API Platform vs Full Lifecycle API Management

I was just on a call where I heard one of the more succinct definitions of the difference between Postman and the waves of “Full Lifecycle API Management” solutions that have come before us. API Management providers possessed a core set of API gateway capabilities that they would bundle documentation, portal, analytics, and other platform capabilities you will need-—forcing you to buy it all as a bundle. With Postman, and an API platform, you get to choose and pick all the platform capabilities you want to go with your core API capabilities—-you pay for Postman for the privilege of being able to choose. Which in my mind is the way things should be, and a very API-first way to approach things.

This is the key differentiator between what an API Platform is and what full lifecycle API Management is, but it is also the different between how most people view what a platform is, and how we see what an API platform is. What full lifecycle API Management providers have done is in the same realm as what platforms do, bundle and lock your customer into the world you have constructed, with only the integration and interoperability necessary. An API Platform is all about choosing which tools and services you will be using across the API lifecycle, while allowing you to standardize your API lifecycle, observability, and governance.

API management was purposefully a loose catch-all phrase, with core gateway capabilities at the center. There are really just a handful of things that gateways do. These capabilities are essential to our business and API operations today.

Gateway Capabilities

The problems is that full lifecycle API Management providers have used these core capabilities in which we all need to lure us in, but then begin picking and choosing from a whole mix of what I would consider to be platform capabilities–bundling them in with gateway capabilities to simultaneously sweeten but also confuse the bag of solutions you are signing a 1-5 year contract for.

Platform Capabilities

What an API Platform gives you is the ability to pick ala carte what gateway and platform capabilities you need while still working from a single strategy, establishing a common lifecycle, and realizing platform governance. The focus is on observability, collaboration, and automation across teams, engaging internally through private workspace, with partners via partner workspaces, and publicly via your portal and public workspaces. Yes, Postman is a testing and automation tool, but it is also the place for managing the source of truth for your APIs, then plugging in whatever platform capability you want. You can use Postman for documentation, and you can use ReadMe for documentation. You can use Stoplight for design, and Apigee for your gateway. It doesn’t matter, you can use whatever solution you need-—as long as it has an API.