API Gateway vs. API Management

Jing Yan

Jing Yan

September 1, 2023



API gateways and API management are vital cogs in the wheel of successful companies. They are interrelated yet distinct from each other. However, people often get confused about what these two terms mean. In this article, we will dive into the importance of API gateways and API management in business, their relationship and differences, and some use cases for API Management based on API gateways.

API Gateway

What Is an API Gateway?

An API gateway is a central hub through which different software applications communicate. It is located between users or client applications and the backend services, managing requests, ensuring security, and streamlining communication. Essentially, it directs, controls, and enhances the flow of data and requests within a software ecosystem.

API gateway is particularly useful in microservices architectures, where various services are often developed and maintained independently. An illustrative example is Apache APISIX, a popular open-source API gateway. It helps simplify client-side interactions by presenting a unified interface and abstracting away the complexities of backend service communication.

What Can an API Gateway Do?

An API Gateway usually provides the following capabilities:

Load Balancing

Load balancing is a technique that evenly distributes the workload of network requests across multiple servers. An API gateway assumes the role of central traffic controllers in facilitating load balancing. They manage the incoming requests, distributing them among various backend servers. This proactive distribution prevents the strain of excessive load on any single server, resulting in sustained system stability and optimal responsiveness.

Canary Release

In a canary release deployment strategy, a new software version is gradually introduced to a smaller group of users before rolling it out to everyone. An API gateway plays a key role in this strategy by splitting incoming traffic and sending a portion to the new version while keeping most users on the old one. This approach lets you thoroughly test the new version's performance and stability with a smaller group before full implementation. If any problems arise, the API gateway can shift traffic back to the old version to ensure the deployment goes smoothly.

Dynamic Upstream

Dynamic upstream grants you the ability to dynamically choose and manage upstream or backend services during runtime. The API gateway takes advantage of this capability to select appropriate upstream services based on specific conditions or strategies as the system operates. This dynamic selection process bolsters the system's flexibility and empowers you to make efficient adjustments within the service environment.

Circuit Breaking

Circuit breaking, a software architecture pattern to enhance system reliability and prevent widespread failures, is supported by the API gateway. The gateway monitors the health and responsiveness of downstream services. If a service becomes unresponsive or exhibits high latency, the API gateway enacts a "circuit break," temporarily hitting pause on requests to that service, while sending the traffic to healthier alternatives. This strategic action prevents the system from getting swamped by a malfunctioning service, making sure that performance doesn't crash entirely, but rather maintains controlled degradation.

Key Authentication

An API gateway steps up to the plate when it comes to a crucial piece: key authentication. This strict security measure requires clients to provide a valid API key or token before they can gain access to the APIs. This substantial feature not only ensures controlled access to the APIs, but also maintains the highest security standards, all the while guaranteeing the proper and secure use of the APIs.

What Are the Benefits of Using an API Gateway?

Using an API Gateway offers a range of advantages that enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of your API-based systems.

Improve API Monitoring and Observability

As for effective API monitoring and observability, the API gateway is a crucial asset. Its role in managing incoming traffic positions it to generate detailed reports on API usage trends and statistics. Moreover, it forms a trail of traffic logs that prove indispensable in the identification and resolution of infrastructure issues. While a variety of monitoring tools are at hand, the API gateway takes the lead in detecting failures and furnishing critical observability data.

Guarantee API Security

An API gateway plays a significant role in fortifying API security. It's the gatekeeper that verifies users, manages the flow of traffic to the backend, and sets limits on how fast requests can be made. By monitoring API calls and responses, the API gateway lends a hand in pinpointing errors and boosting security measures. Its security design, which spans from the ground up, and runtime policies work together to provide an added safeguard, beefing up the protection of APIs and the services they rely on.

Enhance Scalability

The API gateway steps in when scalability is the name of the game. They act as the central hub for managing incoming API requests, making sure they get spread out to different backend services. This smart move allows for horizontal scaling, where traffic gets nicely divided among different backend service instances. This means no single service gets bogged down with too much work. As the need for more APIs kicks in, the API gateway can be scaled up by adding more instances to manage the increased traffic.

Reduce Microservice Complexity

An API Gateway simplifies the complexity of microservices by serving as a central hub for client interactions. It takes care of communication, security, and spreading out the workload, sparing developers from the complicated details of each service. This straightforward approach smooths development, boosting performance and security in one go.

API Gateway

API Management

What Is API Management?

API management involves publishing, connecting, filtering, governing, and integrating APIs. It aims to ensure the APIs are secure, accessible, and efficient for developers and users. Compared with the API gateway, it usually has more advanced features, such as secrets management, a multilayer network, and Identity and Access Management (IAM) integrations to optimize API usage and enhance overall operations.

What Are the Basic Components of an API Management Platform?

An API management platform usually consists of these elements:

API Gateway

The API gateway serves as a traffic entry point, through which any requests accessing systems, services, or applications via the API must pass. As a unified entry point, it also standardizes the terms of API interaction and enforces protocols to ensure secure API connections. Besides, the gateway can also collect and analyze data, along with providing caching.

