We Still See Our API Gateway as Just Infrastructure

I have been thinking deep thoughts about API gateway and management offerings for the last couple of weeks. I am refreshing my memory of what has happened over the last decade with each wave of API management providers, the recent wave of smaller footprint next generation API gateway providers, but developing more awareness regarding what new players are delivering at the gateway layer. I am really working to see all the moving parts, but really step back and think about what has changed, and begin to make some bets on what the future holds. One of the jagged edges of our perception of API gateways I am chewing on right now is the fact that many of us still see the gateway as just another piece of infrastructure rather than the programmatic commodity baked into the fabric of the cloud and increasingly across the enterprise.

After a conversation with Zuplo, and a Breaking Changes discussion with CloudFlare, I am seeing several other layers of the commoditization of API gateways. API gateways are rapidly becoming the smaller footprint solutions we are needing across the enterprise, externally to support partners and public consumers, but also at the edge to go where API consumers and end-user applications are located. API gateways are getting lighter, smaller, agile, and more specialized. API gateways are being abstracted away into edge, woven into our CDN and DNS layers of our operations—routing, evolving, and powering our applications and integrations. Gateways are just melting into the increasingly sprawling landscape and in a continued API-first tradition we are automating our API gateway operations using the gateway APIs—-relying on our gateways to be programmable and a seamless part of our source control and CI/CD solutions.

In this new gateway reality we are limiting our velocity by seeing gateway as a piece of enterprise infrastructure, where it should melt and abstract into a suite of digital resources and capabilities you can use across any global region. When I used to go flying drones with our son, I would alsays fly the drone using the controller and simultaneously looking up in the sky. Our son would put his hoodie over his head, go sit in a bush, and focus only on the digital interface. He was a much better drone pilot than I ever hoped to be. I saw the drone, and he would see what the drone saw. This same logic applies to our API gateways. We need to stop focusing so much attention on the gateway. Let’s maximize our usage of the core capabilities as well as the more specialized capabilities of our gateway in a programmatic way and as a seamless part of our CI/CD pipelines. This will allow us to better balance out the digital capabilities we depend on across the API lifecycle, moving beyond the emphasis we’ve seen in the last decade on API Management, portals, and documentation, and begin to automate and govern across our operations more effectively.