’ knowledge from unauthorized entry or breaches.

Opinionated knowledge mannequin

How the seller reconciles totally different underlying APIs and reference endpoints is topic to their very own opinion. Whereas this isn’t an issue for many use instances, there can be occasions when they could current an abstraction that you just disagree with, or that doesn’t adhere to the anticipated conduct.

Roadmap constraints

In comparison with embedded integration platforms, which offer one-on-one abstractions of each third-party API throughout many classes, unified API distributors are restricted to the classes for which they’ve constructed unified APIs. 

Whereas they’ll and can construct new unified APIs over time, in case you ask for an integration with a class that isn’t at present supported, chances are high you’ll have to attend years for that integration to be made accessible. 

The one exception can be if the seller occurred to be constructing out a unified API for the class that the requested integration suits into. Nonetheless, given the breadth of the SaaS ecosystem and the potential classes they might help, it will not often be the case.

Workarounds: There are positively numerous limitations that include unified APIs, which might make you assume twice concerning the true worth of unified APIs; the distributors that exist right this moment are attempting to give you distinctive options to supply workarounds.


For instance, sure suppliers created the power to make “pass-through” requests to the underlying API. Nonetheless, right this moment’s implementation remains to be very limiting and creates a subpar developer expertise.

When do you have to use a unified API

In relation to deciding whether or not a unified API is the best answer to your workforce, you possibly can comply with easy decision-making standards.


If all the following are true, then it’s definitely value evaluating.

  • Your integration roadmap is restricted to the classes supported by the unified API supplier.
  • Each integration use case you’ll ever have to construct will be generalized throughout each utility within the class.
  • You may make investments devoted sources to constructing an infrastructure that may deal with the quantity of requests required to help your clients as you scale.
  • You don’t want your help workforce to have visibility into how the mixing behaves and the place it errored out, and you’ll have the engineering workforce soar in to debug.

When you can’t confidently say sure to the 4 factors above, it’s possible you’ll not need to be locked into utilizing a unified API.

As a substitute, an embedded integration platform could also be a greater answer, as they permit you to construct a lot deeper integrations whereas offering extra complete tooling to assist streamline the mixing growth course of.

The B2B SaaS integration problem

Deciding on an answer that can assist you scale your SaaS product’s native integration roadmap shouldn’t be a straightforward one. You not solely have to make sure that it may possibly handle your use instances right this moment but in addition all doable use instances your clients might request sooner or later.

Unified APIs is usually a nice answer for transport dozens of integrations with minimal effort, offered that the use instances your clients require are uniform throughout each integration inside a given class.

It’s a growing market with many new gamers and is definitely an fascinating method to fixing the B2B SaaS integration problem.

Be taught all about APIs, their advantages, challenges, and use instances within the complete information.



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