What is full lifecycle API management?
This article was written by Jess Munday, Content Marketing Analyst at MuleSoft.
As API adoption increases, their usage continues to spread across all areas of the business. But, APIs alone are not enough to meet the rising integration challenges of today’s digital world. Organizations must give their API programs first-class treatment with a full lifecycle API management solution. Enabling developers with an API management solution across the full lifecycle of that API provides them with the flexibility and adaptability necessary to integrate applications, systems, and data in an ever-evolving environment.
What is full lifecycle API management?
Full API lifecycle management is the process of overseeing an API from its creation to retirement across its full life span. This includes everything from designing, publishing, documenting, securing, and analyzing APIs. An effective API strategy must include an API management solution that makes APIs easily discoverable and reusable, and ensures that they are properly governed and secured.
The 3 API lifecycle stages
At the core of API management is the need to serve the full lifecycle of an API and enable the associated ecosystem. An API-first approach emphasizes the importance of the entire lifecycle by strategically treating APIs as products and managing them as such. The outcome of this approach is a well designed, managed, and secured API to serve developers building new experiences.
Below are the three distinct stages of this product-centric lifecycle: design, implementation, and management.
The first step in the API lifecycle is design — when the API is created. Designing an API starts with an outside-in perspective, beginning with the “interface/contract” of the API.
API developers create the “user interface” of the API first, determining how the API looks and behaves – this is also known as the API contract. This approach is typically referred to as a “design-first” approach, and should follow a deliberate API design lifecycle to optimize for the best experience. This step must be done in a human-readable fashion — to specify the contract in a way that developers can easily digest.
Within this step, API developers perform these tasks:
- Design: Identify process and business requirements, create logical data model, translate into logical service, API groupings
- Simulate: Model API resources, model API operations/methods, model request/response payload/codes
- Feedback: Mock up the API, publish interactive console, create notebook use cases, receive developer feedback
- Validate: Modify API design as appropriate based on developer feedback, continue to validate
Any well-designed API will have repeatability across other APIs. This can easily be encapsulated into best practice patterns both at the structural level of the API (nouns resources), as well as at the method level (verbs). So as API developers go about the design process, it is important that they can discover and share repeatable patterns.
API implementation is a critical piece of enabling a next-generation enterprise. Enabling the connectivity of hundreds or thousands of APIs to a backend as well as to each other is key. This must be done in a systematic manner (as opposed to point-to-point code).
The two steps that go into the implementation stage are building and testing.
A systematic approach to building ensures that the API developer has the the following architectural patterns easily available to them:
- Data mapping
- Connectivity across systems
Once the API is built — it will go through rounds of API testing to ensure that it is functioning as expected. If the test is completed with no problems it can move on to the next lifecycle stage, but most often the API will go through several rounds of testing and adjusting before moving on to deployment. Test automation tools are critical here, as this integrates into the DevOps processes of continuous delivery and deployment.
It is critical to ensure your application building blocks are following best practices in security and architectural governance by applying policies to them at runtime. Monitoring all traffic via an API manager is equally critical because it just takes just one weak link to bring the ship down.
Within this lifecycle stage are the following steps:
Additionally, these APIs need to be discoverable to be reused for other purposes. The ability to appropriately publish them so the consuming developer can find, research, and understand them easily could make or break your entire program.
Who does what across the API lifecycle?
Depending on the maturity of your organization, there may be one person handling all these responsibilities or there may be multiple people handling certain areas. Each stage in the API lifecycle provides specific value, which ensures application building blocks provide desired business outcomes.
An API manager would oversee the API across the full lifecycle in smaller organizations. While in more robust organizations, an API analyst and admin would cover design, DevOps, an integration developer, and an application network architect would handle implementation, and an API admin would cover the management portion.
API management for application network
In today’s competitive landscape, businesses need to make decisions quickly. Whether it’s a new marketing campaign, a new product enhancement, a new partner portal or an employee productivity app, businesses are competing on speed. They need flexibility to enable this to create purposeful, agile application building blocks that can be easily pieced together with well-designed, well-managed APIs to quickly create what is needed.
Connecting these building blocks results in a network of interchangeable functionality — a network of sub-functions, or applications — called an application network. Future-proof your organization and hedge against uncertainty by creating these building blocks, and then allow for the flexibility to rapidly piece them together on an on-demand basis.
An application network is composed of application building blocks. These have multiple elements and it's critical to separate the concerns between each. The API interface, the API implementation, and the API management aspects all have unique lifecycles to follow. This building block should itself be treated as a product since these characteristics are common to what a good product should also have.
To learn more about managing APIs across their full lifecycle, download our whitepaper.