Applications Programming Interfaces (APIs) are computing interfaces that allow applications to communicate and share data. They allow organizations to develop innovative solutions that ease their business operations. For instance, API Management in the banking industry has transformed from the traditional ways of operations that involved a customer having to physically visit a bank to initiate transactions.
Today, customers can simply access their bank accounts through different applications from anywhere in the world using devices of their choice. They can initiate transactions without having to visit a bank. This has been made possible by APIs. Every other industry is trying its best to come up with such innovative solutions to meet the demands of its customers.
This has contributed greatly to the growth of APIs. Organizations are today developing and running multiple APIs, each with different functionalities but all working towards the same goal. Developing and running multiple APIs needs effective API management throughout the life of the APIs. Organizations need a way to make sure that they keep a close eye on all the APIs that they use to make sure that they function as expected.
API management is the process through which an organization builds and publishes APIs while enforcing the APIs’ usage policies, enriching their subscriber community, controlling access to the APIs, getting metrics on their performance, and analyzing all the collected usage statistics.
It also involves managing the ecosystem of an API, managing decision-making with regards to an API, and migrating any new APIs into the organization’s API ecosystem. Managing APIs is a very crucial process in the life of an API. Even though some companies have found it challenging, smart organizations have implemented the use of an API management tool to help and make the entire process easy.
These tools come with features and functionalities that handle the entire process, leaving no or a very small margin of error compared to managing the APIs without the tools. However, no matter the methods used in managing APIs, some organizations find the entire process difficult due to;
1. Changes in Scale
When a company starts building and implementing APIs, the need to keep developing new APIs and updating the existing ones will keep on growing. Over a period of time, such a company will experience changes in scale. This is where the challenge with API management comes in.
When an organization increases the teams working on their APIs, there will also be an increase in the number of APIs that the teams build. When the new system used by the new teams and APIs matures, the company will experience changes in the processes that it uses to manage its APIs.
In addition, the API management tools used initially by the company to monitor and manage its APIs (which were developed by the initial team, and are in fact just a handful) will most likely not be able to handle the increased number of APIs the company is building. The tools might also be insufficient in handling all the teams, which might be spread in different locations. This shows why changes in scale make it difficult for companies to manage APIs.
2. Changes in Scope
To successfully run and manage their APIs, companies need to achieve the right levels of control over their APIs. However, this gets quite difficult since as an API program matures, the levels of control change as well.
Initially, a company might be running a small team, building and implementing a small number of APIs over a period of time. When they are doing this, they solve any issues that they encounter and use such solutions to come up with guidelines on how to handle any other similar issues when building their APIs.
However, as the company grows, they might find themselves in situations where they are running multiple teams building and implementing a large number of APIs. As the number of teams and APIs grow, so does the number of issues that they are likely to encounter. The guidelines they originally had will be insufficient to handle the new challenges, making API management difficult for the company. For example, with Google’s Page Experience update, APIs might need to be updated as well.
3. The Power of API Standards
When companies decide to invest in the development and implementation of APIs, some of them come up with design standards to guide them in building their APIs. Since they are not developing APIs on a large scale, they make sure that their APIs follow these guidelines, designed by their developers.
However, due to changes in both scale and scope, they might find themselves developing a larger number of APIs and integrating them with other systems. They might even increase the teams building their APIs. When this happens, their in-house guidelines bring constraints and inconsistencies that make API management difficult.
API management is very important for any organization developing and implementing APIs. The way organizations manage a single API or a handful of them is quite different from the way they manage a large number of APIs. In addition, the tools they use for the two scenarios are also different and come with different features. Due to the emerging markets for tech organizations, there is a high potential for growth and they (the organizations) need to make sure that they are using the right measures and tools when managing APIs, depending on their requirements and those of the APIs.