APIs play an important role in the digital economy and their business value cannot be underestimated. According to the State of API Integration 2020 report by Cloud Elements, 83% of respondents say that API integration has become a critical part of their business strategy as they move forward on their digital transformation efforts.
In the same report, 77% of respondents say they have also adopted API management solutions to publish their public and private APIs. API management helps improve and accelerate an enterprise’s development process and their ability to respond to consumer demands. As such, implementing API management strategies in a business is just as critical.
To fully understand and appreciate the value of API management, we must first define what it is and what’s it for.
According to Gartner, API management is "the set of people, processes and technology that enables an organisation to safely and securely publish APIs, either internally or externally."
API management solutions provide organisations unified control over their APIs and guarantee that their APIs are standard-compliant as well.
While there are no one-size-fits-all strategies that will work for all organisations, the common API management solution is composed of the following:
The API gateway is the most essential component of API management. This is where all the routing of requests, composition, protocol translation and other common API services tasks happen.
Documentation of the APIs take place at an automatically generated website called the developer portal. The developer portal is fully customizable and is where consumers can find access to your APIs, try them out and learn how they work.
This is the functionality in API management that lets users monitor data and metrics on API usage in real-time. It also helps for easier troubleshooting and aids decision-making for applications, as it gives a detailed overview of an API’s performance.
API management requires long-term solutions to help organisations manage their API lifecycles. Lifecycle management ensures there is version control through every step in the API’s development, from its creation, updates, and through the retirement process.
API management can provide useful business insights for an enterprise. With metrics and reports on API usage and performance, decisions become more data-driven and could provide more favorable outcomes on their digital transformation strategies.
But what truly makes API management valuable to a business is how it accelerates API development and reusability.
Managing APIs on a single, centralized platform allows organisations to seamlessly provide access to API documentation and coding standards across teams, dramatically reducing development costs and time to market. API management also allows more flexibility for reusing API functionalities, saving organisations time and resources in creating new APIs iteratively while ensuring they are security-compliant as well.
Despite what many think of it, API governance is not a hindrance to an organisation’s strategies towards a successful digital transformation, such as API management.
This is according to Matthew Reinbold, Capital One’s Director for API and Event Streaming Platform Services. "The governance that is applied is not a gate, but it's an aspect of how they empower people to do things better." he says.
Reinbold says that governance should be able to allow a safe and repeatable process in building APIs and not necessarily creating and enforcing the "Perfect API Style Guide."
He adds that API governance also makes sure that processes and guides are clearly defined in managing APIs and helps organisations identify problems that can be addressed early on.
"The worst thing that can happen during the course of API design is unsurfaced assumptions. Because that's when you get the API design that goes out the door and that client uses it the first time and says, ‘That doesn't do what I needed to do.’ And now you have a versioning problem."
Having the right API governance in place can complement and aid API management strategies. Both function in order to ensure APIs are highly secure and standard-compliant. Good API management solutions should be set upon a governance that provides clear visibility over APIs and monitors how they are being used in accordance with policies, rules and contractual obligations.