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Bridging the Hole Between SaaS Purposes


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

Consequently, 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 are going to dive deep into unified APIs, how they work, their challenges and options, and the way they profit SaaS corporations.

What drawback do unified APIs clear up?

SaaS patrons have come to count on seamless native integrations from the options they buy. Interoperability is now not a pleasant to have however a requirement. Nevertheless, constructing these native integrations with their different instruments is a problem each SaaS firm faces immediately, because it requires vital engineering sources to ship and preserve.

For each integration, engineers should construct safe authentication, comb via 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 top person.

And this doesn’t account for all of the work concerned in sustaining and updating the combination as new function 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 lately as a method to sort out the problem of understanding every third-party app’s API documentation.

At its core, this could save engineering groups from consistently 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 via how a unified API works with a tangible instance.

Think about your clients are asking in your product to combine with their CRM – throughout your person 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 gives each a Lead and a Contact object, and Pipedrive refers to contacts as Prospects. When a name is made to the “Contact” object inside 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 are abstracted. Within the instance above, that might embrace completely different nomenclature for identify, ID, firm, and so forth.

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

Class-specific unified APIs

Not all APIs might be unified in a single API as a result of completely different SaaS purposes have distinctive information fashions, buildings, and options. 

Subsequently, distributors usually provide a number of unified APIs which are particular to a sure SaaS vertical, comparable to CRM, accounting, or promoting, as these SaaS purposes can have comparatively related information buildings 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.

Nevertheless, if the unified API had been to incorporate purposes that aren’t as related 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. For example, a unified API that features a CRM and an accounting software will not be very helpful as a result of outdoors of a “buyer” object, there will not be a lot overlap throughout the remainder of the purposes’ information fashions.

What are the advantages of unified APIs?

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

API abstractions

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

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

Moreover, relating to upkeep, the unified API vendor is accountable 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 will likely be accountable for updating their abstraction to make sure the combination 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. 

If you combine with a number of APIs straight, it’s a must to handle the authentication course of for every one, together with managing person credentials and making certain safe token refresh insurance policies. 

On condition that there are numerous nuances in how every software handles authentication, this could be a cumbersome and error-prone activity, particularly if you happen to’re working with a lot of APIs.


By nature, the unified API makes proxy requests to its underlying APIs. As such, they may acquire and analyze information in regards to the requests made to the third-party purposes. Consequently, 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 might be helpful in your workforce because it permits them to determine points that could be occurring with their integrations shortly. Relatively than going via the logs from a number of third-party APIs, they will 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 will analyze the error response and supply extra context across the root explanation for the difficulty, which might vastly scale back the period of time spent on diagnosing errors and velocity up incident response instances.

Pre-built person interface

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

This offloads your workforce from designing the person expertise for every integration, which might compound when it comes to time financial savings when contemplating the handfuls of potential integrations you may 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 turn 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 may solely construct options which are comparatively easy and generalizable throughout all of the integrations. That is by far the largest limitation of any unified API resolution.

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

abstract of unified API coverage

Supply: Paragon

Let’s stroll via some examples of those limitations.

Irreconcilable options

If you want to construct an integration function that entails performance or properties which are particular to one of many integrations, that won’t be potential with a unified API.

For instance, let’s say that you just wish to combine with a number of buyer suggestions instruments through a “unified suggestions API.” If one software leverages a quantitative mannequin with suggestions scores between 1-10, whereas one other solely collects “detrimental, impartial, optimistic” accompanied by “notes,” there isn’t any manner {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 you want to replace through the combination is barely obtainable for a particular subset of the supported integrations, that property received’t be made obtainable inside the unified API.

For instance, even when just a few of the underlying third-party purposes have ZIP code as a discipline, 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. Nevertheless, if you happen to introduce customized objects or fields into the combo, the unified API supplier can not anticipate what these objects or fields are. Subsequently, they can’t help integrations that contain customized objects or fields.

This could be a enormous blocker in case your clients require the integrations you present to help using customized objects inside the third-party purposes.

Price limits

When you’re integrating with a number of APIs directly through a unified API, you want to concentrate on the speed limits of every API and be certain that your integration logic would not exceed the boundaries for anyone API. 

Which means 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 in 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 will need to use batching or throttling to manage the speed of requests you ship to every API. 

So, whereas it’s nonetheless potential to work round decrease charge limits, you’ll end up constructing extra complexity into your codebase as a way 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 as a way to use their API, versus permitting you to pick particular person scopes for every integration.

Which means whenever you authenticate a person to make use of your integration, the person will likely be pressured to present you entry to the entire information related to that third-party service, not simply the info required for the combination.

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

This will elevate safety issues in your clients. To mitigate these issues, it is necessary to be clear together with your customers about what information you might be requesting entry to and to elucidate why you want that information clearly. 

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

Opinionated information mannequin

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

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 will and can construct new unified APIs over time, if you happen to ask for an integration with a class that isn’t at the moment supported, likelihood is you’ll have to attend years for that integration to be made obtainable. 

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

Workarounds: There are positively quite a lot of limitations that include unified APIs, which might make you suppose twice in regards to the true worth of unified APIs; the distributors that exist immediately try to give you distinctive options to supply workarounds.


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

When must you use a unified API

With regards to deciding whether or not a unified API is the best resolution in your workforce, you may observe easy decision-making standards.


If the entire following are true, then it’s definitely price evaluating.

  • Your integration roadmap is proscribed to the classes supported by the unified API supplier.
  • Each integration use case you’ll ever must construct might be generalized throughout each software within the class.
  • You’ll be able to 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 combination behaves and the place it errored out, and you’ll have the engineering workforce bounce in to debug.

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

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

The B2B SaaS integration problem

Deciding on an answer that can assist you scale your SaaS product’s native integration roadmap just isn’t a simple one. You not solely have to make sure that it could tackle your use instances immediately but in addition all potential use instances your clients could request sooner or later.

Unified APIs could be a nice resolution 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 attention-grabbing strategy 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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