A few blog posts ago, we briefly mentioned the importance of having a good web API management strategy in place. That small blurb couldn’t be more important.
Without question, API management must be a central part of your overall IoT development strategy. Without API management, your IoT application could be susceptible to any number of security or reliability issues. As this Wired magazine article puts it, “APIs are a fundamental enabler of the Internet of Things; but without API management, the unique characteristics of IoT can easily lead to catastrophe.”
API Management Basics
API management refers to the overall process of publishing, promoting, and overseeing APIs in a secure environment. It is a collection of solutions such as gateways and security, with each solution having its own disaster mitigation plan.
API management services act as a proxy between the API and the end user. They usually provide a combination of API key and authorization controls, usage reporting and analytics, documentation, developer communities, and payment information.
Why You Need It
Once your apps are out in the IoT universe, your API is being used and you’ll need to keep tabs on it. That’s why API management isn’t just another best practice for you to consider – it’s a must-have if you want to develop and implement a great IoT solution.
If you aren’t using a solution to manage your API, you might not catch anomalies or failures as they happen. You also might not be able to control versioning or support for outdated apps, developer and device registration and security, analytics, or performance.
Analysis is a particularly smart reason to have API management in place. For example, analysis could show you if your API capacity is being taxed so that you can respond in time. Additionally, in an emergency that requires your API to stay up and running, an effective management strategy could address the challenge by implementing throttling, prioritization, or scaling.
The Essential Components
There are three components every API management solution should have. These are:
1. A Developer Portal
You need to have a place where developers can discover APIs and sign up to use them. It should also include developer API key control because it’s important to give developers the power to use APIs to connect things while also having the right to remove that access if needed.
2. API Gateway
A gateway, or a filter placed in your web stack, that secures and mediates the traffic between your APIs and the end users is a vital part of any API management service. A gateway can be used to provide access control, rate limiting, analytics, traffic routing, and security filtering.
3. API Lifecycle Management
Like any other successful business process, you need an end-to-end method for managing the design, development, deployment, versioning, and retirement of your APIs. Effective lifecycle management can help you address questions or concerns about an API’s usefulness and quality, as well as the impact of potential changes before they’re rolled out.
Choosing the Right Tools
So, what makes an API management a good choice? Generally, it should offer comprehensive documentation, strong analytics, easy deployment, a sandbox environment for developing and testing your code, identity and access management, monetization, and high availability and scalability.
You might consider an API management solution from one of the following companies, all of which offer strong management services:
The Main Goal: Making It Easy
Whatever API management service you choose, the main goal of all these solutions is the same: making it easier for you to design, deploy, and manage your API. And they also help you ensure your API is secure by protecting your back-end services so that it’s much harder for end users to cause problems.
But what if you’re tempted to build your own API management service? There are, in fact, projects out there that you can use to manage throughput or analytics. We strongly advise against this, if only because of the immense amount of time you’ll spend designing the exact functionality you need to manage your API. You need to focus all your development time on the API, not on support and maintenance.