What is API Management and why is it necessary for businesses?
API stands for Application Programming Interface. In essence, an API is simply software that functions as an intermediary, or communication link, between two applications. These could be internal applications, applications used by customers or partners, or public applications such as LinkedIn. From sending emails to connecting a company’s back office with customer or partner systems, APIs are everywhere. Gartner shows clearly that the importance of secure and reliable APIs has only grown since the outbreak of the pandemic.
From a compliance perspective, management of all these APIs is vital. Who can use it and how often? How do we orchestrate optimal security? How do we make public APIs coordinate with our “own” APIs?
An API enables communication and information exchange between different software systems. APIs are not new. Even decades ago, people walked from one terminal to another with a floppy disk. Software was then needed to make interaction between the two systems possible. It still is. But now it’s completely digital and often invisible. This results in system vulnerability, as it’s certainly not always clear who at any given moment is using the numerous APIs we work with every day. This is apart from the fact that we often don’t know how many APIs are actually in operation for carrying out processes. This leaves companies vulnerable to cyber attacks. Like any software, an API, and certainly an external or public API you may be working with, can be hacked.
Reliable API Management requires a platform. In this article we explain how this kind of platform works and discuss the different applications for achieving it: Boomi, Azure and MuleSoft. We also give a number of practical examples.
What does API Management do?
An API Management platform is used to manage the APIs used by an organization. An API Management platform consists of a set of tools that allow APIs to be managed and exposed to the outside world efficiently and securely.
With an API Management Platform, both internal and external applications can communicate easily and reliably through a central API communication platform.
API Management helps organizations publish APIs to developers (whether external, partner, or internal) in order to unlock the potential of their data and services.
With an API Management Platform, both private and public APIs can be configured, managed, documented and monitored. APIs are configured rather than coded. This allows them to be reused and combined with other APIs as “reusable assets” within an IT landscape.
How is an API Management platform set up?
An ideal API Management platform is a layered architecture of various components that communicate with each other.
First of all there is the API gateway. This is the core of API management. It is responsible for “exposing” the APIs and routing them to the backend systems. Among other things, this component ensures the security of the APIs and a limitation on their use by applying rate limiting.
There is also a management portal. The administration of the APIs takes place within a management portal. Various APIs are managed in this portal. This is where you can group different APIs into logical blocks. These logical blocks can each be managed in their own way. The management of these blocks is then a matter of setting and applying policies.
The developer portal is just as important. This is the starting point for anyone who wants to use your APIs. Documentation enabling developers to start working with the relevant API (including information regarding authentication, the APIs themselves, etc.) can be found or recorded here.
What are the benefits of API Management?
The use of APIs is no longer optional. We use them all the time. An API is built to communicate, and this creates vulnerabilities in the area of security. The key advantage of well-designed API management is therefore security. After all, unlocking corporate assets to the outside world through APIs is not without hazard. Consider the number of hacks and other issues that appear in the news every day. This means businesses need security measures down to the level of APIs in order to provide the right information to the right clients.
A good API Management platform also offers business models for companies. For example, it will provide a standardized method for making information and services available to customers and partners. And further, the platform allows you to protect the back-office systems against too many queries in a short time.
What API Management environments are there?
In this article, we discuss three platforms for optimal API Management: Boomi-Api-Management, Azure-Api-Management and MuleSoft-Api-Management.
Boomi(a subsidiary of Dell) provides an API Management environment that supports the complete API life cycle (even in hybrid environments). Boomi makes it possible to test and deploy APIs in this environment and define the different user rights through an API gateway. Dashboards ensure that the status of the APIs is monitored and API developers are directed to new possibilities. They can find these not only in the catalog but also on the developer portal.
Azure is now a widely recognised name. Fewer companies, however, are aware that Microsoft also offers an API Management platform in combination with Azure. Azure API Management is a reliable, secure and scalable way to publish, consume and manage APIs running on the Azure Platform. The combination of the Azure platform and the associated management system guarantees optimal functioning of the APIs and ensures that the APIs are actually used (and used securely).
Mulesoft is a subsidiary of Salesforce. Consequently, it was created in a digital native environment. Their platform is called Anypoint API Manager. This part of a larger platform, which we know as Anypoint Platform. It enables users to manage, monitor and secure their APIs.
API Management in practice
We’ll give two practical examples that highlight the importance of API Management.
A manufacturing company wanted its internal departments to coordinate more closely and brought the IT and sales teams together. The mission was to accelerate the onboarding of new partners within a B2B solution. By looking closely at how APIs communicate with each other, the API Management platform provided insight into the obstacles potential partners encountered when signing up.
Another example involves a team of developers who were working on a process to enable communication between different IoT systems (robots, machines and the IT environment). The core feature of the system that made this possible was an API Management platform which provided a reliable and flexible backbone for synchronizing the data exchanged by the APIs.
API Management is essential. Right now.
The way of communicating between employees, partners, customers and suppliers has changed significantly over the past ten years. COVID has accelerated that process yet again. Every employee, every device and every application is continuously connected to the outside world. APIs are the small but essential building blocks for this communication.
This creates vulnerabilities, not least in the area of security. But it also offers opportunities if improved communication with partners and suppliers leads to lower costs or greater efficiency. A good API Management platform enables the management, creation, assignment and security of APIs. In times of remote working, the desire for digital transition, and daily attacks by cyber criminals, a platform like this is more important than ever.