How to Run API-Powered Apps: The Future of Enterprise

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Improving observability, governance and compliance is key to healthy API integration.

Application programming interfaces (APIs) are running quietly in the background of our lives. From shipping logistics to payments, there are thousands of APIs on the web creating a multibillion-dollar API marketplace.

The State of APIs survey stated that 62.6% of developers relied on APIs more in 2022 than the previous year, and that APIs will continue reinventing various industries as they power innovative customer experiences.

Since APIs allow enterprises to collect valuable data, companies can understand how consumers interact with their brands and develop effective strategies to gain a competitive advantage. They’re also vital for businesses because they drive digital transformation and application modernization.

However, as more companies try to provide a better experience to end users, releasing new features and updates, the more complex and distributed API architecture gets. Therefore, organizations must ensure that their API-powered applications run smoothly. Here are the key elements that 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 predominant rule of the API world explains why documenting and cataloging APIs is the first step to making sure that APIs work without a glitch.

APIs have been built over many years by various teams leveraging different technologies, and some of them are rebuilt as newer microservices. We’ve come to a point where organizations are unable to tell how many API services, versions, deployment locations and access points there are.

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I’ve realized that this isn’t specific to large organizations; even smaller businesses and startups end up spinning APIs specific to each project in their quest to meet growing customer expectations and reduce time to market. This results in creating an API sprawl.

A neo bank, for instance, can start its operations with 30 APIs. As the organization scales, the number of APIs could keep growing. When the bank doesn’t document them, working with hundreds of APIs and different versions becomes challenging. Teams might have good visibility into each and every API, but at an organizational level, this bank won’t have very good visibility.

There is no way to manually document APIs and keep them up to date, but organizations can leverage next-generation tools to auto-generate interactive and dynamic API documents.

API Observability is to Discover the Unknown

Remember that API monitoring and observability aren’t the same. Traditional API monitoring is an effective way to stay on top of performance, latency and uptime. With monitoring, companies can test API behavior, but can’t precisely know what’s causing issues.

API observability empowers businesses to analyze API systems, troubleshoot issues, understand API usage and identify behaviors and patterns. In a hybrid/multi-cloud world, the complexity of how APIs are built and interact with one another has made it harder to get a full picture of the landscape and its issues. But there are ways to improve API observability:

  1. API performance management helps businesses discover the main cause of issues within their applications by observing MELT (metrics, events, logs and traces).
  2. API functional test automation helps to model basic information extracted from the overall application. It conveys this data in a more structured way to help organizations understand why certain microservices communicate using specific APIs.

API Governance Ensures Proper Standardization

API governance is essential for enterprises and service distributors undergoing digital transformations 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 complex issues and increase reusability and resilience by building APIs to a standard that users, product managers and enterprise partners are familiar with.

This familiarity means everyone across an organization is more likely to know what to expect and will help to generate consistency in problem-solving and saving time and money. When employees need to move between projects and roles, consistency in APIs makes the transition much easier and reduces 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 consumable at every stage of their lifecycle (Also Read: How to Create an API: 6 Steps to Success).

API Compliance Is for Reliability

API compliance means an API follows the design specifications, rules and regulations set forth by an organization. It ensures consistency and reliability for APIs, protecting sensitive data from being mishandled, abused or lost.

One of the challenges that organizations face is identifying which applications use shadow, rogue or zombie APIs. How is this related to API compliance? Well, it’s because these APIs may or may not be designed to adhere to the organization’s policy.

If there’s a lack of visibility in APIs, it becomes difficult for companies to ensure that APIs adhere to any future organizational policy upgrades. Consequently, shadow, rogue or zombie APIs pose a security risk leading to non-compliance.

Furthermore, these APIs lead to cost escalations as they consume an organization’s IT infrastructure. Businesses need to ensure they don’t have invisible or outdated APIs.

Conclusion

Today, there are tools that enable organizations to automate the creation of design specifications or openAPI specifications (OAS) from an API collection, solving the problem of shadow or zombie APIs. This process also helps identify the owners of all the APIs, who can be contacted to decide whether a specific API needs to be retained, upgraded or depreciated (Also Read: Open API: The Future of Application Programming Interfaces).

APIs empower organizations to access data from various applications and make the user experience more personalized; however, they have a complex structure. Improving observability, governance and compliance is key to healthy API integration and a flourishing business.

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Rakshith Rao
CEO and Co-founder

Rakshith Rao is the Co-founder and CEO of the API lifecycle management tool APIwiz. Rak brings 17 years of experience in enterprise technical sales leadership, including at Apigee and Google, DataStax, and HP.