Difference between SDK and API
When it comes to software development, two terms that often come up are SDK and API. While they may seem similar, they serve different purposes. An SDK, or Software Development Kit, is a collection of tools and resources that developers can use to build software applications for a specific platform or operating system. An API, or Application Programming Interface, on the other hand, is a set of protocols and tools for building software applications that can interact with other software applications or systems. In short, an SDK is used to build software, while an API is used to integrate software.
In this article, we will demystify SDKs and APIs to understand what they are, how they can be used, and how they relate to each other.
What is an SDK?
SDK stands for the software development kit. Also known as a devkit, the SDK is a set of software-building tools for a specific platform, including the building blocks, debuggers, and, often, a framework or group of code libraries such as a set of routines specific to an operating system (OS).
A typical SDK might include some or all of these resources in its set of tools:
- Compiler: Translates from one programming language to the one in which you will work.
- Code samples: Give a concrete example of an application or web page.
- Code libraries (framework): Provide a shortcut with code sequences that programmers will use repeatedly.
- Testing and analytics tools: Provide insight into how the application or product performs in testing and production environments.
- Documentation: Gives developers instructions they can refer to as they go.
- Debuggers: Help teams spot errors in their code so they can push out code that works as expected.
Often, at least one API is also included in the SDK because, without the API, applications can’t relay information and work together.
How an SDK works
SDKs provide a comprehensive collection of tools that enable software developers to build software applications faster and in a more standardized way.
Cloud-native mobile app development, for example, leverages Apple’s iOS SDKs or Google’s Android SDKs for that platform. For larger-scale applications, such as enterprise Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and proprietary web and desktop software applications, Microsoft provides the commonly used, open-source. NET SDK.
The simplicity of an SDK is just as valuable as the tools in the kit. Here’s how it works:
- Purchase, download, and install the “kit” for your platform (e.g., premade parts, examples, and instructions).
- Open and leverage any APIs and all the development tools you need to build a new application, beginning with the integrated development environment (IDE). This is the space where you will do the actual coding and where your compiler is.
- Use the instructions, documentation, code samples, and testing tools to do the building, which gives you and your team a healthy head-start.
What is an API?
API stands for an application programming interface. Whether working as a standalone solution or included within an SDK, an API facilitates communication between two platforms. It does this by allowing its proprietary software to be leveraged by third-party developers. The developers can then enable their own users to indirectly use the service or services provided by the API solution.
You can also think of an API as a kind of agreement between two parties. The API not only allows for on-demand information exchange, but it also stipulates how that information should be exchanged.
Because some APIs provide the interface directly, the terms “API” and “interface” are sometimes used interchangeably.
API can be applied to all computer platforms (such as industrial panel mount monitor) and operating systems.
How an API works
APIs make smooth, efficient integrations between applications possible.
For example, let’s say you have a real estate application. Your users want to be able to search for available real estate inventory — a service your software already provides. Furthermore, your users want to search for inventory within a certain area — a certain school district, perhaps. The most logical solution is to integrate with an established service.
Leveraging a geolocation API would enable your application’s end users to use that service to focus on particular inventory without any awareness that the geolocation application is separate.
From a technical standpoint, here’s what an API call entails:
- As the application user who needs to complete a task, you initiate the task from your app, creating a request.
- The API makes a call to the web server, relaying the request. The API knows where to send the request because it goes to the API endpoint, typically the URL of a server.
- The task is then executed by the third-party application, or database, providing the service.
SDK and API
While computer programmers use both APIs and SDKs to help them create websites and applications, each tool has its own advantages and functions. Here are the primary differences between APIs and SDKs:
An API serves the specific function of allowing communication between applications. These work well if a programmer is looking to facilitate interactions between applications. Programmers can use APIs to add specific functions to an application. If a programmer is looking to build a brand-new app or website, SDKs provide them with the tools needed to add many functions. SDKs often contain APIs since their new applications need to be able to communicate with other applications.
One of the main differences between an API and an SDK is how a programmer uses them. For an SDK, the programmer downloads the package onto their computer and incorporates it within their project. The download includes utilities, such as APIs and libraries, to help programmers use it. When using an API, a programmer submits a request to the server following the API’s guidelines. Once the server receives the request, programmers get a response containing the desired data.
While both SDK and API are used to facilitate software development, there are some key differences between the two. An API, or application programming interface, is a set of protocols and tools for building software applications. It provides a way for different software components to communicate with each other. On the other hand, an SDK, or software development kit, is a collection of tools, libraries, and documentation that developers can use to build software applications. It often includes sample code, technical documents, and debugging tools, making it a more comprehensive solution for software development.