5 API Versioning Best Practices

API Strategy

5 API Versioning Best Practices

·  4 Min Read

5 API versioning best practices for large enterprises

There’s a lot of discussion around API versioning, much of it aimed at how to manually version APIs in code. But, when you’re an enterprise with 100s to 1000s of APIs (plus SOAP, Events etc.), each often needing multiple versions, manually versioning makes it difficult to ensure reliability and predictability.

That’s why we’ve put together these 5 API versioning best practices specifically for large enterprises who need a more baked-in and standardized approach to versioning.

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What is API versioning?

API versioning is a key part of good API design. Over time, your APIs need modifications and/or updates. Versioning is a transparent way of applying and managing those changes, so you can iterate your API easily.

All types of APIs can be iterated; you can have SOAP, Event, and REST API versioning (to name a few!) as part of your versioning strategy.

Why do you need an API versioning strategy?

As an API-centric organization, change is inevitable and constant. Your ecosystem is evolving and expanding, meaning there are going to be changing use cases, partners, platforms etc., as well as change requests from consumers of your APIs.

All these updates and changes need to be made visible and transparent, so that you can help minimize breaks and outages, and sustain a good consumer experience – key traits of any competitive API-centric enterprise.

That’s where API versioning comes in. But while versioning is typically a manual task completed by developers, when you’re an enterprise with 1000s of APIs (plus Services, Events etc.), an enterprise versioning strategy with a centralized (and ideally automated) approach is key.

5 API versioning best practices

Here are the 5 best API versioning practices recommended for you as a large enterprise…

1. Work with a consistent versioning strategy

For this, we recommend utilizing major, minor, and patch versions with a clear delineation on what each means:

  • Major version: contains changes that are not backwards compatible, e.g. removing a response field
  • Minor version: contains changes that are backwards compatible, e.g. adding a new method
  • Patch version: contains changes that do not affect the API on a material level, e.g. updates to metadata fields

You want a consistent way of versioning across your enterprise, so that you can manage them in a standardized way, and ensure all users know what to expect when they are discovering existing APIs for possible consumption.

2. Track all versions in a central catalog

You want a single source of truth for all API versions – one unified view where everyone in the enterprise can find and understand what versions already exist. Surrounding them with rich metadata e.g. API owner, lifecycle state, and whether they’re approved for reuse can help everyone (including business roles) understand:

  • what versions are available
  • if and where they’re deployed already
  • if they’re suitable for composability e.g. use in an API product bundle
  • and who to contact to request changes or provide feedback

API versioning shouldn’t be a manual task and up to developers to manage at enterprise scale, so building an active catalog that provides an accurate source of truth is really important.

3. Nest versions under a central design

Using abstracted designs can help keep things organized when you’re working with 1000s of APIs and versions. These code and implementation agnostic designs represent the functionality rather than the specifics, and can be used to nest everything in one place:

  • All the types of API version (major/minor/patch)
  • Service profiles for the functionality
    • Interface types (REST, SOAP, Event versions)
    • Versions by application type
    • Versions by admin capability
    • Frontend vs backend versions

As a large enterprise, you likely have multiple service types servicing a single design (aka a single block of functionality), so nesting can significantly help rationalize any API sprawl.

4. Use role-based access controls to control API versioning

There’ll always be times when you only want certain users to be able to make changes tp your APIs, for example when they’re handling sensitive information or IP. Role-based access control (RBAC) can be used to control who can make new versions of an API or make changes to an existing version. You can also include the control to force new versions (stop continuous edit & redeploy of the same version and force a new version to be made).

5. Communicate new versions and changes to all consumers of the API

This is especially true when you’re a large enterprise; your integration ecosystem is constantly evolving so APIs will have multiple consumers (internal and external) and they’ll often change. Rule #1 of a good consumer experience is reliability – a broken application from an updated API means angry consumers (who might go elsewhere if they’re your partners).

So, communicating all changes and new versions in a transparent way is critical. Ideally this is done automatically whenever you publish a new version or update, minimizing human error. And, while most people will not want to migrate right away to the newer version unless forced, it’s great to be able to announce to existing consumers new capabilities available in patch, minor, and major versions.

Enabling impact analysis is helpful too – what consumers will be impacted by my upcoming version change? All aiding effective change management at enterprise scale, across your integration ecosystem.

Automatic API versioning with ignite

The ignite platform is designed with enterprises, for enterprises. We realize large organizations have a lot of existing complexity including many APIs with many versions. So, we’ve built in functionality that supports managing complexity at scale. ignite comes with configurable automated versioning that’s baked in to a holistic catalog and extended lifecycle.

This ultimately helps developer productivity and provides a better experience for your API consumers; APIs are reliable and predictable, with transparency into their iterations over time.

All your versions across the enterprise are easy to discover too, since they’re held in a single source of truth, organized as abstracted designs which represent your business capabilities.

Book a call with us to see API versioning in action in ignite.

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