3 Stages of the API Development Life Cycle
In today’s modern world, businesses need to make decisions quickly and be flexible at the same time. Whether it’s launching a new marketing campaign, a new product or an internal employee application, businesses need to do it fast and efficiently.
You might be asking yourselves how businesses can achieve this flexibility. Here at NEWTOMS we believe the best way to become flexible and agile is to create a network comprised of application building blocks that can be easily pieced together with well-designed, well-managed APIs.
We call this an Application network, and it’s the best way to future-proof ourselves and hedge against uncertainty. It provides the flexibility to rapidly piece together the different components to create what is needed on an on-demand basis.
Now that I’ve described what an application network is high level, let’s dig a little deeper into what it really is. The network really emerges from the creation of multiple API-enabled microservices; connecting these microservices to a strategic API approach results in a composable network. In this case, composable really means flexibility—which is the end goal—since different services for multiple functionalities can be brought together on-demand to create something new. An application network like this is the perfect platform to facilitate and drive innovation.
Let’s get a bit more technical and explain the anatomy of good application building blocks or APIs. These APIs should be built in different stages, which is important to recognize as each stage is critical to the overall application building block. It helps if we take a product-centric approach to their development life cycle with three stages:
LET’S START WITH DESIGN.
When we design an API, the process should start with an “outside-in perspective”. That is to say, first we need to decide what the API will look and behave like before we actually begin writing the code and backend logic. It’s common for developers to start building without fully understanding the underlying processes and business requirements. Developers must design the “user interface” of the API first.
This approach is known as “design-first” approach, and it should follow a careful design lifecycle to create the best user experience.
It’s called “design-first” because the API should be defined in a standard but flexible way. By using RAML as your modeling spec, you can quickly build out the API in a consistent manner using code and pattern reuse. The great thing about RAML is that it provides a quick, powerful, semantic, yet human readable format for describing your API. At the same time, utilizing pattern design and code reuse helps to ensure that the API remains uniform across the full interface, keeping resources and methods alike standardized and easily implemented by developers.
The “design-first” approach has several steps to follow to come up with the API specs.
In the first step, API developers should identify process and business requirements, create a logical data model, and translate into logical service/API groupings.
Then, they should model API resources, API operations and methods, and request/response payloads and codes.
At this stage, the API should be modeled, an interactive console can be published, and a notebook for use cases can be created. The focus at this stage should be in receiving developer feedback.
The last stage before arriving at the final API specs should be to modify the API designed based on developer feedback and continue to validate if necessary.
Taking a “design-first” approach guarantees the best API experience because it eliminates this air of uncertainty: “Is this what my consuming developers really want?”.
And it encourages reusability in the future because once you have a well-designed API, parts of it if not the entire API can be reused for other purposes.
THE IMPLEMENTATION STAGE.
This is where begin the process of building, testing and engaging with the API.
The best-integrated development environments to build an API are single graphical environments that can also be used for SOA, SaaS, and data integration that can be used on-premises or most importantly, in the cloud. One of the most important benefits is the simplification of mapping and transformation of data.
The best IDEs should be low code to simplify the API development and testing experience. They should allow the developer to design and test the APIs graphically or in XML. Testing should be convenient for the developer by allowing it in their local environment, or in their continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) settings.
An API portal is the last element and perhaps the most important part of the implementation stage in the API development life cycle. This is where developers engage with the API once it’s been published. It provides a centralized place where interactive documents, tutorials, code snippets and examples can be found. It’s an incredible too to encourage reusability and increases the visibility of the well-designed APIs.
THE MANAGEMENT STAGE
This stage is about making sure the API is secure, properly governed, and carefully analyzed.
A good integration platform should facilitate governance by allowing you to manage users, deliver access management through tiered SLAs, monitor and analyze traffic and secure APIs with ordered policies. It should allow you to keep tabs on the APIs in your application network from one place.
The best integration platforms and solutions provide their users valuable analytics to gain critical insight into their APIs.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
Because Track key metrics like API usage, transactions by region, and performance against SLAs for your APIs to better understand and improve service for your users. Or gain granular visibility into the business transactions and events to quickly find and remediate issues. This helps prevent problems that affect the business down the line.
One of our goals at NEWTOMS is to help clients build or enhance their application networks following the guidelines and principles I’ve discussed in this podcast. We make it possible by implementing API-Led Connectivity powered by MuleSoft.