The Definitive Guide to API Management

API Management: 360-Degree Business Visibility with Analytics

How is your API traffic trending over time? Who are your top developers? When is API response time fastest? When is it slowest? Are you attracting more developers? Geographically where do you see the most API traffic?

Robust API management tools empower businesses to answer questions like these, and this helps enterprises improve their APIs, attract the right app developers, troubleshoot problems, and, ultimately, make better business decisions related to the API program. In a previous post, we examined the strategic importance of BaaS to an API management solution; here we'll discuss API analytics.

Real-time visibility into your APIs

API management solutions should provide the visualization tools, dashboards, and reports to help measure a broad spectrum of data that flows across APIs. This information is most useful in today’s dynamic API economy when it is gathered, analyzed, and provided to the business in real time. Beyond simple charts and graphs, both the ops and business teams should be able to gain deep visibility into the performance of the API program.

In other words, a sophisticated API management solution enables business and operational metrics to provide a complete 360-degree view of your API program.

Detailed snapshots of traffic and developer usage

API analytics provides visibility to the business through reports designed for API product managers. Traffic composition reports provide insights into the most valuable entities of an API program: the apps, developers, APIs, and resources. Enterprises use these reports to measure adoption by developers, traffic generated by various apps, and distribution of users across various geographies and devices. For example, you can determine which developers are contributing most and include them in nurturing programs.

Operation visibility should be provided out of the box—across all APIs and backend systems. For individual APIs, operations teams can measure traffic volume, response times, error rates, data exchange volumes, and cache hit rates. This enables them to quickly identify performance issues with their APIs and resolve them before they adversely affect the broad set of users and apps calling into those APIs.

Powerful visualization tools

Apigee Edge Analytics Services, for example, provides several visualization tools, including the dashboard (which gives an overall view of your entire API program), out-of-the-box reports for operations teams (proxy performance, target performance, cache performance, latency analysis, and error analysis), reports for product managers (developer engagement, traffic composition, GeoMap, and devices breakdown), and custom reports that allow users to select, combine, filter, and drill down into specific API metrics and plot those trends as interactive charts.

Other tools, such as Edge's API Health, enable users to measure the availability and response times of their APIs by making synthetic calls from multiple geographic locations.

For more on API analytics and other features of sophisticated API management solutions, download the free eBook, “The Definitive Guide to API Management.”

The Elements of Sophisticated API Management

The explosion of apps and experiences required in the digital world has provoked the emergence of new customer-centric IT organizations. Companies across industries need better solutions to manage their APIs and to help them become API-driven businesses.

Previously, we explored the differences between API management and SOA governance—essentially, we discussed what API management isn’t. Read on to learn what makes up modern API management.

At its most basic, a viable API management tool that enables you to create, manage, secure, analyze, and scale APIs must include:

  • a developer portal, to attract and engage app developers and ensure they can discover, explore, purchase (or profit from), and test APIs, and register to access and use them
  • an API gateway to secure and mediate the traffic between clients and backends, and between a company’s APIs and the developers, customers, partners, and employees who use the APIs
  • API lifecycle management to manage the process of designing, developing, publishing, deploying, and versioning APIs
  • analytics to see real-time and near real-time health and trends, to receive alerts, and act upon this information in the interest of the business

Being digital means rethinking how you interact with customers, partners, and employees. Enterprises that consider digital to be a key part of their business—and who wouldn’t?—require a platform that offers capabilities above and beyond the minimum required features listed above. These advanced features turbo-charge a company’s ability to outcompete others that aren't as forward-thinking.

Advanced features include:

  • Backend as a Service (BaaS), because modern apps need modern functionality not found in older systems; capabilities like social graphs, user management, data storage, push notifications, and performance monitoring are required, so why not have them out of the box?
  • an analytics engine that provides insights for business owners, operational administrators, and app developers, enabling them to manage all aspects of a company’s APIs and API programs—because, frankly, it’s not good enough to simply collect data.
  • API monetization to enable API providers to package, price, and publish their APIs so that partners and developers can purchase access or take part in revenue sharing. This should never be an afterthought—it should be a fundamental consideration for API providers and developers and a strategic piece of the API management platform.

We’ll explore each of these three capabilities in detail in upcoming posts. Meanwhile, read more in the free eBook, "The Definitive Guide to API Management."

New eBook: The Definitive Guide to API Management

APIs are everywhere, and they’re not new to many enterprises or industries. What is new is a growing recognition that APIs are the foundation upon which digital businesses are built; they’ve become critical to how many enterprises interact with their customers, partners, and employees. They’re far more than a technical solution—APIs solve business problems.

