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APIOps 101: Implementing DevOps and GitOps Principles within the API Development Lifecycle

Ofir Yefet
By Ofir Yefet
8 min read
API Governance API Observability
APIOps 101: Implementing DevOps and GitOps Principles within the API Development Lifecycle

Nowadays, there are a lot of products on the market that need to be deployed on multiple platforms. Consider an application like Spotify, which allows users to listen to music from their TV, mobile, desktop (including multiple operating systems, like Windows, Mac OS, and Linux), and smart devices (think Apple Watch and Philips Hue lights).

How can an application run on such a large number of devices? Although the user interface for each platform is different, most platforms use the same API services.

API services help a product scale and run on different platforms. On one hand, this is a benefit, allowing more users to access an app in the way that most suits them. On the other hand, if something goes wrong with the API, the application—on all its platforms—will stop working.

It’s safe to say that, nowadays, APIs are vital to the success of a software company. In order to produce a high-quality product and ensure it can scale to serve large numbers of users—maybe even millions—in multiple countries on multiple devices, you have to take good care of your APIs.

This is where APIOps comes into the picture.

In this article, I’ll explain what APIOps is and how it can help your company survive in today’s competitive IT world.

What Is APIOps? 

You probably already know about DevOps, which focuses on collaboration between developers and system administrators in a software development team. APIOps also encourages collaboration, but focuses on API development and API operations.

API Ops

Traditionally, API management happens very late in the software development cycle, as you only monitor and visualize data for the API after it's deployed to the production environment.

With an APIOps culture, you start monitoring and visualizing data for the API right from the start—from the requirement phase all the way to design, development, testing, deployment, and operation. 

With this approach, software teams get an early idea about how the API works, so all team members can easily collaborate on its development. This leads to better API design and, in the end, higher API quality. Moreover, if old APIs are updated, teams will be able to track their progress by comparing the new version with previous versions, which were well documented and provided helpful metrics.

APIs Provide a Business Edge

APIs are used almost everywhere in software development. Internal APIs serve as bridges to transfer data to public APIs. In this way, internal APIs help secure sensitive data and also improve development productivity. As we mentioned earlier, APIs are also often built to support multiple platforms, which all use the same APIs, with the same purpose. Moreover, APIs can be made publicly available, so software vendors can use them to integrate with the software product they want. For these reasons, APIs can play a key role in the success of any software company.

Today, in large part due to COVID-19, it seems that almost every product needs to go digital to survive. Thanks to the growth of cloud services like AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure, software teams do not necessarily need to build their products on premises anymore. Now, they can quickly deliver their software without worrying about building and setting up costly infrastructure on their own.

However, there is still one big challenge: how can you build and maintain APIs efficiently?

efficiency for API Ops

The Challenges of API Development

In general, users interact with a software product through the app—as long as it has a UI. However, behind that beautiful UI are tons of microservices that produce a wide range of APIs. So, in fact, what users actually interact with are the APIs themselves.

With this in mind, software developers should keep an eye on their APIs, making sure they are easy to maintain and update, have documentation that allows cross-team collaboration, and, most importantly, are built with quality in mind.

Software products are gaining users at a massive scale. This is good news, but could quickly turn sour if your APIs are not designed to handle a large load of traffic. Your team should design your software architecture to be scalable—from the database, services, or message queue system. Then, they should perform multiple performance testing scenarios to make sure your APIs can meet the expected number of requests. 

Regarding security, since more APIs are being made publicly available to users, hackers now have more ways to find the exploitable holes in your software products. Securing software is never an easy task, especially with so many open APIs. To protect your software, there are a number of security tests that you should conduct, either automatically or manually. For example, you can fuzz test the API with different inputs or statically scan code to check whether there is a library or security problem.

Software testing

APIs should also be designed and implemented carefully—with long-term growth in mind. It’s important to be able to add new features, since, without them, you cannot compete in today’s market. APIs should also be designed so that users can easily interact with your product. For example, let’s say you expose your APIs externally for software vendors to integrate with. If you don’t design the APIs carefully, the integration will be too time consuming, and your potential vendors will go elsewhere.

With all this in mind, consider that with APIOps, the work will be surrounded by your software APIs. If your software team can apply APIOps quickly and efficiently, you will be far ahead of the competition.

APIOps empowers you to extract the maximum value from your APIs by accelerating engineering velocity and gaining full observability into any API-related activity.

The Three Pillars of APIOps

Applying APIOps efficiently requires collaboration from everyone on the software team. You will need to work on all phases of software development, including:

  • Writing clear API requirements

  • Designing APIs you can scale later on

  • Developing APIs that align with your API design

  • Testing carefully for both functional and nonfunctional cases

  • Deploying APIs with software best practices

  • Operating and maintaining APIs by providing effective monitoring and visualization 

In addition, you’ll need to focus on the three pillars of APIOps: observability, governance, and automation.

Observability 

APIs should be easily observable, so that when major changes to the APIs are made, different software teams are notified to quickly prepare and adapt to the changes. In addition, with observability in the production environment, you’ll have a good idea of how users are interacting with the system so that you can build new features that match what your users want. Moreover, you’ll be quickly notified about any severe issues that happen in production, allowing you to provide a fast solution.

Governance

It’s important to firmly control your API development and deployment processes. Engineering managers and stakeholders should periodically check your APIs from a centralized dashboard to make sure there aren’t any unexpected issues.

Set security guardrails before the development of your APIs, so that every change to the API can be tested with those guardrails. For example, you might need to integrate tools into your software deployment pipeline so that all your code can be scanned for vulnerabilities.

Moreover, to assure that the quality of your APIs is built in, you can set the expected code coverage for each Git repository or automatically run multiple test types, like integration tests or even load tests.

Automation

In order for your APIs to be well documented and tested, software teams need to automate as much as possible. For example, documentation for every API change should be updated automatically. When new features are introduced, tests should be added and automatically triggered after the build. The whole CI pipeline must be automated, so that every update to the code can be deployed to multiple environments.

Conclusion

Recently, there were several API-related incidents involving big tech companies, such as Meta, Twitter, and Netflix, which highlighted the need for monitoring and better communication when developing APIs.

Clearly, it is critical to apply APIOps to your software product, especially if it has a lot of users and public APIs that will be used in other vendor products. 

However, investing in APIOps from scratch can be difficult, especially when you don't know where to start. The process isn't effort intensive, but it requires collaboration from everyone on the team.

Seekret can make this easier. Without changing your existing work methodologies or tech stack, Seekret can provide you with the foundation needed to become API-first, including visibility into your APIs’ behavior, ensuring your APIs are at pace with development, and redefining how you govern your APIs. 

So what are you waiting for? Join our free beta program today