API Management: All You Need to Know in 2020

API stands for Application Programming Interface. An API defines and manages interactions between different applications and software types. APIs can enable you to automate a vast number of functions, making your teams more productive and your customers’ experience of dealing with you much smoother.

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Whatever industry your business is in, you likely rely on software applications to manage at least some of your operations and processes. Your business' use of applications might be for specific things such as payroll processing, or they could be an essential element of your revenue model.

If your business uses applications for anything, you probably deal with APIs, too.

API stands for Application Programming Interface. An API defines and manages interactions between different applications and software types. APIs can enable you to automate a vast number of functions, making your teams more productive and your customers’ experience of dealing with you much smoother.

When you rely on APIs to deliver these benefits to your business, API management is key to driving this success.

What is API Management?

If you use APIs to manage specific processes, then API management – sometimes called APIM - is the process that oversees these.

The desired goals and outcomes of API use, and therefore, API management, will be specific to the reasons your business uses APIs.

In general, API management encompasses:

  • Ensuring applications using the API can do so correctly, via automation if necessary.
  • Ensuring your developers and customers who rely on APIs get the expected experience and user benefits.
  • Ensuring data communicated through APIs is secure.
  • Monitoring API performance and version control.
  • Monitoring API traffic and usage to ensure efficient and fair use.
  • Managing how API usage impacts on memory usage and application performance at both ends to optimise these factors.

Why is API Management Important?

The numbers highlight the emergence and importance of API management. A 2019 Markets and Markets research report projects the API management marketplace will reach a value of $5.1 billion by 2023!

Without API management processes in place, you and your business will struggle to achieve your aims. A lack of API management can also put your business at risk. If commercially sensitive data or customers' details will pass through APIs and between applications, security issues could lead to a collapse in trust, financial penalties, or even criminal prosecution!

API management will ensure you can deal with the following aspects of API use.

API Security

This element of your API management will protect your APIs and application from unauthorised entry and data breach threats. On top of this, you will be able to protect sensitive data. If you are new to using APIs, a management tool will help you adopt security policies and procedures, as well as preventing overuse or abuse of APIs.

API Governance

Your developers will spend lots of time involved with API governance. Rather than being an extension of security, API governance typically consists of optimising performance and ensuring users can access and use APIs consistently. Governance will also play a vital role if you are developing custom APIs and linking them to external applications.

API Analytics

An API management tool can deliver real-time analytics data in a variety of ways. API analytics will often bring your developers, operations, and finance teams together to review performance and make data-driven decisions around future development projects.

Monetisation

Your business exists to make money. Whether you use APIs to make processes more efficient, as a revenue-generating tool, or both, API management will help you make your API use profitable.

Standard Features of API Management Tools

There are a vast number of API management tools available, including those from popular brands like Microsoft Azure API management and Google Apigee. In addition to proprietary tools from these and other brands, there are several open-source tools that you may wish to use as an alternative. If you have the in-house development capability, you might even develop your own API management tool.

Many API management tools also offer specific features that deal exclusively with mobile user experience. If your business develops applications that users will access using a mobile device most of the time, these will play a crucial role in your success.

While you should choose an API manager – or build your own - based on your needs, most platforms will share the following standard features.

API Design Tools

API management tools are not just for businesses that already use APIs! Your API management platform can help you build your first API solution, too. API design tools enable you to design, build, test and deploy APIs that your team builds from scratch.

API Gateway

API gateways are a vital part of the governance process. An API gateway helps you streamline your API development and operations. It will also play a role in how users interact with your API, standardise API use for all users, deliver security and performance, and managing connections between APIs or between APIs and end-users.

Developer Portal

Think about some of the world's most popular SaaS businesses. Salesforce is a fantastic example. How many other products can you integrate with Salesforce via an API? How much more popular are companies and tools that offer such integrations and user possibilities?

An API tools' developer portal helps you publish your APIs and connect them to other platforms, giving you an enormous opportunity to grow your business.

Lifecycle Management

Lifecycle management keeps your API stable, secure, and reliable from the moment you start developing it to the day you eventually discontinue it for an alternative process.

API Analytics

Your business cannot correctly make significant decisions without having the data to back it up! As we said earlier, your API analytics might be the thing that brings all your business departments together. Make sure you choose an API management tool that tells you everything you want to know about API performance!

What are the Benefits of Using API Management Tools?

The importance and features of API management tools highlight the benefits of using them. Whether you want to streamline, optimise, or monetise an aspect of your business, the potential using API management tools is limitless.

In addition to those features already discussed, API management might help your business:

  • To continue using legacy data and systems, avoiding expensive development and deployment of new IT architecture. Use API management software to update security features and protocols rather than building a new platform!
  • Implement modern compliance standards in areas other than security.
  • Translate old data and code into modern formats.
  • Combine a range of features and services into a single API tool.

Are There Any Downsides?

Most of the downsides of API management platforms are specific drawbacks of individual tools.

However, you should appreciate if you are building custom applications and using APIs to integrate with external software that you will have a learning curve. Your developers will need to learn how the API works and interacts with your applications. Likewise, your team and customers will need to learn how to use it correctly, too! 

Implementing and configuring API management can prove particularly tricky if you are looking to use APIs at scale, but doing so pays off in the long term.

API Management Tools: The Key Takeaways

If you use APIs in any part of your business, using an API management platform is necessary.

The key things to remember around API management in 2020 are:

  • API management tools have a range of functions that you can deploy in line with the needs of your business, developers, team members, and customers.
  • API management platforms make it easy for you to address vital matters, such as API security and governance.
  • You can use an API management tool to help you build your first API.
  • While all API management platforms offer similar features, some may be a better match than others. Choose yours carefully or build your own!
  • API management tools can save you a significant amount of money on developing new APIs and software applications.
  • Adjusting to APIs and API management tools may take time but will pay off in the long term.

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