A Postman Collection As Unit of Compute For The API Lifecycle
11 Nov 2019
I have written several times about what a Postman collection means to my API discovery and search workflow. I have thousands of OpenAPI definitions indexed as part of my research, but until there is a Postman collection with a functional environment, my API definitions aren’t “complete”. I can have a “complete” OpenAPI definition for the surface area of an API, but without a functional Postman collection, with API keys or tokens, and real world examples for each individual API path—it is just decoration. In this reality the Postman collection becomes a unit of compute that represents the discovery and search stops along the API life cycle, providing just two examples of how this machine readable API definition can be used across the entire API life cycle.
A Postman collection doesn’t just just act as a reference for an API, it can be a reference of the API for a variety of contexts and workflows. The collection can possess a variety of API paths across a single, or multiple APIs. One Postman collection can have multiple Postman environments that represent a variety of context—possessing different authentication scenarios, and pre-populated variables that illicit different responses from each API. These reference and workflow collections, complete with environment(s) are portable and shareable units of representation of any single API, or meaningful business capabilities that exist across multiple API providers. This portable, machine readable unit of compute becomes something that can be used by both API provider and API consumer to engage in more meaningful, and automated ways across almost every stop along the API life cycle.
I spoke of how I use a Postman collection as a executable unit of compute for API discovery, and search, but other stops along the API life cycle might also include API monitoring and performance, using a reference or workflow collection to represent a specific business capability that needs monitoring to ensure the service level agreement is being met. You can see this in action if you are an APIMetrics customer, where you can upload a Postman collection and use it as the seed for monitoring the availability, quality, and performance of a specific API or a set of APIs from any region in the world. APIMetrics provides multi-regional industrial-grade monitoring of your business API capabilities. Not just your APIs, but the Postman collection driven workflows that make your business go round each day. This isn’t just about the API, or monitoring the API, it is about crafting actual business workflows and monitoring these workflows that bring value to your business.
Using a Postman Collection to monitor your real-world business processes, allowing you to define, monitor, test, and share your organizational capabilities is how we define reliable API contracts for use internally, and externally with partners. This contract can then further be used to service other stops along the API life cycle, automating the documenting, securing, discovery, and other vitals aspects of providing and consuming APIs. A complete Postman Collection with a Postman Environment that describes a specific business context represents a single capability of a company, organization, institution, and government agency. Giving us a unit of compute that we can share internally across teams, empowering developers and non-developers to put the capability to work, while also sharing externally with 3rd party developers and users, extending the reach of each organizational capability—allowing it to go wherever it is needed.