Is API Management Really Dead? - digitalML

Is API Management Really Dead?

Is API Management Really Dead?

Jeremy Sindall Avatar
Jeremy Sindall
September 15, 2023 5 min read
Jeremy is CEO of digitalML. Having founded the company in 2000, he specializes in helping the world's largest companies reinvent themselves into Intelligent Enterprises through abstracted API and service management.

This article was originally published on the Forbes Technology Council.

There’s been a debate in recent months that API management is dead. Kicked off back in March 2023 with Christian Posta’s thought-provoking viral article, and recently ignited again by the cheeky eye-grabbing title and excerpt from Eric Newcomer’s API Days summary piece.

In a time where our API programs are being scrutinized over how they can deliver the cost and revenue benefits we’ve been promised, let’s take a look at how API management is alive, well and evolving to deliver the API economy benefits your stakeholders care about.

API Management Definitions

Before we delve into where API management is heading, it’s important to clear up some confusion over terminology I often hear when speaking to enterprises. API management and API lifecycle management are sometimes used interchangeably with API gateways and runtime management platforms, but these are not all the same thing.

API management is the combination of people, processes and technology you use to execute your API strategy successfully.

API lifecycle management is the repeatable framework for managing your APIs from planning and designing, to deploying, consuming, iterating and eventually retiring them.

An API gateway is a server or middleware component that acts as an intermediary between clients and backend services, enabling centralized management, security and routing of API requests. Essentially it’s what makes your APIs “go.”

An API management platform is a type of API software solution and a component of your API lifecycle management process as well as overall API management. It normally consists of an API gateway plus other runtime features such as administration, monitoring and runtime analytics.

There are other terms around in the space to describe components or offerings in the vast landscape of API tooling, as well as umbrella definitions for groups of these tool sets, such as Gartner’s full lifecycle API management definition.

API Management Is Alive And Well, It’s Just Evolving

There’s no doubt that the API world is experiencing a large shift. We’re seeing the commoditization of API gateways as organizations opt for lightweight options that support a distributed runtime landscape, and want the ability to chop and change the gateways they use to achieve that. We’re also seeing a more componentized approach to organizations’ API toolsets (API expert Erik Wilde has coined this the “great unbundling”) so that they can adopt functionality that specifically targets their initiatives.

We also want to make developers’ lives easier and improve the developer experience. Developer burnout is an increasing issue for IT teams, and important API management tasks such as governance, proper version management and API curation for reuse shouldn’t be overburdening their workload. Providers of API tooling need to evolve to embrace bottom-up workflows, automation and functionality that supports good developer experience, enabling developers to work more effectively with the tools they’re already using. It’s this that will help break down those siloes mentioned in Posta’s piece.

But to say API management is dead is to inadvertently oversimplify the needs of large enterprises in a world of API proliferation, what it means and what it takes to make a successful API program that delivers real value. Instead, I would argue that API management is more important than ever so that we can tackle the challenges of a scaling API program, and provide solutions for questions such as:

  • How do we capture and manage growing API sprawl?
  • How do we decrease API redundancy and duplication, and the costs and risk associated with each?
  • How do we increase API adoption and delight our consumers to deliver the API economy benefits we’ve been hoping for?

Large Enterprises Need Flexibility, Collaboration, and a Connected Approach

We need a balance of top-down, business-led API management alongside a bottom-up, developer-focused process to achieve this. We can’t pass all the burden of generating success from our APIs to developers. Instead, we need a collaborative and cross-functional approach to our API strategy where different roles across the API ecosystem can contribute their expertise to enable effective management and performance of the program.

The biggest challenge in embracing this evolution of API management is how we connect our componentized tooling, alongside people and processes. I expect API tooling providers to improve their own API sets so that we can easily integrate and offer API management capabilities that meet our stakeholders where they are, be those developers in an IDE (integrated developer environment), architects in EA (enterprise architecture) tools, or support and DevOps in their workflow platforms and pipelines, to name a few. That’s exactly what we’re focused on here at digitalML; making our ignite Platform’s holistic catalog, extended lifecycle management, and API consumer portal solutions seamlessly connected with your existing IT landscape and workflows.

Architecture diagram of where ignite platform connects to IT landscape

It’s this change in approach that will enable us to break down silos in the development process of APIs vs other components in the SDLC (software development lifecycle) and manage APIs effectively at scale so that they’re delivering strategic value as opposed to one-off integration solutions. Be sure to drop me an email if you’d like to know more about how we’re doing this at digitalML.

About the Author

Jeremy Sindall Avatar
Jeremy Sindall
September 15, 2023 5 min read
Jeremy is CEO of digitalML. Having founded the company in 2000, he specializes in helping the world's largest companies reinvent themselves into Intelligent Enterprises through abstracted API and service management.

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