November 30, 2021

API Automation Tools for Simplifying Digital Complexity

API Lifecycle Management

A clear overview of API automation tools and resources can be difficult to find. Which is why last month we answered common questions surrounding what is API automation. Below, we’ll unveil how you can simplify digital complexity by using available API tools and resources.

But first, why bother? Because API automation is the next frontier for digital transformation. It allows you to more rapidly scale packaged business capabilities, align APIs with DevOps processes, and achieve a composable enterprise framework.

With that, let’s dive in. 

Who Should Consider API Automation?

API automation often gets confused with API automation testing. On the one hand, API automation testing focuses on streamlining testing API security. On the other hand, API automation is all about improving efficiency with APIs scaled as digital products.

So the first thing to understand is API automation doesn’t make sense for everyone. And it specifically won’t do much good if you aren’t packaging your APIs as digital products. If you have a handful of one-off APIs managed by various DevOps or technical teams, automation will be tricky.

Conversely, if you manage APIs at scale through a centralized API management platform, you’re in a good spot to implement automation at scale. Likewise, if you are already automating aspects of your continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) pipelines, API automation is the next natural step.

Some other factors you’ll want to consider before you decide whether automation is right for you include:

  • Do you have advanced API security capabilities? This includes client (API user) authentication, end consumer security protocols, attack prevention, non-repudiation, and more. A key distinction between authN and authZ must be fully understood.
  • Do you understand full lifecycle API management? For automation to succeed, you’ll need to utilize full lifecycle management (illustrated below).
  • Do you have an API management platform? In order to implement automation, you’ll need a tool that can support it.
  • Are your DevOps, multicloud, and API practices up to date? You’ll need maturity surrounding digital transformation for API automation to succeed.  

API Automation Paired With CI/CD Processes

API products and CI/CD processes should be separated, yet they must intersect and support one another at critical junctures. Naturally, the DevOps team will be responsible for implementing any code associated with APIs. But, there is a distinction between API code, CI/CD processes, and API management tasks.

So what brings them together?

Automation. When API automation is applied to your API productization processes to a maximum extent, you can begin to fold these processes in with CI/CD.

Let’s look at a single development pipeline as an example.

1. A DevOps team creates code that implements functionality ultimately published as an API product. Once the code results in a stable build, the pipeline can trigger components to execute some follow-up action – like creating the corresponding API product. In this particular example, the CI/CD pipeline triggers the API management platform to initialize the API product in its corresponding environment.



2. The API product team can further configure the product. For example, add more detailed or more specific documentation to make it more presentable, more attractive, more effective to be consumed. In parallel, the corresponding code artefact will progress to its CI Test environment. Once testing is actually completed, the pipeline may again trigger the APIM platform – the API product is now ready to be promoted to its test environment.

3. Once all testing is completed, the code is deployed into production. This means that the corresponding API product may now also be released into production, provided that all product testing has been successfully completed as well. An important part of promoting the product into production is to make it available in the API portal or marketplace that represents the product’s storefront. As with all actions described this far, this should be an automated process.

4. Obviously, the lifecycle does not end here. Code will be updated continuously, which may result in the APIM platform (the productization factory) being triggered to create a new version of the product. This will then go through the motions as listed above once again.

5. When a feature is retired, all systems can be triggered or alerted for the need to scale down or retire the entire API.

There are two key observations to be made about the processes described above:

  1. They allow for distinct responsibilities to be assigned to either CI/CD or APIM.
  2. For it all to work seamlessly, CI/CD and APIM must effectively interact with each other, preferably using automation. 

For automated API productization to work, API management software is an indispensable asset. More specifically, this software must be able to effectively communicate and exchange data with the CI/CD pipeline. Not only does APIM software act as a mediation layer towards API consumers – it also acts as such for the CI/CD pipeline.

In the next section, we will dive more deeply into relevant tools.

Tools Required to Achieve API Automation With CI/CD

The tools required to achieve automated API productization can be divided into three categories:

  1. Tools That Support the CI/CD Pipeline

On the CI/CD side of things, teams need tools that can support code creation and updates. This includes tools like Jenkins, Git, Buddy, and CruiseControl.

  1. Tools That Support the API Product Team

You’ll also need API management tools that offer an API interface and  support the governance associated with creating API products, publishing API products, promotion, security, API marketplace, and API developer portal. Likewise, this includes tools to support automated API product testing, as well as tools that can manage authored documentation. Documentation is likely to be added to the product at some point. Some API management tools, such as Akana, support documentation – while others simply don’t.

  1. Tools That Support the Interaction Between CI/CD Platform and APIM Platform 

This category is probably the least documented of all. Essentially, these are tools that can be used to configure and execute the automation scripts that respond to events from the CI/CD pipeline and trigger the APIM platform. Some CI/CD tools, like Jenkins, can do this while others cannot. It is important to work with your CI/CD team to understand the full capabilities of the tool you have in place. Likewise your API management software must be capable of integrating with your CI/CD tools. In other words, it should offer an API for those integration purposes. Some tools, like Akana, do that. Others do not.

  1. Operational Management and Application Lifecycle Management

There is another evolutionary step that advanced enterprises can take. When a code build becomes available which requires a corresponding API product, multilayered processes can be automated. For example, an automation script can spin up a completely distinct API gateway container in which to make the API product available.

In other words, you can imagine scenarios where API products are themselves containerized. Each product may be deployed in its own distinct Docker container, which would likewise be managed in a Kubernetes environment. In non-production environments, these containers would be removed once testing is completed.

Yet all of this orchestration requires the appropriate tools to manage it. Likewise, your technical teams must be tightly aligned to ensure this runs smoothly.

Learn about using tools to secure and optimize processes at scale with Perforce's enterprise automation 101 >> 

API Automation With Akana

Whether you’re just getting started with APIs or you’re well on your way, Akana offers comprehensive security, API management, and promotion features. In fact, we were recently recognized as a leading security API management platform by KuppingerCole. Akana’s platform can help your team:

  • Connect with CI/CD pipelines to more efficiently achieve API automation at scale.
  • Work in platform-agnostic environments; no lock in, no requirements to choose a single vendor.
  • Accelerate digital transformation through tighter CI/CD and API management integrations.

The Akana API platform offers everything you need to succeed in today’s competitive technology marketplace. To learn more about the Akana platform, view our on-demand demo anytime. Or, reach out directly to get your questions answered by an Akana representative.

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