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API management, do you need it?

10. 04. 2019

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Everybody is talking about API management platforms nowadays. If you’re still wondering what’s all the fuss about and whether you really need it, let us answer this one for you: YES!

Here are 10 reasons (or rather common use cases) why we think so.

1. Exposing internal services for public usage

It’s likely that your organization has some kind of mobile application used by your clients. You want to expose your internal services to your customers through that mobile application. API management platform will enable you to do so in a controlled manner by providing endpoint security and acting as policy enforcement point (PEP). All this is done through API Gateway component. Typical examples for this use case include mobile bankings, retail shops, sports tracking applications (Strava!), etc.

It is not necessary for this mobile application to be yours. You could form partnerships with other organizations and allow them to deliver your services to their customers through their mobile application or direct channels. API management platforms typically implement Developer Portal, a component where developers can check which APIs are available, their documentation, usage examples, etc. This significantly simplifies development process and API usage by external developers.

2. Service monetization

Once you have your services available for external usage, why not earn some money? API management platform will track the usage of your services, create invoices and bill your consumers. You could for example be an owner of a super-important database, or fraud detection system, or the largest IT company in the world owning a web mapping service with satellite imagery, aerial photography and street maps…. why not earn some money from customers using your service. Google Maps is doing precisely that, charging based on API usage.

3. Content distribution

If your organization is in content creation and aggregation business, you could use API management platform for controlled content distribution. There are a number of news agencies, audio/video/book distributors (Netflix, Spotify, Amazon, Packt, Safari…), and software distribution sites that are using API management platforms. Most of them are not that much focused on billing part since users generally have flat monthly or yearly subscription, but sometimes different subscription levels enable access to different content types and this can be controlled on API level.

4. Growing your business through affiliate programs

Although this one seems like a combination of previous ones, we will emphasize it as it is a very common use case: portals and mobile applications reselling external services for a commission. Typical examples include various affiliate programs offered by Booking.com, Airbnb, Google AdSense, Lufthansa, etc. API management platforms control access and track usage.

5. Internal access control

Serious organizations need to know and control which internal systems are using specific internal services. API management platforms handle access control and provide governance. Typical examples include highly regulated financial institutions where access to services is strictly controlled. Courtesy of PCI-DSS.

6. Hiding dreadful legacy systems behind simplified and standardized interface

Every organization old enough to start school is a proud owner of some kind of legacy system that nobody wants to mess with. API management platform can help you hide this dreadful legacy behind nice and shiny and familiar interfaces so other programmers (especially juniors coming from college) don’t have to learn old-school tricks to interact with them. Just imagine the oldest system in your organization. We bet it is also the most important one! And imagine covering that grey old-timer with a colorful API blanket. Who wouldn’t want to interact with it?

7. Prerequisite for controlled and organic legacy modernization

Business evolves fast. The fact that we have covered our oldest system in the organization with colorful API blanket doesn’t change the fact that it still exists and sooner or later it will have to be replaced by something more appropriate for modern business and technology landscape. Big bang migrations are never a good idea. As Martin Fowler said: “the only thing a Big Bang rewrite guarantees is a Big Bang!”. A better way is to put API management platform in front of such legacy system, hide it from public view, dismantle it in pieces and replace them one by one. This approach is commonly known as the Strangler Pattern. Thanks Martin Fowler for this one!

8. Driver of internal development agility

Here we assume all technical prerequisites that contribute to faster development pace, long-term system sustainability and lower technical debt. Having a modular system comprised of components that interact solely through well-defined interfaces on API management platform makes the system more resilient to changes, enables faster delivery of value to end users and shortens feedback loop. This is basically what Jeff Bezos did with his famous Bezos Mandate.

9. Protecting legacy systems from overloading

Legacy systems are old and usually constrained by technology and/or architecture in supporting workloads that are considered normal today. API management platform put in front of such systems can throttle user requests and allow only a subset of those requests to be served by the legacy systems. This isn’t the nicest thing to do to our users, but it keeps our backend alive. And there are plenty of strategies that we can use to alleviate user inconvenience such as using caching mechanisms, circuit breakers, etc.

10. Service usage analytics

Nobody can drive business today without solid dashboard packed with data-driven insights about the value our services are delivering to end users. API management platform tracks and reports service usage across several dimensions: when the services were used, what was the peak usage during a specific period, which users were most engaged, which services are most popular… These data support business, marketing and technical initiatives and drive future business evolution.

With the dawn of microservice architecture, APIs have become 1st class citizens and important piece of technology landscape. We would love to talk about your API management needs, feel free to contact us!

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