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June 30, 2020

API Proxy vs. API Gateway: Which Should You Use?

API Gateways

What's the difference between an API proxy vs. API gateway? And which one should you use?

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What Is an API Proxy?

An API proxy acts as a gateway between your developers and backend services, although it is limited in its capabilities when compared to an API gateway. It's an intermediary that makes requests on behalf of developers, sitting between application and backend services. An API gateway provides more features including rate limiting, security, and API monitoring.  

What this means to us in the API world, is that when you’re using an API proxy, your API had better already exist. An API proxy provides a new endpoint for an existing API, but it can't do everything an API gateway can do. 

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API Proxy vs. API Gateway: What's the Difference?

Both an API proxy and API gateway provide access to your backend services. An API gateway can even act as a simple API proxy. However, an API gateway has a more robust set of features — especially around security and monitoring — than an API proxy

Should I Use an API Proxy?

An API proxy is basically a lightweight API gateway. It includes some basic security and monitoring capabilities. So, if you already have an API and your needs are simple, an API proxy will work fine.

But there's only so much an API proxy can do. It really can’t do anything particularly sophisticated with content or routing. And it definitely can't do transformation, mediation, or orchestration

API Proxy


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Should I Use an API Gateway?

The short answer is yes. An API gateway provides a single entry point across multiple APIs. It delivers robust security, including rate limiting. And it can even be used with external consumers in support of microservices and to secure the microservices mesh. Plus, an API gateway can act as an API proxy.

An API gateway provides a much richer set of capabilities than an API proxy. When you use an API gateway to expose an API, you don’t even need to start with an API. You can take multiple existing services of varying types, and use the gateway to construct a modern, well-structured API.

The gateway, of course, still offers the same capabilities that an API proxy would offer for security and monitoring. But it takes these and other capabilities much further. 

Unlike an API proxy, an API gateway offers comprehensive service orchestration, transformation, mediation, and DoS prevention (including things like antivirus and threat detection). It can also offer incredibly rich content and transport security capabilities that go far beyond anything a simple proxy can offer.

An API gateway is an important part of the API lifecycle.



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An API Proxy Can Act As An API Gateway, But a Gateway Is Better 

An API proxy may be a good solution for taking the first few simple steps with a basic API or two. But to meet real enterprise API needs you’re going to need an API gateway. Why?


How do vendors with proxy servers do things like SOAP to REST mediation? It’s simple. They write code that their customers have to support — or pay for updates — anytime something changes.

Using an API gateway, like the Akana API Gateway, you can turn your existing services into exceptional APIs with sophisticated security and monitoring enabled in a matter of minutes. Try that with a proxy and you’ll quickly find yourself investing a good few weeks or even months writing code — only to do it all over again every single time you need to make a minor change.


A proxy server can't do orchestration. But an API gateway can provide orchestration. 

You can use your gateway for API orchestration to decide how to service each request, and construct service calls appropriately.

An API gateway can:

  • Take a request for details on a specific catalog item.
  • Use a lookup service to find where this information is.
  • Construct a call to a service that has some of the needed content.
  • Use the response or pre-programmed logic to construct one or more calls to other services to get more information.


A proxy server can't do integrations like a gateway can. 

You can use an API gateway instead of ESB as your integration server. API gateways are more efficient, more secure, and help you modernize your applications. Explore more integration technologies >>

Plus, an API Gateway Can Do Everything a Proxy Can

A well-designed and implemented gateway, like the Akana API Gateway, will automatically optimize its configuration depending on how it’s being used. It can act as a simple, lightweight proxy, offering exceptional performance. So, you’d better make sure you choose a gateway that knows when it needs to act like a nice simple proxy.

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Why Choose the Akana API Gateway?

The Akana API gateway is a key component of the Akana API platform. It's the best choice to accelerate digital transformation in the enterprise — without sacrificing security. 

That's because Akana:

Example: Akana API Gateway in the Enterprise

That's why a large bank chose Akana's API gateway for mediation and orchestration. With Akana, they were able to quickly mediate from SOAP to REST using declarative out-of-the box mediation policies. They were also able to create new APIs from scratch by orchestrating the integration of multiple services together using a configuration — not coding — approach.

Read the case study >>


See Akana in Action

See for yourself what Akana can do for you. Watch the on-demand Akana demo to see the Akana API gateway in action. 



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