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The world of APIs is a highly dynamic one, with new functionality added on a regular basis, and old capabilities fading away as required. Unfortunately, it is not easy to capture and respond to all API call types through simple management methods, especially as the number of calls travelling across your software environment increases. Eventually, manual management isn't possible, and an automated system becomes a requirement.
For instance, complex legacy APIs often have many moving parts wrapped into their calling procedures. These individual parts may be hard to track, thus making it complicated to version appropriately and make sure all components are up to date. It's certainly possible for developers to version APIs by simply using a Uniform Resource Identifier to redirect existing calls to new API functions. However, this approach can cause all sorts of problems once services must handle multiple -- possibly hundreds -- of calls.
In this article, we'll review the two fundamental areas API management needs to cover and explore the major benefits of an API management platform.
API management goals
Developers must thoroughly manage the plethora of intricate API data exchange mechanisms sprawled across their software environment. This means ensuring that application services are open to others via a standardized and acceptable calling method, and that these methods do not cause problems for API consumers.
Although each comes with its own set of individual required tasks, it's arguable that there are two main API management goals.
Careful handling of new functionality. Early beta testing of new API calls can run normally through small groups that are given access to new calls. However, once out in the wild, new functionality may still be a little flaky. Development teams need a dependable process to version APIs and provide failover capabilities.
Proper documentation. Comprehensive and up-to-date API documentation is a must. Modern DevOps systems track usage metrics and defined references to automatically create adequate documentation. Developers can also imbue this documentation with Java metadata notations, which will help identify specific request/response behaviors.
API management platform benefits
Even with the right processes in place, comprehensive API management is still complex to carry out manually. This is where cloud providers and vendors who specialize in API management platforms and related products come to the rescue. Some of the most popular API management platform options today include Apigee (owned by Google), Akana, Azure API Management and Tibco Cloud Mashery.
Here are five of the biggest benefits of an API management platform:
1. Message bussing and discovery. Messaging and API management platforms provide tools that act as a messaging bus between the various applications, apps, functions, services and APIs that litter modern IT environments. The best API management tools can quickly discover new API capabilities that frequently emerge from innovative development shops and then apply the correct messaging process.
2. Versioning and documentation. Some API management tools can take a bare service and create an API for it, along with the required documentation. Once it creates that API, the system will automatically manage new versions as they arise. When certain API calls are no longer needed, most tools will either transfer the call to a new replacement call or respond with exactly what happened to the calling service.
3. API integration and publishing. Some tools will create full-function API connector stubs that allow the user to directly bridge their services to consuming services, without the latter needing a deep understanding of the API. Also, they can often act as an API publishing system and make sure new APIs are available as required.
4. API security. These systems tend to interrogate and manage API security, ensuring that neither side of the request/response pair opens up any potential attack surfaces or data leakage. This is especially important if you plan to expose your API to third-party consumers.
5. DevOps tool integration. Many API management platforms plug directly into existing DevOps tools, like Git and Gradle. This ensures that the API management process starts as early in the development stage as possible. Basically, it will help handle the test and improvement work that needs to happen before development is complete.