From Open-Source to SaaS: The Inspiring Story of API7 Cloud
We are confident and competent in the cloud-native era, but we are striving for the unprecedented rat race. We are never afraid of difficulties because our love for engineering can resolve all difficulties. This is the story behind API7 Cloud, derived from an interview with Chao Zhang (Head of API7 Cloud, Apache APISIX PMC member).
A Story of Growth and Innovation
In 2019, Ming Wen and Yuansheng Wang, the founders of API7.ai, created APISIX, which they later open-sourced on GitHub in June. The project quickly gained popularity among open-source enthusiasts and developers from various industries, leading to its inclusion in the Apache Incubator in August 2019. In July of the following year, APISIX successfully graduated and became a top open-source project of the Apache Software Foundation.
The birth of Apache APISIX served as a catalyst for the commercialization of API7.ai. Recognizing the potential market, our team set out to grow SaaS products, with our lead, Chao, expressing excitement at the prospect of building a SaaS product based on the excellent API gateway of Apache APISIX.
Our team immediately began researching and completed the initial proposal from June to July 2021. In the second half of the year, we developed an MVP and devoted ourselves to perfecting the product. We gradually improved the stability and usability of the product while adding new features to the MVP. Additionally, we found trial customers to use and refine the product, sharing the ups and downs of the development process.
Enthusiasm – Our Endless Motivation for Open Source and User Experience
At API7.ai, our team comprises open-source enthusiasts who have played important roles in well-known giants, with most of our API7 Cloud engineers serving as committers and PMC members of Apache Software Foundation's top open-source projects. As a result, we possess a deep understanding of APISIX, particularly its underlying and core components. Our passion for open source brings us together, and our enthusiasm for products and users is our constant motivation.
Early in the product's lifecycle, we encountered a serious design problem that posed significant challenges when adding new functions related to APISIX. However, as our users had already begun using the product, we had to find solution that would minimize any negative impact on them.
Chao, our lead, recalls how he couldn't stop thinking about the problem, even while relaxing in a park near his home. When he arrived at the office with a bottle of coffee, the entire team was discussing how to resolve the issue. We ultimately devised a solution that involved executing the releases in the evenings or on weekends. The improvement process lasted about two months and involved three to four releases.
Our team is committed to providing an exceptional user experience. We actively respond to and follow up on users' questions in user groups, and we immediately address any security issues that arise. Non-security problems are typically resolved within two weeks. To date, API7 Cloud has not experienced any security problems, and our engineers communicate with customers every week to continuously improve their experience.
Additionally, our team members are skilled writers, and we volunteer to write articles introducing the highlights of API7 Cloud to provide professional services to more users.
Despite Obstacles, More Pride in Accomplishment
Throughout the course of the project, our team encountered numerous challenges and obstacles.
Pricing products can be a difficult task, and we spent a significant amount of time exploring pricing strategies and developing a deep understanding of our products and the market. By combining user feedback with our own insights, we formulated a reasonable pricing strategy that we believe will serve us well in the future.
Meeting the data sovereignty management requirements of global customers is also crucial. The GDPR, the General Data Protection Regulation enacted by the European Union is a prime example of a regulation that must be adhered to in order to avoid facing significant compensation. Our team devoted considerable effort to addressing data sovereignty, and our experience with APISIX helped us develop solutions that allowed us to expand into the global market.
Fortunately, API7 Cloud had already accumulated experience in data sovereignty thanks to our customers' use of APISIX to solve similar problems. Based on the needs of our users, we formulated a set of solutions that allowed us to gradually gain a foothold in the global market.
Despite the obstacles we faced, we take pride in our accomplishments and are committed to continuing to provide excellent service to our customers.
API7 Cloud - API Management Tool in Multi-Cloud and Hybrid-Cloud Scenarios
In the initial market orientation, we considered that unified management of APIs in multi-cloud and hybrid-cloud scenarios would be a huge challenge, so API7 Cloud is positioned to help enterprises solve problems under such scenarios. Its target users are those whose business is on the cloud and need an API management tool to manage the API usage under a multi-cloud or hybrid cloud.
Based on Apache APISIX, API7 Cloud has been productized around the features provided by Apache APISIX, aiming to make it easier and more secure for users to configure and use APISIX. There are many similar products on the market, such as Kong Konnect, Tyk Cloud, Mulesoft Anypoint Platform, and Amazon API Gateway. But API7 Cloud integrates the advantages of APISIX, which are unique to API7 Cloud, such as:
No brand disputes: The open-source project belongs to Apache Software Foundation
High performance: APISIX's QPS can reach 23,000 with an average delay of only 0.6 milliseconds
Active community: Quick responses and iterations
Inclusive ecosystem: Supports nearly 100 plugins
Based on Apache APISIX, API7 Cloud is customized for more enterprises.
Support all plugins of APISIX
Enhance the dynamic capabilities of APISIX, such as supporting dynamic service discovery
Open API and provide SDK, allowing automated API management and implementing automation through integrating API7 Cloud with programs
The APISIX Gateway API specification will be supported in 2023, and users will be allowed to switch between open-source APISIX, API7 Enterprise Edition, and API7 Cloud in the future. In this way, the cost of data migration is saved for users.
In terms of technical design, API7 Cloud has distinctive features and provides many functions, such as:
API Management: Provide API management, SSL certificate management, canary release, refined routing, and can create APIs by importing OpenAPI documents.
Observability: API7 Cloud aggregation delay, QPS, HTTP status code distribution, HTTP request success rate, and other status information are visualized, allowing customers to discover potential problems in the system in a timely manner.
No vendor lock-in: Customer services can be deployed in any cloud environment or on-premises. In addition, API7 Cloud is 100% compatible with Apache APISIX. Therefore, open-source users can also migrate projects to the cloud at zero cost without worrying about vendor lock-in.
Comprehensive security protection and privacy compliance: All communications and data transmissions are encrypted through the mTLS protocol. The data stored on API7 Cloud is also protected by identity authentication, authentication, and auditing, which comply with the compliance requirements of GDPR.
Coming soon: Support multi-cluster management and data sovereignty in 2023.
Another advantage of API7 Cloud is that it is easy to use. As Grady Booch, the "Father of UML," said, "The function of good software is to make the complex appear simple.
When users use API7 Cloud, after registering and logging in, they only need to complete the construction of the gateway instance in three steps according to the guidelines, and then they can perform API management, including canary release, adding rate-limiting policies and authentication, etc.
The Road Ahead Is Long and Bright
API7.ai is an open-source software infrastructure company dedicated to supporting API management and analytics, offering a wide range of products for microservices and real-time traffic processing, such as API gateways, Kubernetes Ingress, and service meshes. API7 Cloud is a centralized API management platform launched by API7.ai, which plays a unique role in the unified management of APIs in multi-cloud and hybrid-cloud scenarios.
Moving forward, our focus will be on API asset management, API data sovereignty, and API analysis. We aim to help users gain a better understanding of how their API is being used and how customers interact with it. By leveraging API analysis and other capabilities, we hope to provide users with insights that will enable them to undertake capacity planning and risk mitigation proactively.
We are excited to continue bringing new experiences to our users through API7 Cloud, and we look forward to sharing the strength of our product with even more users.
Please don't hesitate to reach out to us at any time to try API7 Cloud: https://console.api7.cloud/signup.