A Second Wave of API Management is Going On

I fully surfed the first wave of API management. API Evangelist began by researching what Mashery, Apigee, and 3Scale had set into motion. API Evangelist continued to has exist through funding from 3Scale, Mulesoft, WSO2, and continues to exist because of the support of next generation providers like Tyk. I intimately understand what API management is, and why it is valuable to both API providers and consumers. API management is so relevant as infrastructure it is now baked into the AWS, Azure, and Google Clouds. However, if you listen to technological winds blowing out there, you will mostly hear that the age of API management is over with, but in reality it is just getting started. The folks telling these tales are purely seeing the landscape from an investment standpoint, and not from an actual boots on the ground within mainstream enterprise perspective—something that is going to burn them from an investment standpoint, because they are going to miss out on the second wave of API management that is going on.

The basics of API haven’t changed from the first to the second wave, so let’s start with the fundamental building blocks of API management before I move into describing what the next wave will entail:

  • Portal - A single URL to find out everything about an API, and get up and running working the resources that are available.
  • On-Boarding - Think just about how you get a new developer to from landing on the home page of the portal to making their first API call, and then an application in production.
  • Accounts - Allowing API consumers to sign up for an account, either for individual, or business access to API resources.
  • Applications - Enable each account holder to register one or many applications which will be putting API resources to use.
  • Authentication - Providing one, or multiple ways for API consumers to authenticate and get access to API resources.
  • Services - Defining which services are available across one or many API paths providing HTTP access to a variety of business services.
  • Logging - Every call to the API is logged via the API management layer, as well as the DNS, web server, file system, and database levels.
  • Analysis - Understanding how APIs are being consumed, and how applications are putting API resources to use, identifying patterns across all API consumption.
  • Usage - Quantifying usage across all accounts, and their applications, then reporting, billing, and reconciling usage with all API consumers.
  • APIs - API access to accounts, authentication, services, logging, analysis, and usage of API resources.

Many believe API management is primarily about securing APIs, with others seeing it purely as monetization, when in reality API management is about awareness. Establishing, maintaining, and evolving an awareness of the API-driven digital capabilities you possess, and how these capabilities are being applied on the desktop, within mobile phones, on Internet-connected devices, and at the network layer. Without this awareness you will not remain competitive in the online global economy. The first wave of API management was about selling these essential building blocks to the growing number of startups, and handful of progressive enterprise. The second wave of API management is about selling these building blocks to mainstream enterprises across staple industries like healthcare, banking, education, and beyond.

API management remains the cornerstone of the API lifecycle, and while the first wave of API management providers will benefit from the second wave, it is the next generation of API management providers like Tyk and Kong who will truly reap the benefits. They are the ones who will be agile enough, aware enough, and innovative enough to meet the demands of mainstream enterprise companies, SMBs, and startups when it comes to delivering APIs at scale throughout their API journey. The core API management features will remain the essential building blocks that API management service providers will bring to the table, but there will be other areas in which rise to the occasion and serve.

  • Discovery - Helping enterprise make sense of the growing number of digital resources they possess.
  • Service Mesh - Establishing a fabric of services that are resilient, scalable, and meet consumer needs.
  • Micro - Possessing a light footprint so it can be deployed anywhere, by anyone looking to put to work.
  • Regional - the ability to rapidly deploy and scale to meet the specific needs of regional use cases.
  • Transformations - Leaning on the API management to evolve, transform, and move APIs forward.
  • Extensible - The ability to extend the capabilities within the API management layer for the long tail.

These are just a handful of the API management features that next generation API service providers will need to possess. While the established API management providers will be able to deliver in some of these areas, they ultimately will not be able to move fast enough, and direct investment properly within these areas. I also worry that even some of the next generation solutions won’t be able to get the investment they need with the current perspective being that we exist in a post API management phase. Sadly, I think this is the reality of a world that is heavily influenced, driven, and captured by investment ideology. The result is that the solutions being delivered are out of touch with what enterprises actually need on the ground, and startups that chase the investment money are always on to the next big thing, leaving significant chunks of change on the table.

For me, not much has changed since 2010 when it comes to APIs. I’d say the API lifecycle has expanded and come into focus a little bit more, but nothing revolutionary and only a handful of things that are evolutionary have actually emerged. The major shift in the landscape that has occurred is that in 2014 I was still talking to mostly startup, and in 2019, I’m mostly talking to enterprise. The mainstream enterprise has woken up to the potential of APIs, and they are needing the expertise, tooling, and services to get the job done. They need the awareness that API management brings, and to make sense of their digital capabilities. API management is a fundamental building block of the API economy, and just because the leading providers have been acquired and baked into the cloud doesn’t mean the opportunity is gone and over with. If you survived the SOA evolution, you know that there are plenty of building blocks being repurposed for a cloud, mobile, and device world—this is a world where API awareness is essential, and API management is how you achieve this level of awareness.

Disclosure: Tyk is an API Evangelist sponsor.