Which Role Does an API Gateway Play?

What is an API Gateway?

An API Gateway acts as a management tool that works in between multiple backend services and a client. It is responsible for accepting all the calls sent by the API, aggregating all the services required for responding to the calls, and then returning the required response.

If you look at the majority of modern enterprise APIs, you will notice that they have used API gateways for their deployment. With such a deployment, they are able to assign some common tasks such as rate limiting, authentication, and statistics to the API gateways. This, together with other advances in technology, has greatly contributed to changes in how applications are built.

Why Do Developers Need to Implement an API Gateway?

Basically, an API is supposed to accept requests from clients and then send back the appropriate response. To most people, this might seem like a very easy process, but to developers, it is more complicated than just what it seems to be.

This is because developers have many other requirements especially when they have deployed multiple APIs. They need;

  • A way to measure their APIs’ usage. Most of them add monitoring and analytics tools to measure this.
  • To make sure that their APIs are not abused or used beyond their capabilities. To do this, they employ rate limiting and authentication services.
  • To add new API services and maybe retire some of the existing services. While doing this, they want their API consumers to find every other service that they need at the same location.
  • To connect billing systems to handle APIs that are monetized.
  • A way to handle any microservices architecture that they might have implemented. This is necessary since, with such implementations, one request requires multiple calls to different applications.

The above requirements show how complicated it gets for developers. They need a system that will allow them to offer a seamless experience to their clients. The API gateway, according to RapidAPI, offers a solution amidst all the above complexities. It allows developers to easily separate the implementation of their backend from the customer interface.

Basically, the right API gateway implementation will break a client’s request into several requests and then direct them to the right resources. It will then get a response that is sent back to the client while at the same time tracking everything that takes place.

Supporting Serverless Environments and DevOps

If you look at the modern serverless and cloud computing models, you will realize that they use APIs to provision their infrastructure. However, it gets very difficult when deploying and managing serverless functions. Developers use an API gateway to solve this complexity.

Furthermore, most companies are using microservices to develop and deploy their applications when following DevOps approaches. As discussed above, microservices use APIs for their communication and exchange of data. They require an API gateway to make sure that requests are received and the appropriate responses sent back.

This shows the role that the API gateway plays when solving the complexities involved in the serverless environment and DevOps.

Supporting API Management

API management involves developing and publishing APIs, making sure that their policies on usage are followed, helping the API consumers, controlling access, gaining insights into usage, and generating performance reports.

The API gateway plays at the center stage of API management. It uses the API management system to send all the incoming requests that it has intercepted, making sure that each request is routed to the right resource. It will also help the API management system with some tasks such as rate-limiting, routing, authentication, analytics, monitoring, security, billing, and policy enforcing.

Conclusion

An API needs to be delivered consistently with quality for it to be useful. For this to be achieved, developers are relying on the API gateway to make sure that they have enforced the availability, scalability, and performance of their APIs. This way, they are able to meet all the expectations of their APIs as well as those of their customers.

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