Microservices and APIs: a necessary union

Microservices architectures are gaining traction in enterprises of all sizes; they are one of the most popular ways to design software applications. Microservices is credited with offering greater enterprise agility, making it easier to change and develop new applications more quickly than in a traditional monolithic development approach. This architecture has been successfully adopted by organizations like Netflix, Google, Amazon, and others, leading others to emulate the model.

For most enterprises, the adoption of and transition to microservices architectures will be an evolutionary journey in which microservices-based applications will coexist and interact with traditional ones. Microservices must live alongside traditional applications, existing systems and business processes, as well as current operational and compliance imperatives.

In addition, the benefits that microservices bring come a number of tradeoffs like service sprawl, increased complexity, and the risk of redundant work. Organizations need microservices and APIs together to effectively implement the architecture.

The challenge, for many companies, is learning how to mix a microservices architecture with the numerous other architectural patterns already deployed in the enterprise. One way to manage the speed and flexibility that microservices provide while taming complexity is through using APIs. An API strategy makes microservices easier to manage, and allows them to coexist with existing legacy systems, rather than live in a walled garden away from those critical systems. Combining a microservices architecture with a holistic API strategy is a proven way of getting the benefits of microservices while limiting the drawbacks.

 

How microservices and APIs work together

APIs were once low-level programming code interfaces, but now they have become products in and of themselves, adhering to standards like REST, which make them developer-friendly and with a stronger discipline for management and governance. API providers now compete against each other for developers’ attention, and an entire API economy has sprung up around the exchange of value between API consumers and API providers.

The change in what APIs can be used for also changed their technical requirements. APIs now need sophisticated portals so developers could discover and experiment with them, and mechanisms to register and pay for them, and throttle usage. And, because APIs are exposed externally, they need strong security capabilities through an API gateway. All of this functionality comprises API management, which is a capability to provide control, visibility, and governance over these increasingly valuable business assets.

All the focus on APIs for external consumption (and the value they create) raises a question: is there a way to achieve the same value for APIs exposed internally? Now that API management technologies have become more mature, discovery and self-service of data sources, services, and applications are now possible. This gives more teams throughout the business the ability to develop software in a controlled and visible way, scaling the productivity of the IT team, and creating an internal API economy.

With a microservices architecture, the value of an internal API economy is even greater, because as microservices create more endpoints, the harder it is to control connectivity. Trying to create point-to-point integrations between all those endpoints is a recipe for disaster. In a highly distributed environment like a microservices architecture, it’s critical to develop an API strategy.

One API strategy used by numerous companies to expose all services —whether microservice-based or monolithic, on-premises or cloud, etc. — is API-led connectivity. This API-led approach to integration is a purposeful, holistic way of using different types of purpose-built, reusable APIs to expose different types of services to be composed and recomposed to create easily changeable capabilities. Take a look at more information about API-led connectivity.

As microservices adoption becomes more entrenched, and particularly for established organizations with a legacy IT stack, the problem of integrating all these services and getting value out of them becomes more important to solve. This is why implementing an API-led integration strategy is so critical to making microservices effective for most businesses.

APIs not only bridge the gap between microservices and traditional systems, but also make it easier to build and manage microservices. With an API strategy, companies can expose the functionality of microservices as products, which can lead to both internal and external business value.

Standardized, productized APIs also help defray the significant costs associated with building point-to-point integrations between legacy systems and SaaS applications. This allows organizations to quickly plug and unplug microservices as business needs require, without endless amounts of custom code. APIs grant the benefits of standardized mechanisms for traffic management and monitoring, logging, auditing, and security in a standardized way throughout the enterprise, while retaining the agility required by the business.

These well-managed APIs also make the reuse and discoverability of microservices possible. As teams build microservices that could be beneficial to a broader set of people, the API interfaces make them discoverable. Those microservices could then be opened up to a broader audience – internally or externally – and then managed as a reusable capability.

How MuleSoft helps companies implement microservices and APIs

To facilitate the co-existence of microservices and APIs, it becomes necessary to deploy a single, unified platform that can integrate, manage, and provide visibility into any microservice or legacy system integration throughout the business, wherever it might be deployed, enabling reuse and discovery. Managing microservices with Anypoint Platform transforms them from yet another ball of mud into a group of manageable assets that can be composed and recomposed as the business requires.

Anypoint Platform, a single, unified connectivity platform, does just that by enabling API-led connectivity. Anypoint Platform activates the discovery and reuse of IT assets, providing line of business (LoB) and broader IT teams with self-service access to reusable assets. This allows teams to deliver their own integration projects quickly and securely with the governance of central IT.

Companies like Spotify are using APIs and microservices as part of a push to streamline business processes and create more agile and responsive enterprises. This approach has been used in organizations as diverse as Unilever, flydubai, and major banks. Unilever, in particular, has built over 80 microservices to connect e-commerce applications with legacy systems around the world. By combining its microservices architecture with an API-led connectivity approach, the CPG company has been able to reduce development time and deploy applications 3-4 times faster.

Learn more about the advantages of adopting APIs and microservices together.