While developing software/applications, SDKs and APIs are two key components. Both are responsible for adding capabilities that make an app dependable and functional. Developers use them both widely.
But are these the same thing? What capabilities do these two resources bring to the table?
As the post proceeds, you will be able to learn more about API vs SDK difference.
What is a Software Development Kit (SDK)?
Creating a digital product requires setting up the environment, collaborating on various code files, and writing a lot of code. SDK (Software Development Kit) helps reduce developers’ workload.
SDK comprises multiple development resources, such as programs, debugging aids, tools, and libraries that experts use widely used during an app’s creation. SDKs are used for developing platform-specific applications/software. The language used for coding plays a crucial role in deciding which SDK should be.
The key purpose of using an SDK is to speed up the coding process and reduce errors. Abundant resources are useful in app creation, and developers have to put efforts into bringing all those resources into one place.
SDK trims down these efforts by providing all key development resources in one bunch. Only they have to download SDKs, and they will have all the related resources like codes, libraries, documents, compliers, and many others at their disposal.
How it works?
As we all know, SDKs provide fundamental resources as a collection. To leverage this facility, developers must follow these steps -
You need to find out your app’s needs and then download the kit, e.g., .NET SDK is most often used while writing code for SaaS and desktop-based solutions.
Once you have compatible SDKs, follow the installation commands and install the SDK kits.
After successful SDK installation, your next goal would be to access and utilize any resources that you need. Make sure that the tool is running only the pre-integrated IDE. IDE is the tool that you use to write the code and compile it to check if it’s working.
Use the SDK kit resources as you like or as the product’s SDLC demands.
SDKs are quite famous among development professionals, as they simplify accessing crucial development resources. But that’s not the only advantage that you will enjoy with SDKs. Their skilled usage allows development professionals to be:
Faster as everything needed is readily available
Well integrated as all the offered resources that come pre-integrated have passed compatibility tests.
Quick on development as SDKs offer development shortcuts. Codes are already written. Developers only have to know where to use them.
Attentive towards errors and loopholes as dedicated support and expertise are offered. Detailed documentation will help you fix any error without waiting for extra support.
Cost-effective as added expenses are nowhere.
Examples & Usage
Because of the above-mentioned lucrative benefits, SDKs have become very popular and widely used. Here are a few most common uses and examples of SDKs.
Google and Apple provide detailed SDKs for Android and iOS mobile application development, respectively.
Microsoft offers .NET SDK for desktop application development. For cloud development, each cloud provider like Azure, AWS, and Google Cloud offers a dedicated SDK.
Qualcomm Neural Processing SDK and OpenAI SDK are two very famous SDKs for AI. PayPal offers extensive SKD for everyone who wants to use this as a payment method.
What Is An Application Programming Interface (API)?
An API is a key interface using which applications are able to communicate within and with other platforms/resources. The current era of application development is mainly driven by APIs.
At a fundamental level, API is mainly used to standardize the entire process of application interaction. With its usage, applications or software are able to utilize external parties easily. Depending upon the APIs used, the application’s functionalities and exchanged information are decided.
Two prime API forming components include API and documentation. API, as mentioned above, is the communication and data-sharing interface. Documentation is a detailed record of API usage rules, authentication information, the process of data exposure, and many more things.
APIs are categorized according to the functionalities they offer. For instance, there is a web API that is mainly used for web applications, browsers, and web-based devices. Additionally, we have REST and SOAP, gRPC, and GraphQL APIs.
How it Works?
We all know that the key job of an API is to allow an application and platform to communicate. But how does it happen? Let’s try to understand the functionality of an API with the help of an online e-commerce application selling shoes.
The applications have to find out whether or not the stock is available, which payment mode to offer, how to share the order status with customers, and forward a concern to the right department. To make all this possible, the application has to communicate with the respective department.
For Instance, stock tracking is possible when an application can communicate with an inventory. To resolve customer concerns, the application should be in touch with CRM.
All this is possible with the help of API. The application will use API for each functionality. When a customer orders on your website, you can evoke an API and gather the order details. For instance, the inventory API will provide you with stock availability. As soon as the application has inventory information, the order will be confirmed and will be forwarded to the logistics department.
The logistic API will then collect the delivery-related details. Based on the gathered information, the application will proceed with order delivery and other aspects.
In the very simplest form, API workflow seems like this:
The client asks for a particular API endpoint to integrate a specific functionality, and information > API captures the request and checks for authentication > the app will process the request as per the information API brings.
