BONN – 29. August 2017

API management solutions still leave something to be desired

The Cross-Business-Architecture Lab (CBA Lab) has determined that API management solutions have yet to reach a sufficient level of maturity with regard to stability, the user experience, flexibility, and integration capability. At the same time, the association advises potential users of such solutions not to wait to employ them any longer but to instead choose a product and test its effectiveness. They should, however, also be prepared to have to switch products on short notice.

In the API Management workstream (working group), seven large CBA Lab member companies examined four API management solutions in detail. The majority of the seven companies were not impressed by these solutions. “The majority of us believe that the products are still not sufficiently mature,” says Workstream Coordinator Yannis Baillet from SBB AG, a CBA Lab member company. “Some providers are clearly riding the API management wave and have slightly adapted existing integration solutions to API management requirements – but they haven’t developed solutions specifically for API environments.” The products examined were evaluated mainly on the basis of the following criteria: stability, the user experience, flexibility, and integration capability.

CBA Lab describes the reasons for its focus on these four criteria as follows:

  • Stability: This is a fundamental requirement. The solutions must be able to operate reliably even when working at or near full capacity. This was not always the case with the solutions examined by the workstream.
  • Flexibility: APIs can only do their job if they’re used. In situations in which requirements are constantly changing, it must be possible to quickly modify APIs that have been published with the given API management solution, or there at least has to be a clear and understandable reason why certain desired modifications cannot be performed. In other words, the management tool employed must support this type of flexibility. The workstream participants were not satisfied with the examined solutions in this regard.
  • Integration capability: Every company has an existing landscape that APIs need to work in, which is why an API management solution must also enable the integration of APIs into this landscape. The more easily this can be done, the better things will be. The API Management workstream also came to the conclusion that it sometimes makes sense to use only a few components rather than the complete API management solution. It therefore must be possible to integrate these components and combine them with components of other management solutions used at a company. The products examined displayed certain weaknesses here.
  • User experience: The workstream attached particular importance to this aspect. The APIs that are made available with API management solutions need to be intuitive and easy to use; otherwise  they won’t be used by developers. All of the solutions examined in the workstream are in need of improvement in this regard.

Nevertheless, Baillet warns those companies that need to use APIs not to wait for product improvements or begin utilizing API management solutions only after all criteria have been met. Instead, he recommends that companies decide on an API management solution quickly, even if not all aspects of such a decision can be completely validated at the time it is made. In other words, companies should gain experience with solutions of their choosing as quickly as possible, and then be ready to replace them fast if they need to. Baillet believes such an approach is necessitated by the rapid development of the market for API management solutions: “The entire market is still developing very dynamically, which is why as things stand now, it’s not yet possible for companies to make a final decision on a specific API management solution.”