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October 20, 2021

What Is API Automation?

Digital Transformation
API Lifecycle Management

Perform a quick Google search for API automation and you’ll find millions of results. What you won’t find is a consensus on what API automation entails. In fact, it adds to the confusion that API automation seems to be taken as equivalent to API testing.

Is API automation merely about testing? Or is it something more? In this post we lay out a comprehensive definition of API automation applied to the full API lifecycle. Read along, or click below to jump to a section you would like to read.

What Is API Automation?

API automation accelerates full lifecycle API management by automating all significant API product tasks across API creation, deployment, publishing, and consumption. API automation is a low-code or no-code approach that works alongside existing continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) processes.

In summary, there’s a critical difference between APIs as technical artifacts and APIs as tools that foster digital competitiveness. Historically, APIs have been used to connect disparate services and applications. But a modern approach to API automation is all about recognizing the underlying business value of APIs. API automation can speed digital transformation, improve innovation efforts, and accelerate the process of exposing your most valued services in new markets and channels.

Essential Characteristics of API Automation

  • Seamlessly integrates API product creation, deployment, publishing, and consumption with a wider CI/CD development practice.
  • A Distinguishing between raw one-off APIs that connect services and applications, and API products which promote APIs built on business capabilities designed to foster greater digital competitiveness. These products can be exposed via an API marketplace.
  • Enables minimal human intervention (only when required), an example being for approval processes associated with critical stage promotions.
  • A no-code or low-code approach to API product full lifecycle tasks, which accelerates development tasks and time-to-market
  • An ability to manage API product automation in a centralized fashion.

Essential Benefits of API Automation

  • Effectively creates high-quality, effectively consumable API products from raw APIs in a controlled and repeatable manner integrated with CI/CD processes.
  • Ensures all critical provider and consumer concerns are addressed through metadata-driven product provisioning; examples include API access, security policies, SLOs, and targeted documentation.
  • Improves digital transformation outcomes through technical efficiency, API innovation, and workforce automation.
  • Allows developers and technical staff to focus on innovation pipelines instead of repeatable tasks.

Further Benefits of API Automation

According to Gartner, organizations that combine hyperautomation technologies with operational processes, such as API management, can reduce operational costs by 30%. Yet for the majority of companies trying to achieve digital transformation, hyperautomation is about as feasible as landing on Mars. Nonetheless, this statistic points to the huge benefits automation can provide.

And organizations willing to automate select aspects of their API management stand to gain greater efficiency, reduce costs, and accelerate digital transformation.

Let’s get one thing clear at the outset. In order to begin automating APIs, it is critical that your organization package and promote API products appropriately. What does this mean? That exposing or using APIs alone is not enough. You must gain maturity with API products before you tackle API automation. And you must acknowledge that APIs offer more than a mechanism for connecting disparate digital services. Rather, APIs can attract a consumer audience and provide deeper business value. In fact, they provide a central competitive edge in today’s rapidly changing technology landscape.

Decoupling Automation From API Testing

The next item to address is the fact that API automation and API automation testing are not the same thing. Yet these terms are frequently used interchangeably. The reason for this is software to automate API testing has been available longer than platforms capable of automating API management tasks.

Therefore, most people assume when you say API automation you are referring to API testing automation. Yet it’s possible to automate so much more when it comes to APIs. Unfortunately, many enterprises are not aware of this fact.

For example, did you know that the Akana platform can automate deployment of API policies and documentation? Or that Akana allows for code-free API exposure? These code-free automation features significantly accelerate time-to-market and make enterprise digital transformation easier. But these features are not found in all API management platforms.

API Automation at Scale: How to Ensure Security and Compliance in a DevOps Environment

Common Challenges With API Automation

It’s not all roses and sunshine when it comes to API automation. There are significant technical hurdles that many enterprises face in achieving automation at scale. These include:

1. Security Risks

It’s no secret that APIs open organizations up to additional security risks. According to Gartner and others, cybersecurity practices have not kept pace with the rise of APIs. This has led to many breaches in recent years.

Yet APIs themselves are no more risky than other digital tools and tactics. When planning to automate API management tasks, enterprises must address common API practices that pose security threats, such as those found on the OWASP top 10 list. A key aspect is thinking about security before embarking on a new automation campaign. And making sure your security practices are baked into the API automation processes from the start.

