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February 16, 2022

Why Your API Mediation Layer Is Key to Success

Microservices
API Lifecycle Management

API mediation is an advanced API management strategy designed to improve efficiency, security, and microservices management at scale.  But what exactly does this entail? In short, enhanced client interaction. Mediation allows clients to ‘interact’ with backend and third party resources (services) regardless of their characteristics.

No matter the complexity taking place behind the scenes, API consumers have an easy-to-use API endpoint optimized for their usage.

What Is API Mediation?

API mediation is the process of taking existing services from various backend resources—such as SOAP, JMS, POX, or modern APIs—and converting these resources into a readily-consumable virtual endpoint for API consumers. An API mediation layer, which can be established by utilizing advanced API gateway capabilities, is key in achieving secure communication and API management across disparate (micro)services.

Now that we have established a clear definition, let’s unpack this a bit further. To begin with, what is an API mediation “layer”? The easiest way to understand this is in comparison with API orchestration.

Unbundling API Orchestration, API Mediation, and API Proxies

People often confuse tasks associated with API orchestration, mediation, and API proxies. This is to be expected considering there are some overlapping and intersecting responsibilities. Understanding how they differ can set you up to make the most out of each.

API Orchestration

Orchestration is a process in which multiple backend or third-party resources are made accessible through a consolidated virtual endpoint. In an orchestrated process, data transformations will usually be required. For example, input requests may need to be reformatted to match the format expected by a backend resource. Similarly, aggregation of data may come into play. In order for a consolidated data object to be returned with the response, constituting elements must be extracted from various backend response objects.

API Mediation

The API mediation layer is an architectural concept which can be implemented using an API gateway, provided that this API gateway provides the necessary capabilities. In practice it means decoupling APIs clients from your backend resources and applications in order to more easily facilitate a variety of complex tasks via the API gateway. Where orchestration can aggregate data, transform resources, and streamline APIs, some of the more complex messaging protocol and security tasks must be performed via mediation. Mediation and orchestration should often work hand-in-hand.

API Proxies

An API proxy is a basic management layer that sits between client and backend API endpoint. Yet, proxies rarely perform more than basic functions. Unfortunately, there are still some API management platforms that claim basic proxy layers are the same as complex gateways. A mere proxy is simply not enough to protect your enterprise from external threats, or to manage complex API ecosystems.

But why does this matter? While many API management products offer a proxy layer for managing APIs, they often lack the sophisticated mediation capabilities available with an enterprise-grade API gateway component. In fact, some even call their proxy layer an API gateway despite lacking sophisticated gateway features.

What Tasks Are Managed by API Mediation?

Now that we understand how API mediation, orchestration, and proxies differ, what specific tasks does API mediation perform?

The API mediation layer improves developer experience, harmonizes API communication protocols and protects your backend systems from external threats. Mediation may involve transformation of:

  • Network protocols: HTTPS to AMQP
  • Message protocols: RESTful to SOAP
  • Message content: JSON to XML
  • Security protocols: OAuth, basic OAuth, encryption, tokens

In addition, it may address complex orchestration that may involve both back-end and third-party resources (services, APIs) across different network zones, possibly involving different network protocols, security contexts, etc.

The Business Case for an API Mediation Layer

API management affords you the opportunity to manage hundreds of APIs efficiently. This involves managing your APIs via an API proxy. Yet, many organizations do not take the next step and consider mediation capabilities that should be expected from the API gateway. API mediation sits between backend services and APIs. It allows your API management system to:

  • Achieve consistent, higher levels of security.
  • More rapidly and securely combine storage, application functionality, and microservices to create API products made available in your API portal.
  • Access and use complex API query languages, such as GraphQL, in order to perform complex data queries in a highly effective and secure manner. 
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So with all of that in mind, why does API mediation matter?

  • Improved security results in fewer data breaches and greater governance outcomes.
  • Ability to manage microservices more efficiently accelerates time-to-market with API products.
  • Access to complex query languages means organizations can perform complex e-commerce tasks and database functions without risking consumer data breach.

 

Achieve API Mediation With Akana

 

Akana offers comprehensive API mediation capabilities designed for Fortune 500 organizations. We provide an easy way to help securely transform your enterprise without sacrificing speed. Unlike many gateway and mediation solutions, the Akana API management platform offers more than an API proxy. It provides an actual API mediation layer in order to protect your enterprise systems and data as you tap into new digital markets.

With the Akana API gateway, you’ll have access to:

  • Power: Protect data associated with your APIs confidently and with little effort.
  • Resilience: Let Akana be your runtime gatekeeper and do the heavy lifting.
  • Flexibility: Put the Akana API Gateway anywhere you need it and manage it centrally.

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