Make API product lifecycle management easy
Modern APIs are often designed, built, and run as products that are consumed by both internal systems and third parties, and they must be managed similarly. Many large organizations see APIs as a critical and strategic component and, as such, will create an API program strategy and set clear business goals, constraints, and resources. With a strategy set, the day-to-day tactical approach is often focused on API lifecycle management.
Full lifecycle API Management (APIM) spans the entire lifespan of an API that begins at the planning stage and ends when an API is retired. Many of the stages within the lifecycle are integrated with an API gateway (The main component of the API Management system). This post walks you through the 3 key API product lifecycle stages: create, control, and consume and explores why API Gateway is important in each lifecycle stage.
10 typical stages of an API lifecycle
The API lifecycle is a model that can help you chart the progress of your API and adapt your management as it matures. In general, API lifecycle management can be broken down into several different phases:
- Building - Design and build your API.
- Testing - Verify functionality, performance, and security expectations.
- Publishing - Expose your APIs to developers.
- Securing - Mitigate security risks and concerns.
- Managing - Maintain and manage APIs to ensure they are functional, up-to-date, and meeting business requirements.
- Onboarding - Enable developers to quickly learn how to consume the exposed APIs. For example, offer OpenAPI or AsyncAPI documentation and provide a portal and sandbox.
- Analyzing - Enable observability and analyze monitoring data to understand usage and detect issues.
- Promoting - Advertise APIs to developers—for example, list them in an API marketplace.
- Monetizing - Enable the charging for and collection of revenue for use of an API. We cover this aspect of API lifecycle management as a separate stage in the next section.
- Retirement - Support the deprecation and removal of APIs, which happens for a variety of reasons, including business priority shifts, technology changes, and security concerns.
Consider that there are four generally accepted stages in the life cycle of a product such as development, growth, maturity, and decline that all products go through from a market demand perspective. Now if we take the concept of the product lifecycle and applied it to APIs in order to come up with an API product lifecycle that consists of 5 stages: create, publish, realize, maintain, and retire. You can further narrow down this list to 3 primary phases: create, control, and consume respectively by integrating the API Gateway to manage the full API product lifecycle.
The below diagram demonstrates how API lifecycle management integrates with an API gateway and backend services:
Before we take a look at each of these 3 stages, let's first understand what problems actually API Gateway can solve.
API Gateway solves key problems
When you are dealing with APIs, traffic management, and choosing related technologies, you need to balance both short-term implementation and long-term maintainability. There are many API-related cross-cutting concerns, including maintainability, extensibility, security, observability, product lifecycle management, and monetization. An API gateway can help with all of these!
Here is an overview of the key problems that an API gateway can address, such as:
- Reducing coupling by using an adapter/facade between frontends and backends.
- Simplifying consumption by aggregating/translating backend services.
- Protecting APIs from overuse and abuse with threat detection and mitigation.
- Understanding how APIs are being consumed (observability).
- Managing APIs as products with API lifecycle management.
- Monetizing APIs by using account management, billing, and pay.
API Create phase
The API Create phase is the first stage in the API product lifecycle management process where you design, orchestrate, transform, document, and test your API. At this stage, modern API gateways like Apache APISIX can be helpful to build your API from scratch or import API definitions from a range of sources like OpenAPI YAML/JSON structure to register Route and Upstreams.
You might want to expose a new API combining information from other existing APIs. With API Gateway response composition ability, you can achieve this. Or you are connecting the internal and external systems through a new API where they use different formats to communicate from XML/SOAP to JSON REST and vice versa. You have an existing REST API, but you are building a new GraphQL API. For example, Apache APISIX allows you to convert the GraphQL API into a REST API.
Before publishing, it’s important to complete API testing to ensure they meet established API contracts with your client applications. In such a case, you can mock up your API responses with the API Gateway to test the integration.
API Control phase
In the control phase, you apply security policies, deploy, manage, monitor, and scale your API. After you test, it’s time to secure your API to ensure that only authorized users and applications can access the API and to prevent unauthorized access or abuse. This might involve using techniques such as input validation, OAuth, or API keys, and setting up controls to manage access to the API, such as configuring usage limits or quotas with API Gateway. Also, you monitor your API metrics, traces, and logs and then optimize API performance based on analytics data.
In the same phase, you can leverage various API release strategies with API Gateway to instantly deploy API to the target environment (development, testing, staging, and production) with zero setup effort and without any downtime. You integrate the API with DevOps tools to efficiently reduce the time for the deployment using Continuous Integration/Continuous Development (CI/CD) best practices.
At this stage, you also manage changes to the API over time, to ensure that any updates or modifications are properly tested and do not cause unintended consequences. You can add multiple API versions to manage updates.
API Consumption phase
In the API Consumption phase, the API is made available to developers and other external users to discover. This involves enabling developers to consume the exposed APIs, providing OpenAPI documentation, and offering a sandbox environment for developers to test their integrations.
API consumers are the actual users of APIs. With the help of an API management solution, you can register single and multiple API consumers and configure various rules for different consumers (private, partner, or public API users).
At this stage, you can leverage various API promotion strategies to advertise APIs to developers and list them in an API marketplace. Additionally, you may want to consider enabling the charging for and collection of revenue for use of an API to monetize your API.
Overall, the API product lifecycle management consists of three primary phases — create, control, and consume. The API Create phase is a critical stage in the API lifecycle management process, as it sets the foundation for the API's success where you design and build your API. The API control stage helps ensure that APIs are secure, performant, and available to authorized users and applications. The API consumption phase represents the point where developers and other users start to derive value from the API. By ensuring that the API is well-documented, easy to use, and performs well, organizations can encourage adoption and maximize the value of their API investments.
An API gateway is a tool that sits in front of an API and acts as a point of entry for a defined group of services. It participates in the full lifecycle of API management that covers the process of creating, deploying, and managing your APIs. Some benefits of using an API gateway are providing the optimal API for each consumer, reducing the number of requests, and it enforces security policies.
- Secure APIs in an API Gateway
- Efficiently Manage Your GraphQL API with API Gateway
- Rate Limiting in API Management
- API release strategies with API Gateway