2. Up Front Investment

Whether you are planning to automate API creation tasks or DevOps APIs, you’ll need to invest up front in tools that can support the process. As was mentioned above, Akana automates many aspects of API management in a secure fashion. As you are selecting your digital API management tools, consider investigating whether they can support automation. Or, whether they require a great deal of custom coding.

3. Team Collaboration and Communication

Every organization will approach their API management a bit differently. If your company is working on API automation in silos, you may face challenges in scaling API automation. It is critical that key team members from the C-Suite and DevOps, to developers and project managers are on the same page about exactly what is being automated and who owns that process.

4. Identifying Replicable Tasks

Granted, not all aspects of API management can be completely automated. As you survey your APIs and the systems or software they are built on, search for development tasks that are frequently replicated in a manual fashion. For example, let’s say you make documentation upgrades that impact all of your APIs. Are you able upload change aspects of your documentation and automatically update all policies? Or do you have to upload new policies for each individual API? Being able to update all documentation at once represents a significant efficiency gain. API automation can help you achieve this.

5. Automating Across the Entire API Lifecycle

Many teams successfully automate specific development or API tasks. Yet, few organizations achieve full lifecycle API management automation. Naturally, it is challenging to automate the entire lifecycle. Yet full lifecycle API management streamlines digital transformation and accelerates time-to-market. When you select a platform like Akana, you get instant access to a variety of automated features out-of-the-box. For example, automated promotion of APIs across lifecycle environments.

API Tasks to Consider Automating

There are dozens of tasks and processes which can be automated. Yet some are more difficult than others at scale. Consider some of the following automation opportunities:

  • API Documentation

  • API Promotion Across Environments (e.g. dev to test)

  • Security Policies for API Access (e.g. authN & authZ)

  • Security Policies for Message Integrity, Schema Compliance, & Malicious Content

  • API Upgrades

  • Authentication Procedures

  • API Deployment

  • Updates to Multiple API Products

Enterprise Benefits of API Automation

In all, API automation offers cost savings, time savings, and a path to faster digital transformation outcomes. But why does that matter? Organizations are seeing an explosion in API endpoints, while just a few years ago many organizations might only have a few APIs. In the latter scenario, a manual approach with APIs worked just fine. Today, we’re seeing that number rapidly increase by dozens, or even hundreds for many Fortune 500 companies.

Why?

Because APIs are central to digital transformation and the future of successful digital enterprises. In order to keep up with the pace of change, API automation holds promise. API automation can significantly save time on replicable tasks and keep developers focused on innovation.

So Who Owns Automation?

As was mentioned above, team collaboration and communication are important to achieving API automation at scale. And deciding as an organization who will head up automation initiatives is also critical. So does DevOps own automation? API administrators? Developers? Or the C-Suite?

The short answer is it depends. Every organization must take a strategic approach with API automation. And setting clear roles and responsibilities is how you keep strategy moving forward. Many successful organizations have a dedicated digital transformation team made up of leaders from various lines of business. Embedding a technical API product owner on this team would go a long way to ensuring automation is achieved at scale. 

You should also consider which APIs are in scope for your automation efforts. It won’t make sense to automate all APIs. Consider starting with those that represent the highest consumer, or digital transformation, value. This may include core services utilized by outside partners and businesses. Or APIs that expose critical applications in emerging partner channels.

API Automation With Akana

Whether you’re just getting started with APIs or you’ve scaled dozens of APIs already, Akana can help you:

  • Accelerate time-to-market with API automation.
  • Enable innovation by eliminating manual processes.
  • Support API adoption with a top-notch API marketplace.

The Akana API platform offers everything necessary to succeed in today’s competitive marketplace, including:

  • An out-of-the-box developer portal to publish, promote, and manage technical aspects of APIs.
  • The Akana API gateway, which allows you to secure APIs and control access to applications across multiple clouds and data centers.
  • Tools to monitor and support your APIs throughout the lifecycle.
  • Finally, with Akana you can create customized analytics reports and charts for actionable insights.

See for yourself how Akana can boost the bottom line and help scale API productsfaster.=

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