Laura Merling is VP of Ecosystem Development & Platform Solutions of AT&T Business Solutions. 

Are application programming interfaces (APIs) becoming just as important as apps themselves? Believe it or not, they are actually becoming more important. The API model is at the core of a cloud-based delivery model and at the heart of the connected business of tomorrow.

That is why APIs are going to be one of the hot topics at this year’s CloudBeat conference hosted by VentureBeat.

While a small niche of people have been working with APIs for years and extolling the virtues and opportunities to almost anyone who will listen, APIs are just starting to show up on the radar for many large enterprises.

A key theme for the conference this year is ‘The Cloud Grows Up’, and I would argue that APIs are next in line. We have witnessed the ‘born on the Internet’ companies thrive using an API-centric approach to easily integrate their services and data from the web and establish a longer term model to become a platform leader. Companies like eBay began their API efforts over 10 years ago as they sought opportunities to simplify the way their partners onboarded new content; then online search companies looked to integrate their services, such as maps and keyword searches, into other websites to extend value of these services; and more recently companies like Twitter (through Gnip) are providing access to data as a means of driving new revenue.

What is driving large enterprises to start taking notice of APIs now? What are the opportunities? And importantly, what are the pitfalls? What can big businesses learn from the approach of the web ecosystem and startups to ease their transformation into platform companies?

The fight to offer innovative products and services in markets that are changing every day is forcing enterprise companies down a path to an API model. Enterprises have a lot to learn from those who have come before them – regardless of their size or their industry segment. They may learn that the communication of API changes has the potential to sink their business or make it thrive. Or that the biggest user of their APIs will be their own internal development shop. There is much to be taken away from the experiences of the past 10 years of Web and mobile transformation.

Without pre-empting the CloudBeat discussions, I will wager that we are about to see a tipping point for APIs in the enterprise space. A few years ago we started to see apps and the cloud changing the way businesses work, by mobilizing employees and processes across industries. Now APIs are the next frontier.

The people convening for CloudBeat 2013 are right in the middle of the movement that is driving this progress. It is an exciting time and I am looking forward to some great discussions at this year’s event! I will be speaking at the “APIs — The Key that Unlocks the Cloud” breakout session. I hope to see you there!

VentureBeat’s in-depth CloudBeat conference takes place Sept. 9-Sept. 10 in San Francisco. We will be tackling revolutionary cases of cloud usage and exploring some of the hottest cloud trends and technologies. Register today!