Upcoming | API7 DevPortal - Taking API Management Efficiency to the Next Level
In today's computer world, people have grown accustomed to using APIs as a means of exchanging information between software applications. Whether you are checking weather updates on your phone, browsing WeChat moments, or interacting with ChatGPT, all these actions are made possible by APIs. APIs are a set of communication conventions that define how you (or your software) can interact with the target software service.
API’s Full Lifecycle Management
As a company grows, the number of APIs it utilizes can increase rapidly. Failure to properly manage these APIs can lead to a number of issues such as increased personnel collaboration costs, service instability, and security vulnerabilities. To address these concerns, the concept of API full lifecycle management has been developed to provide a comprehensive approach to API management.
The API lifecycle can be divided into different stages from design to retirement, and typically consists of three stages: planning and design, implementation, and management.
Planning and Design
As engineers, we always stress the importance of designing solutions before writing code, and APIs are no exception. We must define the purpose of an API based on the business requirements and translate the business language into technical terms, using the relevant technical stack.
Typically, API planning and design revolves around documentation. For example, when designing a RESTful API, the API documentation should include the following information:
- API function description
- Corresponding URL for the API
- HTTP request method
- Description (and constraints) of request parameters, request body, and request headers
- Possible response status codes and response body descriptions
There has been much research on how to write a clear and comprehensive API documentation, and currently the popular approach is to use the OpenAPI Specification V3.
In the real world, API planning and design often involves collaboration among multiple individuals. To meet this need, many platforms dedicated to API planning and design have emerged on the market, such as Postman. These tools allow users to design APIs visually, and provide collaboration features (mostly in their paid versions). They also allow users to import and export APIs in a specific format for migration.
Once the API design is complete, engineers can start developing it. They may choose a technology stack that they are skilled in or that the organization requires to implement the API. During development, engineers can also test the API by adding end-to-end tests or requesting testing from the QA team. Once implementation is finished, engineers can then prepare for deploying the API.
Compared to the previous stages, the management stage of an API is more complex as it involves deployment, monitoring, debugging, and security reinforcement. This is where an API gateway plays a crucial role. Directly exposing the service instance after deployment is neither safe nor scalable.
Instead, an API gateway acts as a proxy, forwarding API requests to the actual service. With an API gateway, policies like rate limiting can be configured to prevent API service overload, authentication to allow access only to authorized users, and observability to monitor API call status in real-time. In summary, an API gateway is an essential component in managing the security, scalability, and performance of an API.
Indeed, APIs are not static and engineers must constantly iterate on their functionality and address any defects that arise. As such, APIs will typically move back and forth between the various stages of planning and design, implementation, and management before they are fully retired. This cyclical process ensures that APIs remain up-to-date and effective throughout their lifecycle.
API full lifecycle management simplifies the management of APIs from the perspective of API producers (i.e., API developers and maintainers). However, it does not address the issue of consuming APIs, i.e., how to enable external developers (who may be from different teams within the same company) to easily integrate the API. In order to enable an external developer to call your API, there are several issues that need to be addressed:
- The first issue to address is how to enable external developers to access API information, including API access addresses, descriptions, parameter constraints, usage examples, and more. Such detailed information is essential in helping external developers understand and effectively use the API.
- The second issue concerns API protection, which is critical for API producers. It is imperative to ensure that only authorized developers can access and use the API with valid API credentials.
- Lastly, to reduce the cost of communication and collaboration, API consumption should be as self-service as possible.
To address these issues and optimize API consumption, the concept of a developer portal has been introduced.
A developer portal enables external developers to discover and access APIs, review detailed documentation, test APIs, and acquire valid API credentials. It serves as a self-service platform for external developers, allowing them to access APIs more efficiently and reducing the burden on API producers.
The developer portal typically consists of two sites: the management site and the developer site. The management site is used by API producers (hereafter referred to as administrators), while the developer site is used by API consumers (hereafter referred to as developers).
The management site of the developer portal plays a critical role in enabling administrators to effectively manage API release and deprecation. Only APIs that have been released are visible on the developer site. Administrators can also apply policies, such as QPS limits and authentication requirements, to ensure the APIs are protected. Additionally, administrators can review requests from the developer site, including developer account registration and subscription requests for specific APIs. Certain developer portal products even offer the option for administrators to customize the developer site's appearance, such as by replacing the logo or modifying the slogan.
The developer site is designed for API consumers. Here, developers can view all APIs published by administrators, including their detailed information, and apply for API subscriptions. They can create access credentials for the subscribed APIs and learn how to integrate them by referring to the API documentation.
Some developer portals integrate API call analysis, displaying the number of calls and latency of specific APIs from the developer's perspective in the management site. This data can serve as a basis for decision-making for future iterations and optimization of the API, helping to improve its performance.
As the API ecosystem continues to evolve, the concept of API monetization is receiving increasing attention. The developer portal has become a valuable tool for API monetization. Administrators can create multiple subscription plans for APIs and charge different fees based on varying quotas or the number of API calls.
The Upcoming API7 DevPortal
API7.ai is committed to delivering unparalleled API management services to our users. We are thrilled to unveil our latest offering, the API7 DevPortal, a comprehensive developer portal product that seamlessly integrates with our enterprise-level API gateway solution, API7 Enterprise, built on Apache APISIX.
The API7 DevPortal is designed to cater to the needs of our customers, offering features such as API subscription and developer registration approval. With our developer portal, customers can effortlessly publish their gateway-proxied APIs, providing their developers with detailed information about the APIs on the developer site.
In addition, we understand the importance of streamlining workflows to enhance productivity and drive revenue growth. Therefore, API7 DevPortal will undergo two significant iterations in the future.
First, we will integrate with our clients' approval workflows. Some of our clients have a unified approval platform to manage various approval operations. We aim to enable clients to use the API7 DevPortal without changing their existing approval habits.
Secondly, we will support API monetization to help our clients provide subscription services at different levels to developers and support fee collection. We will soon launch the API7 DevPortal in the market.
If you are interested in this product, please click here to contact us.
Developer portals play a critical role in managing API consumption, enabling API producers to effectively resolve API integration issues without compromising security and facilitating monetization. In today's API-driven world, it is essential to consider implementing a developer portal in your team's API management strategy.