API Management Trends in 2021

API Management is a fast moving space, and it only got faster recently with a lot of companies going through Digital Transformation. Some are redesigning the way that they work to create greater efficiencies, some have no choice but to transform to keep up with their market’s pace. With each organization designing the best API program for their use cases, new requirements pop up for managing those APIs. But what’s interesting is that there are also some fundamental requirements that never change. Let’s take a look at what are some of the API Management trends in 2021 that we hear from our conversations with customers and market analysts.

1. On-premise solution

Let’s start with this classic. Cloud computing has been around for a while and it has matured both in terms of functional requirements and price. But, there are still some industries or use cases that require on premise hosting. Due to regulations or security requirements, some data just has to stay within well-defined organizational boundaries. For those cases, the API Management solution should work inside a firewall without the need to connect to any cloud. It should be able to enforce policies, gather and visualize analytics, store logs, and list APIs for internal consumption; all without an internet connection.

2. Hybrid Solution

Some companies do need to keep all their data close to home, but there are tons of companies or industries that are well-positioned to take advantage of the benefits that the cloud can bring. Some of those companies have chosen not to bring up any servers and exist only in the cloud. Some have traditionally stored their data and applications in their own servers but also want to scale up using the cloud. And maybe because of different business units or branches, they need to coexist in clouds provided by different vendors. A modern API Management solution should be able to cater to all of these use cases. It should support a hybrid deployment for a combination of on premise and multi-cloud data centers.

3. Mix’n Match Gateways or Portals

API Management vendors naturally want all their customers to use their solution only. But, a lot of organizations have to mix and match when it comes to gateways or developer portals. A very valid use case for this is that when organizations that traditionally operated on their own servers decide on some cloud projects, they use the gateway that is available to them from that cloud vendor. However, it becomes very challenging to integrate the gateway on the cloud with their existing gateways. It can easily turn into a multi-year project to figure out how to integrate these solutions for seamless operation and build CI/CD pipelines by going through each API Management vendors’ documentation and having multiple support calls. This diminishes the agility and flexibility benefits gained from the cloud projects. In order to support their customers in these projects, the API Management solution should be selfless by working with other API Management vendors’ solutions and provide recipes on how to integrate.

4. Service Mesh

Microservices architecture got popular in recent years to redesign legacy monolithic applications. This new style gave developers independence, agility, and flexibility to work on pieces of their applications in isolation. And service meshes were created to manage the interactions between microservices and their security. This sounds similar to what APIs and gateways do for applications, right? That’s why the natural progression was to integrate service meshes with API Management. A modern API Management solution should allow its users to manage their microservices the same way that they manage their APIs: providing context based routing, traffic throttling, data transformation and more for microservices, and even enabling the microservices to be used as APIs.

5. Ecosystem Management

If there is one constant in API program management, that is growth. One of the reason why people buy API management solutions is to have visibility across their ever-growing API landscape. As the number of API gateways, APIs, data sources, and connectors increase, a single view where they can see all their assets, descriptions, and interdepencies becomes integral to efficiently control those. But, a lot of organizations start thinking about this asset governance problem after their API programs mature and it is too late to untangle all of these assets with an API Manager that is not up for the task. That’s why API Management solutions should come with ecosystem management support to provide this visibility by default.

6. Extensibility

Extensibility is another requirement that is spawned from constant growth. As organizations start new projects and programs, new problems emerge. They may need to build new integrations, transfer files to external organizations, manage microservices runtimes, and have API Management as a part of a larger and more extensive solution. However, there is a fine line there. API Manager should not dictate how to do those tasks and turn the organizations into that vendor’s “shop”. They should rather enable their customers to expand only when and how it makes sense for them and allow seamless integration with other enterprise solutions.

There are as many use cases as the number of organizations out there. This is the limited list of requirements that we recently see the most. Make sure to look for these capabilities when selecting your API Management solution.

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Thanks a lot for your feedback Sujith. You are right the API analytics and security remain integral for API programs. With the increased number of malicious attacks and emphasis on the Digital Transformation KPIs, we will hear more about AI and ML applications in this space in the coming years.

Your comments on the multi-cloud hosting absolutely reflect our conversations with the market experts and users. Each company has a different deployment strategy depending on their use cases, history, or their customers’ requirements. API management providers should meet organizations where ever they are, without dictating a certain platform or deployment form factor.

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