Other than enabling communication and data sharing in the application, APIs offer a wide range of benefits that include:
Quick integration with different kinds of services and software
Securing data and capabilities without asking for any integrations
Allowing distributed architectures to integrate so that internal communication capabilities are added
Improved productivity as APIs are reusable
Controlled overhead as no customizations are offered
Detailed analytics with fewer efforts as reporting and data analytics functionalities are provided
Compatible with all platforms. All the key types of services and platforms can use APIs
Examples & Usage
APIs are of varied kinds. Hence, they have vast use cases.
Weather prediction software uses weather and mapping APIs to add customized maps. Some of the common APIs in this category are OpenStreetMap APIs, Google Maps APIs, and so on.
We have payment APIs like StripeAPI, KeyPayAPI, and PayPal APIs that allow an application to become payment enabled.
Open Science Framework API is mainly used by scientific services to access open-source data and projects seamlessly.
Distributed architecture services like microservices like Internal APIs to communicate with different application components.
Difference Between SDK vs API And What To Choose
Besides being common about the fact that both SDKs and APIs are used to cut down the total development duration, these two are poles apart. From purpose and offerings, both differ.
SDK is a toolbox, but API is an interface.
SDK is used by 3rd party developers, but APIs are designed for the app itself.
APIs can be a part of SDK as they develop resources. But, vice versa is not true.
Let’s have a quick overview of these differences
Provides application resources
Offers data sharing and communication abilities
Can include API
SDK is not a part of the APIs
It is platform-specific
It can work on every platform
They both have different purposes. So, your selection mainly depends on the kind of functionality you want for the project. For example, is it data sharing or easy access to development/coding resources?
If communication and data sharing are your prime focus, go for API. But, you want every code-writing resource so that project is done on time and developers have fewer hassles to deal with, SDKs are perfect.
Problems With the SDK and API
The huge demand and deeper penetration of APIs and SDKs don’t mean they are both flawless. There are some evident challenges in using these two. For instance, they both have a wide attack surface. Threat and vulnerability possibilities are in abundance. A corrupted API or SDK leads to corrupt application development.
Because of the wide attack surface, patching work is also a lot with SDKs and APIs. With SDKs, fraudulent activities are also observed a lot. SDKs often ask for frequent updates, which is again, a key issue.
All these problems can cause serious operational hindrances, if not addressed properly. Hence, the DevOps team has to find ways to fix these security breaches.
Tips For Using SDKs and APIs
Both these sources are crucial for application development. However, end users have to play smart to make sure that both of them are only delivering benefits. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as one starts using SDKs and APIs.
Have a goal and use them accordingly. End users have to understand what exactly your project demands are and introduce APIs or SDKs accordingly.
Extensively perform market research and find your best possible options. Each API and SDK will have different facilities to offer you. Hence, you need to find which one is suitable for you.
Take the help of online resources. Multiple communities/forums are packed with tried and tested understanding of SDKs and APIs. Hence, they are the best way to learn the basics of these two. Use them without any fear, as most of the online resources are open-source.
Don’t hesitate to contact customer support if you’re facing any trouble. In fact, you must get SDKs and APIs with dedicated customer support.
Wallarm On The Defense Of The API
While APIs are abundantly used, API security is something that you can’t afford to ignore. API users need to understand that API vulnerabilities, known or unknown, can corrupt the entire application in one go. Hence, API security should be a prime goal as one plans to use APIs.
Wallarm provides a feature-rich API security platform that works with all the leading API types, cloud ecosystems, and platforms. The API security platform of Wallarm helps in early threat detection, response, and prevention.
It provides API protection against account takeover, OWASP Top10, and other threats. While all these capabilities are offered, the platform is not at all complex to use, and this is what makes it a preferred tool to use. It comes with impressive integrations. Hence, you will be able to use the tool with any platform. Try it once, and we will not have to worry about anything.
Can an SDK replace an API?
No, an SDK cannot replace an API. While both provide access to an application's features, an API is a simplified set of protocols and interfaces, while an SDK offers a complete development kit for creating applications for a specific platform.
When should you use an SDK instead of an API?
Use an SDK when you're building an application from scratch and need access to a wide range of features and libraries. Use an API when you simply want to access the application's features from your existing system.
What is the difference between SDK and API?
SDK provides a complete set of development tools for a platform while API provides a set of protocols and interfaces for accessing the application's features.