API is the acronym for Application Programming Interface, a software intermediary that allows applications or computer programs to communicate. Developers rely on APIs to leverage data and services from apps and other developers for operational efficiency. But a lot of this is has become possible through the API gateway’s role in modern API management. API gateway makes it easy to create, publish, maintain, and secure APIs at scale. This guide delves into API gateway solutions, their role in API management, and some benefits.
API Gateway Definition
Commercial APIs have evolved a great deal after industry giants like eBay, Salesforce, and Amazon launched their web APIs about two decades ago. Many professionals have raised various concerns about the future of APIs, including rate limiting, user control access, token authorization, among several others. As companies create new APIs and API volumes grow, companies need a separate tool to manage scaled-up commercial API integration and publishing needs.
That’s where API gateways come in handy. So, what is an API gateway? You can think of an API gateway as a middleware. It works between backend services, transmitting client requests to the appropriate service of an application. Using API gateways is a paradigm shift away from direct client-to-microservice communication leveraging individual microservices. An API gateway acts as an abstraction layer for your microservices, providing a single entry point for your consumers. Initially, developers built applications using the monolith approach, routing traffic between different instances of an application before returning responses to the client through a load balancer.
This approach can slow API access and make new technologies hard to implement and update. In contrast, a modern gateway routes traffic through microservices. Microservices physically separate different services in your system, making them independent and autonomous. That way, IT teams can find it easier to incorporate traffic management and real-time application service discovery. The microservices architecture also reduces problems associated with enterprise API management tools. It affords you and your team a seamless experience. All in all, API gateway plays several roles, including API deployment, security, resiliency, and routing.
API Gateway Benefits
API gateway solutions can benefit developers and companies whether you’re using microservices or server-less architecture. Here are three main benefits of API gateways.
API sits as middleware between front-end applications and individual microservices, ensuring sensitive API endpoints and vulnerabilities are not exposed to malicious attacks. Through the unified entry point, API gateways act as a security barrier shielding systems from attack vectors like DoS attacks and SQL Injections. An API restricts access to your microservices from the outside, helping you manage IP whitelists and blacklists effectively.
API gateways favor decoupling your system’s public-facing API endpoints from your microservice architecture. That way, you can make frequent changes to individual microservices without affecting your API consumers. This consistency works best for organizations migrating from a monolithic architecture to microservices and existing microservice-based systems. API gateways allow developers to implement logical requests in each microservice rather than pushing through only valid requests. This also makes it easy to replicate APIs for multiple languages and frameworks, enabling the microservice architecture to scale services up and down depending on the existing system load. Also, many API gateways have essential tools for developers to debug, create, and achieve scalability.
Monitoring and Analytics
Today’s digital world runs on effective data outputs and real-time analytics. And you can count on your API gateway for a central platform to manage this functionality. Some API tools come with several third-party monitoring and analytics solutions to understand your business situations and make better decisions.
API Management vs. API Gateway
API gateway is a part of a cohesive API management system. An API gateway performs the first step of the management process, intercepting requests and submitting them to the API management system. In contrast, API management involves multiple processes, policies, and best practices for owners to control their APIs. API management system comprises different components to effectively fulfill APIs purposes.
Generally, API gateways and management systems have multiple use cases across various services. Understanding the differences and specific use-case benefits can be a great way to tailor implementation projects to your preferences.