With the expanding view of the necessity of APIs, there’s also a growing need for a sophisticated way to manage them. After all, with the explosion of apps and experiences required in the digital world, and new customer-centric IT organizations, companies across industries need better solutions than ever to manage their APIs and API-driven businesses.

How do you ensure that developers and partners are productive? How do you manage, secure, and mediate your API traffic? How do you grow your API program to meet increasing demand?

These questions are resolved with basic API management solutions.

But that’s not enough. Advanced API management platforms are differentiated by additional capabilities, including Backend as a Service (BaaS) to enable developers to develop and extend apps with modern features, an analytics engine to provide deep insights into the APIs, and even monetization features.

The new eBook, “The Definitive Guide to API Management,” examines all the features of this key platform for digital business, from designing and publishing APIs for developers to API traffic management, security, and analytics. It also covers the elements of more sophisticated solutions, including BaaS, analytics, and monetization.

API Management: Five Common Mistakes

After countless interactions with enterprises around the globe, we've seen many examples of successful digital transformations. We’ve also seen some very common mistakes that companies make when getting started with APIs. To help avoid some of these potential pitfalls, we have assembled a list of the top five things to avoid with API management.

Trying to do everything at once

You'll encounter several moving parts when executing a successful digital transformation: an API proxy, a developer portal, and analytics. These tools provide functionality that’s critical to a successful API program: API security, API rate limits, and caching, to name a few. Without satisfying each of these constituents and each of these functional areas, there’s no point in moving forward.

This can seem daunting. In fact, it might provoke analysis paralysis. Don't fall in this trap. You can move from point A to point B with two steps: one, select an API management platform, and two, get started.

The right API management platform will provide you with a solid technology base that satisfies most of the issues listed above. This frees you to focus on realizing your great ideas.

Which leads us to ...

Wasting time trying to perfect the API design

We’ve seen this time after time. A company has the admirable desire to do a fantastic job with its API rollout. Weeks and months are spent trying to guess how developers will want to use the API. The company adds more and more fields to the data structures. It wants everything to be perfect—but it never will be.

The reality is that nobody knows how things will turn out until developers are actually building applications and users are generating traffic. Even the most well-prepared enterprises find themselves adjusting rate limits, adjusting caching and security, and fine tuning the design of their APIs. Developers are creative; they’ll often surprise you with their use of your API.

The important thing is to get started.

Optimizing for latency too soon

This is a heartbreaking error. Companies with few developers and no real traffic get so concerned with hypothetical latency that they forget that speed isn't the problem they’re trying to solve. They need consumability. They need to enable developers (internal, partner, and third-party developers). They need apps (web, mobile, and device apps). They need to move their business online and get some traffic.

There will be time for fine tuning the API management as the traffic grows. Latency is an important concern for companies; a high-powered API management platform will enable your APIs to perform beautifully even under heavy traffic.

Focusing on a non-existing problem like latency instead of traffic is a way of avoiding success.

Falling for the trap of thinking that this is about integration

Over the last ten to fifteen years, most of the problems we were trying to solve involved connecting system A to system B. This is integration. The problems most companies are trying to solve today involve time to market for new ideas, and reaching and connecting new devices, new partners, and new market segments.

We need more agility to react to fast-changing conditions. We need visibility.  These aren't integration problems. But, because we have been solving integration problems for years, it is almost muscle memory to try and view today's exposure and consumption problems as yesterday's integration problems.

If you focus on integration, you will sacrifice agility and consumability.

Adhering to previous governance limitations

Yesterday's problems required lots of committees and centralized control. Heavy contracts needed to be designed and agreed upon between the producers and consumers. But, with modern API management tools, this is no longer necessary. Think about the ways that a clean RESTful API could allow simplification of existing approval processes and even funding mechanisms. Of course, some governance is still necessary, but most companies find that things suddenly become much simpler.

Being a digital competitor is fun. When companies get out of their own way, ideas get into production faster and changes are easier.

The enterprises we’ve seen executing successful digital transformations have shown us strong patterns and anti-patterns. By avoiding common mistakes, your chances of success improve greatly.

Check out the Apigee Special Edition EBook: APIs for Dummies. It’s intended to help businesses avoid common mistakes, and to understand how APIs can be used as a strategic and competitive weapon. It describes the digital transformations that APIs and robust API management enable.