But IT operations teams also have an important role to play in API management. ITOps engineers may not take the lead role in designing APIs, but they should still be plugged into discussions surrounding API availability, performance, and more.
Keep reading for a dive into the relationship between ITOps and API management, and an overview of how ITOps teams can participate actively in the API management process.
What Is API Management?
API management is the set of processes required to design, implement, document, distribute, and support an API. In other words, API management represents the complete lifecycle of tasks necessary to bring an API from idea to something that users can actually access and benefit from.
Because much of the work required to design and implement an API involves planning and writing code, API management is often seen primarily as the domain of developers. However, because ITOps teams have to deal with the consequences of poorly designed APIs, it's important for businesses to include ITOps in the API management process.
Ways for ITOps to Optimize API Management
Specifically, IT operations teams can help improve the outcomes of API management in the following ways:
Planning realistic API availability
Maximizing API availability — meaning the amount of time that an API is up and running as normal — hinges in part on designing a reliable API. But just as important is the ability of ITOps teams to respond to and resolve performance problems that affect an API.
For that reason, ITOps engineers can provide healthy perspective during the API management process about just how much availability developers should aim for. This perspective may mean the difference between promising, say, 99.9% API availability when in practice only 99.5% can be delivered.
Optimizing API performance
ITOps teams are likely to have a strong sense of which API-related performance problems their business's users experience in the real world, since responding to support requests is the job of ITOps.
ITOps can therefore offer guidance on the most common performance issues — like slow response times or high error rates — that developers should seek to correct as part of API management. Even if developers are designing and writing a different API from the ones ITOps teams have supported previously, ITOps is still likely to be able to identify the main types of API performance issues that, generally speaking, developers should be wary of.
Enhancing API documentation
For ITOps teams, troubleshooting API-related problems is much easier when well-written, easily accessible API documentation is available.
Toward that end, ITOps should be looped into the API management process to help define how and where to document APIs. ITOps engineers know what they need in documentation to resolve problems quickly, and to ensure that they can understand how an API is supposed to work even if they weren't the ones who designed or wrote it.
Setting API rate limits
Rate limits restrict how often a client can make requests to an API in a given period of time. Setting API rate limits is important for preventing abuse against APIs by attackers who want to flood API servers in order to overwhelm them. Rate limits also protect against buggy API clients that might issue repeated requests for no good reason, making it harder for the server to respond to legitimate requests from other clients.
Determining exactly which rate limits to set, however, can be challenging, especially for developers who don't have first-hand experience monitoring the requests that users make in production environments. But IT operations teams do have this experience because they're the ones that manage production environments. ITOps can therefore bring unique perspective to the table when it comes to figuring out which rate limits to impose on APIs.
Planning future API updates
API management is not — or should not be — a one-and-done process. Instead, organizations should be looking for ways to improve their APIs on a continuous basis through regular updates.
Here again, ITOps is in a unique position to offer perspective because ITOps teams know how well an existing API is working for the actual end users they support. Using this perspective, IT operations engineers can suggest how to improve APIs to achieve an even better user experience.
API management may not be the primary job of IT operations engineers, but that doesn't mean ITOps should not be part of the picture when managing APIs. From setting goals regarding API availability, to optimizing API performance, to setting effective rate limits and beyond, ITOps can offer perspective that developers can use to design and implement the most effective APIs.
About the authorChristopher Tozzi is a technology analyst with subject matter expertise in cloud computing, application development, open source software, virtualization, containers and more. He also lectures at a major university in the Albany, New York, area. His book, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” was published by MIT Press.