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What Is an API Gateway?
An API gateway can be defined as a management layer sitting between a set of backend services and the client server. It is more of a reverse proxy whose mandate is to accept all API calls, gather all the services the calls need, and then fulfill and return the required results.
Running a successful business today requires a rich online presence and the deployment of applications to handle service delivery. These applications depend on APIs for communication and the exchange of data. So, this means that businesses the world over are running multiple APIs for smooth business operations.
Running multiple APIs has placed businesses in a situation where they need to run multiple API gateways. Some of them do this for good reason. For example, for migrating from on-premise to the cloud, creating agility and resiliency in their businesses and infrastructure and meeting the security requirements of their applications.
Reasons for Choosing Multiple API Gateways
One of the major reasons businesses are adopting multiple API gateways is the need to control internal and external API traffic. Such businesses choose a two gateway architecture with one, the external gateway, controlling the API traffic between the outside world and the businesses’ enterprise. While the other one, which is the internal gateway, controls API traffic for systems and applications within the business.
The internal and external worlds require a different set of security protocols, making this gateway-agnostic solution necessary.
Transitioning From On-Premise to Hybrid or Cloud Deployment
Today, most businesses are transitioning from an on-premise deployment to a hybrid and/or on-cloud deployment setup. This requires them to use multiple API gateways. This is because the gateways they used in the on-premise deployment, even though they worked well, do not meet the requirements of the cloud deployment.
Furthermore, they might start using new APIs whose management functionalities come with other systems or applications that use the cloud. This forces them to use multiple API gateways.
The structure of a business will dictate how they develop and implement their software applications. For example, if you look at the large companies globally, you will realize that they operate from different locations with different business units handling different aspects of the business.
This kind of operation brings about different requirements and needs for each business unit and location. This makes it necessary for such businesses to adopt multiple API gateways.
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Challenges Arising from Choosing Multiple API Gateways
Security and Governance
API gateways come with a different set of policies. These policies are set up differently on each gateway. This makes it difficult if a business wants to apply consistent policies across all the API gateways they adopt.
Most businesses that have tried to apply consistent policies have not been successful. This is because they are unable to establish the resources that might be affected in their management setup as well as the policies to apply. Even if they were able to do this, it would be very difficult to implement a policy on a different API solution.
Visibility on Consumption
Adopting multiple API gateways creates a scenario where API owners do not have a way of finding out about the consumption of their APIs from a centralized location. Furthermore, it makes it difficult for consumers to easily find and use APIs that they might be looking for. This is because each of the multiple API gateways has its own catalogs about its APIs.
Monitoring and Debugging
As we discussed above, every API gateway has its API catalog. For instance, if the API fails, this is likely going to affect the entire operations of a business. However, to effectively solve an issue with one of the APIs, businesses need to find where the issue came from and isolate that particular API.
With multiple API gateways, it gets difficult to find the single API that has issues. Even if they might find the API, it might take a lot of time and the business might be affected by the lasting impacts of software failure in the long run.
An API gateway is a very important part of API management. It is responsible for intercepting all requests and then sending them to the management system. Adopting multiple API gateways might come with some challenges, but depending on the different requirements of businesses, it becomes important. Businesses need to first understand their requirements before deciding which architecture best works for them.
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