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API lifecycle management: Why it matters and how to do it

For a number of years now, software experts have touted the benefits of holistic application lifecycle management. As APIs become a business priority for more and more organizations, experts in the field are saying that that same lifecycle management mentality needs to be applied to APIs.

Vanessa Ramos, a senior product manager at Red Hat, is one of the advocates for holistic API lifecycle management. This starts, she said, with organizations thinking about all of their APIs as products.

"A lot of people tend to think that only public APIs are products, but internal ones are as well," she said. "As such, we want to have a roadmap, want to measure, want to manage them and want to provide top-notch support."

Ramos explained that there are various tools teams can use for API lifecycle management. One thing she suggested is that API designers look into tools that allow for mocking, such as StopLight or Postman. Postman, for instance, offers features that allow designers to mock responses from users.

Five stages of API lifecycle management

  1. Design (decisions about data format, security and user base)
  2. Integration, implementation and deployment
  3. Operation and management of APIs (access configuration, implementation of analytics)
  4. Sharing and engaging
  5. End of life (adding endpoints, introduce breaking changes)

"That's a very quick implementation compared to the actual integration or implementation of an API," Ramos said. "And that can give you very invaluable information before actually getting to that implementation phase."

Never stop asking: 'Is the API performing as we envisioned?'
Vanessa Ramos

Ramos also warned that there is one particular mistake organizations make in their API management, and it is that, after designing, deploying and promoting their APIs, they neglect to follow through on the final parts of the API lifecycle concerned with monitoring and versioning. APIs that are not taken care of post-deployment are at serious risk of losing value over time.

"They don't review how the API is performing and if it's doing well according to their business goals," she said. "So, the advice here would be [to] never stop asking: 'Is the API performing as we envisioned?'"

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