What is API management?
API management is the process of deploying, controlling, and analyzing the APIs that connect applications and data, both in on-premises data centers and in the cloud. The goal of API management is to allow developers that create APIs, or use APIs from other providers, to monitor activity and ensure that they are functioning properly and meeting service levels.
HTTP-based APIs have become the preferred method for synchronous interaction within microservices architectures. These APIs are the glue that holds microservices together. Managing these APIs helps organizations ensure that API usage complies with company policies and is managed with an appropriate level of security – some services may require different security policies than others.
Whether managing an internal microservices architecture or interaction with external APIs, organizations use an API management strategy to be able to respond to customer requirements, accelerate software development, and ensure application resiliency and quality.
Why is API management important?
APIs expose corporate data and make corporate assets available to applications. Organizations also use APIs to add a digital layer to their interactions with customers and partners. API management helps organizations secure, scale, govern, analyze, and monetize these API programs.
There are four key elements to API management:
- API security—possibly the most important element of API management. APIs must be protected from unauthorized access and threats. API security is not just about authenticating and authorizing users to access APIs – organizations must establish standards and policies to protect sensitive data and prevent leaks and breaches. An API management platform helps organizations define a standardized set of security policies for APIs, and ensure they are consistently enforced.
- API governance—the primary goal of API governance is to provide a consistent experience for end users. It also includes API discoverability, lifecycle management, documentation, and reusability. API governance allows developers to ensure that each API program meets organizational goals and adds value to the business. API governance is especially important for APIs that operate across desktop and mobile devices, to ensure consistent policies across platforms.
- API analytics—focuses on the centralized collection and analysis of API metrics provided by real-time monitoring and dashboards. API analytics allows developers and organizations to see how their APIs are being used and monitor their performance. It is crucial for developers, operations, and business teams.
- API monetization—provides the ability to generate revenue from enterprise API offerings. API monetization includes creation of custom packages and programs, data commodification, and appropriate licensing of API products.
Components of API management system
An API management solution includes multiple components that simplify the deployment of API integrations and the process of documenting and sharing API configurations. These components include:
An API gateway is the most important aspect of an API management solution, acting as an entry point for systems and services. The API gateway handles routing for all requests, configurations, and protocol conversion between clients and the API services they connect to.
API gateways play an important role in securing API connections by managing secure authentication and enforcement protocols such as Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption and Open Authorization (OAuth). API gateways also make it easy for developers to consume microservices as managed APIs.
API developer portal
The main purpose of an API developer portal is to provide developers with a self-service center where they can access and share API documentation. The developer portal is an important part of streamlining communication between teams, making it easy for developers to browse, build, and test APIs.
Reporting and analytics
API management solutions allow organizations to track usage metrics in a variety of ways. API platforms take a holistic approach to monitoring API response time, availability, and overall performance. They may also use protocols designed to integrate analytics programs and extract data for automated reporting and analysis.
These analytics tools play a key role in diagnosing and resolving integration issues that may arise, helping businesses make better-informed decisions about their applications and services.
API lifecycle management
API integration is a key part of any digital transformation strategy, and an integral part of scaling an organization’s digital operations. API management platforms help businesses by managing the entire lifecycle of APIs, from initial creation through all stages of development, to eventual retirement. API management provides a sustainable solution for building, testing, onboarding, and managing APIs while ensuring proper versioning at each stage.
How to evaluate an API management solution
Below are general criteria for evaluating potential API management tools:
- Quality—the tool should ensure that APIs consistently provide the requested data, in a complete and usable format. The quality of API responses is critical to customer satisfaction, and it can be tricky to identify if responses are correct.
- Reliability—tools should improve API reliability. If an external site integrates the API into their work, their system could go down if your API fails. Similarly, internal API outages can affect your organization’s own operations.
- Agility—changing business requirements could mean your APIs need to support multiple request types without compromising performance. An API management tool should support this flexibility by handling multiple requests, routing them to different APIs, and returning a single composite response to the client.
- Performance—APIs should be reliable and fast. API management tools should help reduce latency between API calls and responses, ensuring requests are handled in the shortest possible time and providing only the exact information requested. They should also help identify and troubleshoot performance problems.
- Cost—tools should ensure APIs utilize resources effectively, and optimize resource usage to save infrastructure costs.
- Observability—a good API management tool should promote full observability of APIs and the underlying services that support them.
API management best practices
API security and policy enforcement
API security is important because APIs often expose sensitive data and functionality to external clients, and it is essential to ensure that this data and functionality is protected from unauthorized access or abuse.
API policy enforcement refers to the process of enforcing rules and policies that govern how clients can use and consume an API. These policies might include things like rate limits, which restrict the number of requests that a client can make to an API within a certain time period, or authentication requirements, which require clients to provide credentials in order to access the API.
Some common tools for enforcing policies include API gateways, which sit between the API and its clients, and API management platforms, which provide tools for defining and enforcing policies.
API monitoring involves tracking various performance metrics, such as response times, error rates, and throughput, and alerting API administrators when these metrics fall outside of expected ranges. This can help identify problems with the API or its underlying infrastructure, allowing them to be addressed before they impact API users.
API monitoring can be performed using a variety of tools, such as API analytics platforms or server monitoring tools. These tools may provide features such as real-time monitoring, alerts, and reporting to help API administrators understand the performance and availability of their API.
API performance tuning
There are several steps that you can take to tune the performance of an API:
- Monitor API performance: Regularly monitoring the performance of your API, including metrics such as response times, error rates, and throughput, can help identify performance issues and bottlenecks.
- Identify and resolve bottlenecks: If you identify a performance bottleneck, you may need to optimize the API itself or the infrastructure supporting it. This could involve optimizing the API code, using faster hardware or infrastructure, or implementing caching or other performance-enhancing techniques.
- Use a load balancer: If you have a large number of API clients, you may need to use a load balancer to distribute incoming requests across multiple servers. This can help improve the scalability and performance of your API.
- Use caching: Caching can help improve the performance of your API by reducing the number of requests that need to be processed by the API server. You can use caching to store frequently accessed data or API responses in a local cache, allowing them to be served faster to clients.
API analytics is the process of tracking and analyzing the performance and usage of an API. There are several important considerations for API analytics, including:
- Data privacy: It is important to consider data privacy when collecting and analyzing data from API usage. You should ensure that you have the necessary permissions to collect and use data, and that you handle data in accordance with any relevant privacy laws or regulations.
- Data security: Ensure that data is stored and transmitted securely, and that access to data is restricted to authorized personnel.
- Data accuracy: Accurate data is critical for effective API analytics. You should ensure that data is collected and processed accurately, and that any errors or anomalies are identified and corrected.
- Data visualization: Visualizing data can help you identify trends and patterns more easily, and can make it easier for you to communicate your findings to others. You should consider using an API management platform that helps you analyze, visualize, and communicate your API data.
API management with Gloo Gateway and Gloo Portal
The API management market has evolved significantly over the past five years, as companies move to the cloud, leveraging a variety of open source technologies, and begin to integrate API management into the operational model used by cloud native applications.
Unlike other vendors that take a legacy approach to API management, either through rigid vertical stacks, or maintaining slow, legacy technologies, Solo brings a cloud native, secure, modern approach to API management. Solo Gloo Gateway and Gloo Portal enable companies to deliver self-service, secure API management across any cloud environment. Gloo Gateway, based on Envoy Proxy, delivers a Kubernetes-native API Gateway, powered by GitOps automation. This delivers the most scalable, secure, cloud native API management solution in the market.