🔮 Future of API Management in 2023 and Beyond
4 min read
APIs provide the cement that binds us to our digital lives. They're how we plan our exercise routines, how we book our vacations, and how our paychecks get deposited into our bank accounts. To those of us who work at companies leaning into new technology initiatives, this is no secret. In the 2022 Postman State of the API Report, 67% of respondents confirmed they spend greater than 10 hours a week on APIs alone.
To enable this trend, we take advantage of platforms in the well-populated Full Lifecycle API Management market. What can we expect from these platforms as we move toward an even more connnected world?
More than just the runtime
The API Management category is heavily dominated by Runtime Management solutions. These platforms have the following components:
- API Gateway for policy enforcement (i.e., security, mediation, transformation)
- Developer Portal for discovery
- Identity and Access Management for authentication and authorization
While these components are significant, the rising growth of API development within autonomous teams has led to organizations planning:
- to implement a federated model of governance, enabling good practices across all stream-aligned teams
- to introduce platform teams, reducing toil
These concerns require a focus across the entire Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC). As API Management continues to evolve, we'll see an increased focus on:
- API Producer Lifecycle, from Design to Distribution
- API Consumer Lifecycle, from Discovery to Deployment
The API runtime is only the tip of the iceberg.
Focus on experience
As we move closer to the API Producer and Consumer Lifecycles, what becomes clear is that we need an increased focus on providing better experiences.
API Management Platforms need to consider the following roles when designing experiences:
- Operator: How can you configure, deploy, and observe the platform?
- Developer: How can you automate, extend, and debug the platform?
- Product Manager: How can you get key insights into our customers?
- Data Scientist: How can you extract data from the platform to help answer questions significant to the business?
There are many parties responsible for running a successful API program, and the quality of experience provides a great opportunity for innovation.
Investigate your own needs and be well-informed the next time you evaluate an API Management solution.
Measure what matters
Enterprise platform providers must always think about both their customers (B2B) and their customers' customers (B2B2B).
Here are some metrics that might matter to you.
- Monthly Active Users (MAU) - The pulse of usage over time.
- Feature adoption rate - What percentage of our API Consumers use particular APIs?
- Time to first value - How long does it take to an API Consumer to go from Discovery to Deployment?
Acquisition & Retention
- Referral source - How do people find our API program? (i.e., marketing campaign, personal referral, docs link, etc.)
- Conversion rate - Of the number of people who visit our API program site, how many sign up?
- Churn rate - How many API Consumers have we lost over a period of time?
- Customer Effort Score (CES) - How difficult was it for customers to on-board to new APIs?
- Net Promoter Score (NPS) - How willing are customers to recommend your APIs?
- Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) - How pleased are customers with the overall experience?
API Management platforms provide an opportunity to interact with your API Consumers. As APIs become increasingly important to your organization, we are compelled to treat them with a product mindset. Metrics help us track what's important.
Mix and match
The truth about API Management platforms is that they're actually enabling your platform as an organization. You own the experience for your internal and external stakeholders, and you own the responsibility of managing that platform.
As the industry matures, we're seeing components of API Management platforms become commodity, such as API Gateway and Identity and Access Management. To continue innovating on the organization's platform you manage, you'll need composability in the API Management solutions you choose.
Here are a few categories of components to consider:
- Runtime policy enforcement
- Access management
- Anomaly detection
Owning and assembling a platform for your organization's needs is a big responsibility. API Management platform vendors and open source communities of the future will need to support your ability to choose by offering plug-and-play options instead of walled gardens with vendor or project lock-in.
Machine Learning models are taking the Internet by storm. With innovations like GitHub Copilot, DALL-E and ChatGPT, what can we expect for APIs?
Going from use cases to SDKs
Imagine you're looking to use an API from a restaurant review site, such as Yelp. Could your on-boarding experience come from instructive text?
Build me a client library that queries the current user and finds their last 5 reviews. Generate this for the following languages: Go, PHP, Java, C#, Node.js, Ruby, Python. ✨
Smarter anomaly detection
Platforms can use past history of API patterns combined with current trends to determine what typical traffic might look like for your APIs. Not all anomalies are bad. Sometimes, an anomaly can signal better feature adoption or wider-spread API Consumer launches. Our API Management platforms should keep us informed and possibly even offer recommendations to our API Consumers automatically.
We see your API usage trending upward. Would you like to evaluate the Professional tier to raise your current rate limit?
Mining observability data can be a difficult experience. We often need to add filters on top of filters to really get the answers we're seeking. What if we could do this with a series of questions?
Show me the top locations of users impacted by 500 response codes. What's the count? ... Now, which of these users demonstrated a decrease in overall API traffic in the subsequent 7 days? ... Can you group these account names by account manager?
Even as some components of API Management platforms head toward commodity, we'll continue to see innovations move from their genesis into the product space and into open source projects.
In 2023 and beyond, API Management platforms will:
- Include more than just the runtime
- Focus on key experiences
- Measure what matters to all stakeholders
- Allow a mix-and-match of plug-and-play components
- Integrate ML/AI capabilities
It's an exciting time! What do you think? Reach out, and let me know!
You can find me on:
- Twitter @kevinswiber
- LinkedIn: /in/kevinswiber
- Mastodon: @firstname.lastname@example.org
Preview image by Drew Dizzy Graham on Unsplash.