Easily Work with Data APIs with Nexla

Billy Allocca
Billy Allocca

Working with data APIs is one of the most time-consuming aspects of data engineering. Public and internal data APIs require such complicated setups that they often require one-by-one custom work that can take months — for each API. With Nexla, this process becomes dynamic, self-adapting, and fast. 

Nexla has simple, yet powerful connectors that can be customized without code in minutes. Nexla deals with authentication like Oauth 2, and JWT, HMAC, headers, tokens, and more, seamlessly. This enables anyone working with data to quickly get what they need without getting bogged down dealing with API calls and coding. And once you set it up, Nexla handles any scale and updates for you. Creating the custom databases you need with APIs now becomes no problem at all. Let’s see how it works with a simple movie database API example.

How Nexla works

The best way to explain how Nexla works is with an example. In this example, we’re trying to produce a database of movies key actors have starred in and the surrounding information about them (directors, budget, producers, etc.). The only problem is there isn’t a perfect database available that maps names to movies — a frequent problem. Instead, we need to search a movie data API to find the ID associated with our actors, then look up those IDs to find the movies in a different API. 

Nexla makes it easy to do this in under 10 minutes by importing a lookup table with our actors, fetching IDs from the API using the lookup table, then chaining another API with those IDs. Then using Nexla’s automatic schema and dataset detection, we instantly make a dataset with the movies we’re looking for. Here’s a walkthrough of how that’s done.

Step-by-Step

  1. Import or create your lookup table in Nexla by navigating to Tools > Lookups on the left. You can either upload a CSV file, or in this example because we’re only interested in a small number of lookups I manually typed in three actors names.
  2. Create a new flow from Flows > Create New Flow on the left. Select REST API as the source, input the API credentials, and click Create.
  3. Now, test your API to get a sense of the data you’re pulling. In the second box, go to Lookups and select the lookup you just made. Now, in the API URL, where you would put the actor’s name simply type a “{” symbol to pull up Nexla’s macro tool.
  4. Select what you want to look up, in this case “Actor” from our Actors lookup table. Nexla will now make separate API calls with each of the different actor’s names and fetch all the information about them.
  5. At the bottom of the window, click “Add Another Step”. This is where the APIs are chained. Now, put in your API URL and where you need to input the actor IDs, and again type a “{” symbol. You should see results from Step 1 able to be used now – scroll until you find the attribute you need to input again, in this case “ID”, and click on it. Now Nexla is inputting all the IDs it found in the first step to produce a database of movies associated with that ID, and that actor.
  6. Click Next and then Done once your source is activated. Nexla should automatically detect the exact dataset you just specified and it’s now ready to be connect wherever you need, whether that’s a data warehouse, another API, or one of Nexla’s hundreds of prebuilt connectors. This dataset will automatically update as your actors change in the lookup table, and even when their movies in the API change.

Conclusion

In just a few steps and with no coding needed, Nexla took a process that normally takes companies many hours if not weeks and accomplished it in minutes. This is easily adaptable or scalable to more complicated and secure APIs, and hands analysts the tools to do these complicated tasks in a fraction of the time. Instead of actors and movies, imagine customer data, UPC codes, or whatever your business uses fetching the insights and data you need right now. To learn more and request a free trial, click the button in the top right or head to www.nexla.com.