API Developer Portal

The API developer portal is to provide developers with a self-service center where they can access and share API documentation. API documentation outlines how APIs are integrated and operated, typically presented in the form of reference manuals. Internal and external developers also utilize the developer portal to test and document APIs, evaluate their usability, and report API performance issues.

API Analytics

API analytics equips platform users with diverse dashboards presenting valuable insights and business metrics, such as usage patterns, response times, and error rates, and helps enterprises make informed decisions, optimize APIs, and enhance user experiences.

API Lifecycle Management

API lifecycle management facilitates comprehensive oversight of APIs throughout their journey, including pivotal phases such as design, development, testing, deployment, deprecation, and retirement. Sustained solutions are implemented to ensure meticulous version control at every stage of API evolution.

What Can an API Management Platform Do?

In addition to the functionalities and advantages provided by API gateways, API management platforms also encompass the following capabilities:

API Monetization: Establish and manage agreements for API usage to generate extra income.

API Security: Implement security measures like authentication, authorization, and encryption to safeguard APIs and data from unauthorized access and cyber threats.

API Governance and Compliance: Enforce governance policies and regulatory compliance by defining access controls, data privacy rules, and auditing mechanisms.

API Integration: Facilitate integration with third-party services, tools, and systems by providing connectors, webhooks, and integration options.

API Versioning: Manage different versions of APIs to ensure backward compatibility and provide a smooth transition for users when changes are made.

What Are the Benefits of Using API Management?

Having examined the components and functions of API management, let's delve into the advantages it brings.

Ensure Data Security

API management enhances data security through authentication and authorization mechanisms to ensure only authorized users access the APIs. It also guarantees compliance with internal corporate policies and external data privacy regulations, and therefore businesses are able to uphold data governance and API security standards, which prevent potential vulnerabilities in applications and sensitive information. Plus, API management offers encryption and data masking to protect sensitive information during transmission and storage.

Achieve Centralized Management

API management simplifies the process by offering a centralized hub that streamlines the administration of all APIs. This unified platform equips administrators with the capability to efficiently monitor, update, and control a diverse array of APIs, all from a single location. By consolidating these functions, organizations can ensure consistent oversight, swift updates, and effective control over their API ecosystem. This centralized approach optimizes operational efficiency and minimizes complexities, which allows administrators to stay in command of their APIs with unparalleled ease.

Optimizing API Traffic Control

API management platforms provide essential tools for controlling API traffic. These tools include rate limiting, throttling, and load balancing, which ensure that APIs perform optimally and respond quickly. With rate limiting, the number of requests is managed to avoid overwhelming the system. Throttling helps distribute traffic evenly, avoiding sudden surges. Load balancing ensures requests are spread across servers, maintaining stability. These features work together to create a smooth user experience, efficient resource use, and reliable systems.

Elevate Developer Productivity and Collective Efforts

API management solutions are catalysts for developer efficiency and collaborative prowess. With user-friendly developer portals and comprehensive documentation, these platforms simplify API integration, reducing learning curves and development timelines. Beyond that, they cultivate collaboration by providing a shared arena where developers can unite, exchange insights, and jointly craft robust APIs. This accelerates development speed and teamwork, which harmonizes with API management's core role in driving innovation and progress.

Relationship and Key Differences Between API Gateway and API Management

In a word, the API gateway is a core element of the API management platform. While the gateway handles API traffic routing and security, the management platform covers the entire API lifecycle, ranging from API design to API monetization. They work together to ensure efficient API operation, security, and performance.

To further explore their contrasting facets, let's consider the open-source API gateway Apache APISIX, alongside its enterprise edition, the full life-cycle API7 Enterprise solution, as the example:

FeatureAPISIXAPI7 Enterprise
API Lifecycle ManagementOnly some core API gateway capabilities, such as load balancing, canary release, dynamic upstream, etc.Extended full lifecycle management tailored for enterprises, highlighting the connection, filter, governance, and integration of the APIs
Advanced Features and PluginsNot includedInclusion of GraphQL rate limiting, GraphQL proxy cache, RBAC, multi-workspace, audit logs, traffic labeling, SOAP protocol conversion, etc.
ComplianceEnsure by the users themselvesGDPR, FIPS, and SOC 2 Type 1 Audit compliance
Control PlaneCommunity versionOut-of-the-box enterprise-grade control plane
Enterprise-Exclusive FeaturesNot includedIdentity and Access Management (IAM) Integrations, Multilayer Network, Secrets Management, Health Insights, API Portal, etc.

Why Does an Enterprise Need API Management?

Enhance Security

With the rise in the number of constructed APIs, tackling security has grown more complicated. Here, API management takes center stage, playing an important role in fortifying enterprise systems. By weaving in authentication methods, access controls, and encryption, API management platforms stand guard over sensitive data, fending off unauthorized access and lurking cyber risks. This shield not only preserves precious information, but also upholds the faith of both customers and partners.

