API management is the process of creating and publishing web application programming interfaces (APIs) under a service that:
- Enforces the usage of policies.
- Controls access.
- Collects and analyzes usage statistics.
- Reports on performance.
While solutions vary, components that provide the following functionality are typically found in API management products:
- Gateway: a server that acts as an API front-end, receives API requests, enforces throttling and security policies, passes requests to the back-end service and then passes the response back to the requester. A gateway often includes a transformation engine to orchestrate and modify the requests and responses on the fly. A gateway can also provide functionality such as collecting analytics data and providing caching. The gateway can provide functionality to support authentication, authorization, security, audit and regulatory compliance.
- Publishing tools: a collection of tools that API providers use to define APIs, for instance using the OpenAPI or RAML specifications, generate API documentation, manage access and usage policies for APIs, test and debug the execution of API, including security testing and automated generation of tests and test suites, deploy APIs into production, staging, and quality assurance environments, and coordinate the overall API lifecycle.
- Developer portal/API store: community site, typically branded by an API provider, that can encapsulate for API users in a single convenient source information and functionality including documentation, tutorials, sample code, software development kits, an interactive API console and sandbox to trial APIs, the ability to subscribe to the APIs and manage subscription keys such as OAuth2 Client ID and Client Secret, and obtain support from the API provider and user and community.
- Reporting and analytics: functionality to monitor API usage and load (overall hits, completed transactions, number of data objects returned, amount of compute time and other internal resources consumed, volume of data transferred). This can include real-time monitoring of the API with alerts being raised directly or via a higher-level network management system, for instance, if the load on an API has become too great, as well as functionality to analyze historical data, such as transaction logs, to detect usage trends. Functionality can also be provided to create synthetic transactions that can be used to test the performance and behavior of API endpoints. The information gathered by the reporting and analytics functionality can be used by the API provider to optimize the API offering within an organization's overall continuous improvement process and for defining software Service-Level Agreements for APIs.
- Monetization: functionality to support charging for access to commercial APIs. This functionality can include support for setting up pricing rules, based on usage, load and functionality, issuing invoices and collecting payments including multiple types of credit card payments.