How to Run API-Powered Apps: The Future of Enterprise
Application programming interfaces (API) run quietly in the background of our lives. From shipping logistics to payments, there are thousands of APIs on the web creating a multi-billion dollar API marketplace.
The State of APIs survey found that 62.6% of developers relied on APIs more in 2022 than the year before, and that APIs will continue to reinvent various industries as they enable innovative customer experiences.
Because APIs allow businesses to collect valuable data, companies can understand how consumers interact with their brands and create effective strategies to gain a competitive advantage. They are also critical for businesses as they drive digital transformation and application modernization.
However, as more companies try to offer end users a better experience by releasing new features and updates, the API architecture becomes more complex and distributed. Therefore, companies need to ensure their API-backed applications run smoothly. Here are the key elements every API-driven business needs to focus on.
Visibility in API programs to overcome sprawl
“You can’t manage what you can’t see,” the prevailing rule of the API world, explains why documenting and cataloging APIs is the first step in ensuring APIs are working properly.
APIs have been developed over many years by different teams using different technologies, and some of them are being rebuilt as newer microservices. We’ve gotten to a point where companies can no longer tell how many API services, versions, delivery locations and access points there are.
I’ve found that this isn’t specific to large organizations; Even smaller companies and startups are developing APIs specific to each project to meet growing customer expectations and reduce time to market. This leads to API proliferation.
For example, a neo-bank can start operations with 30 APIs. As the company scales, the number of APIs could continue to grow. If the bank doesn’t document them, working with hundreds of APIs and different versions becomes a challenge. Teams may have good visibility into each individual API, but at an organizational level, this bank will not have very good visibility.
There is no way to manually document and keep APIs up to date, but companies can leverage next-generation tools to automatically generate interactive and dynamic API documents.
API observability means discovering the unknown
Remember that API monitoring and observability are not the same. Traditional API monitoring is an effective way to keep tabs on performance, latency, and uptime. With monitoring, organizations can test API behavior but don’t know exactly what’s causing the problems.
API observability enables organizations to analyze API systems, troubleshoot problems, understand API usage, and identify behaviors and patterns. In a hybrid/multi-cloud world, the complexity of how APIs are built and interact with each other has made it more difficult to get a full picture of the landscape and its issues. However, there are ways to improve API observability:
- API performance management helps companies discover the root cause of problems in their applications by observing MELT (Metrics, Events, Logs and Traces).
- API functional test automation helps model basic information extracted from the overall application. It conveys this data in a more structured way to help organizations understand why specific microservices communicate through specific APIs.
API governance ensures proper standardization
API governance is essential for companies and service distributors undergoing digital transformation or looking to scale their operations.
Standardization through good governance involves designing APIs based on a common data model of approved resources. It aims to reduce complexity and increase reusability and resiliency by building APIs to a standard that users, product managers, and enterprise partners are familiar with.
This familiarity means everyone in an organization is more likely to know what to expect, helping create consistency in problem solving and saving time and money. When employees need to move between projects and roles, the consistency of the APIs makes the transition much easier, reducing the risk of downtime and error codes.
Good governance requires a comprehensive management approach that enriches APIs with the crucial metadata needed to make them usable and usable at every stage of their lifecycle (Also read: How to build an API: 6 steps to success).
API compliance means reliability
API conformance means that an API follows the design specifications, rules, and regulations set by an organization. It ensures consistency and reliability for APIs and protects sensitive data from mishandling, misuse or loss.
One of the challenges companies face is figuring out which applications are using shadow, rogue, or zombie APIs. How does this relate to API compliance? Well, that’s because these APIs may or may not be designed to comply with the organization’s policies.
If there is a lack of transparency in APIs, it becomes difficult for companies to ensure that APIs comply with all future corporate policy updates. Consequently, shadow, rogue, or zombie APIs pose a security risk that will result in non-compliance.
Additionally, these APIs increase costs as they consume an organization’s IT infrastructure. Businesses need to make sure they don’t have invisible or outdated APIs.
Today there are tools that allow companies to automate the creation of design specifications or OpenAPI Specifications (OAS) from an API collection, thus solving the problem of shadow or zombie APIs. This process also helps identify the owners of all APIs who can be contacted to decide whether a particular API needs to be retained, updated, or deprecated (Also read: Open API: The future of application programming interfaces).
APIs allow organizations to access data from different applications and personalize the user experience; however, they have a complex structure. Improving observability, governance, and compliance is key to healthy API integration and a thriving business.