Improve Customer Experience

Expertly-managed APIs empower businesses to craft feature-rich applications that perfectly cater to user needs. Additionally, thanks to the assistance of API management, the development of user-friendly interfaces becomes a reality, enabling enterprises' customers to seamlessly tap into a wider array of services. This enhancement culminates in a delighted customer base that remains loyal and engaged over time.

Facilitate Innovation

API management isn't just another tool—it's a game-changer for businesses. It's like handing them a key to innovation. They can open up their internal strengths as APIs, allowing external developers and partners to cook up fresh apps, services, and combos. This dynamic blend sets the stage for an entire innovative landscape, breathing new life into what the enterprise brings to the table.

Boost Efficiency and Productivity

In the realm of development, API management steps in to simplify the journey. It hands out a collection of standardized tools for crafting, deploying, and maintaining APIs. This consistent approach not only trims down development time, but also nurtures enhanced teamwork. As a result, the acceleration of time-to-market for novel services paves the way for a remarkable surge in productivity across the entire company.

Reduce Development Costs

Developing and maintaining APIs can really consume resources, and here's where API management comes to the rescue. It opens the door to crafting reusable API components that can be seamlessly pieced together to cook up fresh apps, products, and services. By skillfully reusing these components, organizations get a boost for their development cycles, lower their price tags, and toss innovative solutions into the market.

Make Data-Driven Decisions

Data has become the foundation of thriving business strategies. API management solutions give a complete picture of how APIs are used, what users do, and how well things perform. This approach, driven by data, gives organizations the ability to make smarter choices, streamline operations, and identify upcoming trends. When businesses harness the power of data analytics, they can tailor their services to match user needs and seize new opportunities.

API Management

Manage Your APIs With API7 Enterprise

Moving beyond the core open source capabilities, our API7 Enterprise solution takes Apache APISIX to the next level, catering specifically to enterprise needs. It includes full API lifecycle management with the added bonus of enterprise-grade 24/7 support, commercial features, and seamless integrations, all designed to unleash the utmost potential of APISIX-driven API management.

For a practical glimpse into best practices, look no further than the successful stories of vivo and Amber Group, both hinging on Apache APISIX and API7 Enterprise:


In the face of numerous challenges, the leading mobile phone manufacturer, vivo found its solution in API7 Enterprise with APISIX. This tailored approach addressed complexities in managing business scenarios and system maintenance, boosted by seamless traffic access and enhanced cluster management and monitoring.

Importantly, the API7 solution, driven by APISIX's robust capabilities, covers nearly all NGINX proxy scenarios, leading to the successful migration of approximately 50% of vivo's projects from NGINX to APISIX clusters. Moreover, vivo's adoption of K8s bare metal to support containerization has been scaled to handle 10,000 units, which has bolstered the development of cloud-native technology. Approximately 40% of vivo's projects have made the shift from conventional bare metal and virtual machines to the dynamic K8s container platform, marking a significant stride in the company's containerization journey.

Amber Group:

Renowned financial technology firm Amber Group strategically adopted the API7 Enterprise solution, powered by APISIX, to meet the evolving needs of its Web3-focused digital asset platform, WhaleFin. This forward-looking API solution was chosen for its integration capabilities, high performance, and developer-friendly attributes. With the integration of API7 Enterprise, Amber Group efficiently tackled challenges in traffic management, development efficiency, and log management, which led to elevated operational efficiency and performance.

Noteworthy is Apache APISIX's distinction as the fastest API gateway in the market, empowering the API7 solution to sustain an impressive single-core QPS of 23,000 with a mere 0.6 millisecond delay on average. This remarkable performance has given substantial benefits to Amber Group, equipping them with the speed and efficiency requisite for managing a high volume of API traffic.

Start Your Journey With API7 Enterprise

At API7.ai, we're not just another company—we're your partners in making APIs work seamlessly. Since 2019, we've been on a mission to simplify every aspect of APIs, from design and development to portals and monetization.

We're thrilled to introduce our advanced product, API7 Enterprise. It's an API lifecycle management solution for handling APIs, powered by the supercharged Apache APISIX, the best open-source API gateway. You're invited to unlock the full potential of API7 Enterprise's dynamic set of features, including a powerful runtime, diverse protocol transcoding plugins, and top-notch technical support. With API7 Enterprise on your side, you can dive into modernizing legacy applications, monetizing APIs, and speeding up product delivery—all while keeping things secure.


In summary, API gateways and API management are integral to the success of APIs. API gateways, an important link in API management, ensure secure communication and efficient data flow. Meanwhile, the API management solution includes additional elements such as API developer portals and API lifecycle management. This holistic approach empowers organizations to enhance data security, automate workflows, and make informed decisions, all while optimizing development costs. Contact with API7 technical team to explore more benefits for your enterprise.

API Gateway ConceptAPI ManagementAPISIX Basics