There are many reasons for integrating API lifecycle management into your workflow. For one, waterfall development is on the brink of deprecation. It’s becoming increasingly rare for a project to be developed, released, and left forgotten. It’s also becoming less common for a single team or sole person to work on a production project.

Lifecycle API management has become prevalent in light of these shifts toward continuous, collaborative development. It’s also a direct result of the increasing complexity of API architecture. But most importantly, increased focus on the API management lifecycle is indicative of the instrumental role APIs play in today’s business. APIs aren’t just data experiments for techy backend developers; they harbor a significant business potential, attracting C-suite and investor interest.

Below we take a look at holistic API lifecycle management and see how it’s different from regular API management. We’ll consider how envisioning the entire lifecycle, from the start, can benefit your API development projects.

What Is API Lifecycle Management?

API management, in and of itself, is like a roadmap for your API. It details how developers can access your endpoints, offers a window to analyze API calls and performance, and helps monetize your services, in addition to other abilities like authorization and versioning.

But where does “lifecycle” come into play? We mentioned waterfall development at the beginning of this article. In this model, everything happens in a linear sequence. One target completion triggers the next, and a product isn’t released until it’s 100% finished. We mention this to start as an example of what API lifecycle management is not.

API lifecycle management is when every single stage of an API’s creation, development, and deployment is monitored and controlled. It offers a much more holistic overview of an API project while simultaneously providing a more granular understanding of how an API functions. For the scope of this article, we’ll break down API lifecycle management into three stages.

The Three Stages Of API Lifecycle Management:

  1.  Creation
  2. Controlling
  3. Consuming

Each one of these stages has several sub-categories, as well. Each one of these can be monitored and optimized using API lifecycle management.

Creation

The first step of API creation is modeling. This is when you start to plan out your API, deciding on the API endpoints. These could be based on an existing database you want to interact with or off a goal you’re hoping to achieve.

Orchestration comes next. Here’s where you start to integrate data from the sources you’ll be using. This could be done synchronously or asynchronously.

Transforming data is one of the greatest strengths of an API. The transform stage of the creation cycle is where you convert different data types and formats, like XML files, into API-consumable objects like JSON.

Finally, documentation is the last stage of the API creation stage. This is where you’ll lay out the syntax for how to use your APIs so developers and end-users will be able to use your API.

Control

The control stage of API lifecycle management is perhaps the most important, and most representative of why this format is so necessary. The first subsection of the control stage is deployment, which instantly publishes the API to the target audience without requiring additional setup. It’s an essential component of continuous delivery, which is radically different than the waterfall development method.

Management is the stage of API lifecycle management that controls who can access an API and how. It defines how end users can consume an API via rate limiting and service level agreements (SLAs). These agreements are usually laid out in an API catalog.

Security is perhaps the most important stage of API lifecycle management, and especially important if your API is intended for public consumption. Forbes cybersecurity expert Taylor Armerding describes insecure APIs as “the digital version of unlocked doors and broken windows.” Considering that 69% of companies intended to make their APIs publically available, as of 2018, this alone is reason enough to consider integrating API lifecycle management into your API development strategy.

Finally, scalability is the final step in controlling your API. It helps ensure that your API is rugged and robust enough to account for unexpected traffic spikes without requiring manual monitoring.

Consumption

The consumption stage of API lifecycle management controls how your API is discovered. Publishing is the first subsection. It’s where your API is published to API directories so developers can find and use your API. If your API is intended for private usage, this could be achieved with an API catalog, which is an internal document featuring all in-house APIs and libraries. If your API is meant for public consumption, this will be handled during the consumption stage, as well.

The discovery phase is nearly as important as the entire control section to your API’s ultimate success, especially if it’s intended for public consumption. This is how other developers will discover your API. It’s also where they’ll see how useful it is, so they can decide if they want to integrate it into their development workflow or not. This means having an easy demo where developers can try out your API for themselves.

Invocation is also important to your API’s success. This is how developers onboard to your service and call your API, sometimes via an SDK, which can be run in their preferred development environment.

The final step of API lifecycle management is monetization. Considering that many believe that data is the new oil, this is crucial for finding business value. API lifecycle management during the monetization stage involves setting rates and keeping track of data usage.

How 3Scale by Redhat visually defines full API lifecycle management, in which business outcomes and developer feedback continuously dictate new designs and deployments. Source.

Examples of API Lifecycle Management Tools

For API lifecycle management to be truly useful and effective, it needs to be as automatic as possible. Otherwise, updating your API could become just one more item on your to-do list, not too dissimilar from messaging your email list or updating your blog. Automating as much as possible is an important aspect of continuous development.

Considering how prevalent APIs have become, and how much money is on the line, it’s no surprise that there are numerous API lifecycle management tools on the market. Some focus on particular stages or aspects of the lifecycle while others are more comprehensive. We’ll take a look at a couple of API lifecycle management tools to help give you an idea of what features to look for and how they can help your API development process. These mentions were not sponsored nor should they be considered an official endorsement.

Apigee

apigeeApigee is one of the most popular and best-known API lifecycle management tools. Apigee is Google’s API management platform, so it makes sense that it would be popular, powerful, well designed, and thorough.

Apigee is the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink API management resource, with the utility drawer thrown in for good measure. Apigee can be used to design APIs, with out-of-the-box solutions, open-source components for quickly building APIs, and a proxy editor for managing an API’s backend without having to mess with code.

This is just one example of what Apigee can do. This powerful platform has fully-realized tools for every stage of the API lifecycle we’ve already discussed. An entire book could be written on this SaaS alone. Considering that it’s free to try, you’d do well to try it out for yourself.

Akana

Akana is another front-to-back API lifecycle management suite. It’s got a little less going on than Agipee, however, but just barely. It also can tackle everything from API design to managing who can access your API. Many of its features are automated, as well, so you only have to supply a schema, and you’re up and running.

Akana doesn’t have a dashboard or the ability to conduct testing, so Apigee might be a slightly better fit if you’re looking for an out-of-the-box solution. It’s also excellent for making sure your API is secure, which makes it worthy of looking into, especially if you’re thinking of offering data-as-a-service (DaaS).

Akana also has a free trial, so you can see how its robust suite of features works on your API for yourself.

FYI, we reviewed 20+ other API Management solutions here.

API Lifecycle Management: Final Thoughts

Consumers have higher expectations than they ever have before. Customers expect better products and services quicker and more cheaply. This becomes even more exaggerated in the world of APIs, which require being always-on to be truly effective. And thus useful (and profitable) for you and your business.

API lifecycle management also takes the guesswork out of maintaining your API, especially if you integrate API lifecycle management tools. This saves you the trouble of having to custom code everything yourself, which could save you any amount of time, energy, and resources. It also helps to make your API uniform, complying to a universal standard, so others will be able to use your API as well. It’s well worth looking into have an API lifecycle management solution in place, if you don’t already, and only going to become more prevalent as data becomes more prevalent and essential.

J. Simpson

J. Simpson lives at the crossroads of logic and creativity. He writes and researches tech-related topics extensively for a wide variety of publications, including Forbes Finds. He is also a graphic designer, journalist, and academic writer, writing on the ways that technology is shaping our society while using the most cutting-edge tools and techniques to aid his path. He lives in Portland, Or.