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November 16, 2018

API vs. SOA vs. Microservices: What Are the Differences?

Digital Transformation

There has been a lot of talk about API vs. SOA vs. microservices. And there is still a lot of confusion about what the differences are — and which approach you need for your business.

In this blog, we break down the key differences and help you determine next steps. 

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What's the Difference Between API vs. SOA?

APIs (application programming interfaces) allow applications to communicate and transfer information. SOA (service oriented architecture) is an architectural design approach that provides services to components through a communication protocol over a network. 

So, SOA is essentially a design pattern. And APIs can be used to implement SOA. 

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What Is the Difference Between SOA and Microservices?

SOA and microservices are both approaches to architectural design that break applications into components. SOA is an older, more outdated approach, while microservices is the future. In microservices, applications are decoupled and each service can have independent data storage — unlike SOA. 

Businesses who adopted SOA are now moving to a microservices approach. Much like SOA, APIs can be used to implement microservices. 

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What Is the Advantage of Microservices Architecture Over SOA?

In short, SOA is dated. Unlike SOA, microservices architectures break applications into small pieces of functionality which work independently, or are leveraged across a variety of applications. Here are some important benefits of microservices, which SOA does not offer: 

  • Faster time-to-market through shorter development lifecycles.
  • Better scalability and agility. 
  • Supports DevOps processes. 
  • Improved security through fault isolation. 
  • Better data practices and compliance.
  • Greater developer productivity. 


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API vs. SOA vs. Microservices

APIs power SOA and microservices. But what are the key benefits and differences between API vs. SOA vs. microservices? 

Use APIs to Accelerate Time-to-Market

APIs help you connect applications and services, so you can accelerate time-to-market. Plus, APIs can be used to support both SOA and microservices.

There are many benefits of APIs:

  • Open and easy-to-consume.
  • Well-documented.
  • Branded and marketed as products.
  • Used internally or externally. 
  • Mobile-friendly.
  • Security and governance.

On top of that, there's an entire API economy that can be used to fuel your digital transformation strategy.

For API programs to be truly successful, they need to be planned and designed right. They need to have the right level of operational and policy controls. And they should be effectively monitored, analyzed, and governed.

Governance often scares away developers. But it is essential that you build your services to meet your business requirements — and ensure that these services meet the security and compliance standards set by your industry and company. This also ensures that changes in your infrastructure do not break your APIs or the thousands or potentially millions (wow!) of apps that are using your APIs.

Use SOA If You're Not Ready For Microservices

If you're already using the SOA approach and you aren't ready for microservices, keep using it. 

The benefits of SOA include:

  • Decoupling applications.
  • Fostering reuse.
  • Creating services and making them available.

The best way to maximize SOA is to power it with APIs.

API and SOA are both services. They depend on other application and services, which are often managed by other developers, organizations, and even completely different providers. Changes to these dependent services need to be managed and governed, as they could impact your API for SOA services. The architectural principles around security, compliance, policy management, monitoring, and analytics are same.

Both APIs and SOA services have to be secured, monitored, orchestrated, mediated, and audited. This requires unified policy management across all your services, irrespective of the protocol they are tied to.

Use Microservices to Increase Productivity

Use microservices to increase productivity. 

The benefits of microservices include:

  • Easy to understand.
  • Increased productivity for developers.
  • Supports development and deployment at a massive scale.

The best way to maximize microservices is to power it with APIs. After all, APIs enable two (or more) microservices to talk to each other. Plus, APIs add security to the microservices mesh

Related Reading:

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API vs. SOA vs. Microservices: Which Approach Is Best?

The best approach for today's businesses is to move to microservices — and power microservices with APIs. 

To succeed with microservices and APIs, you'll need enterprise API management.

Find out: 

  • What role APIs play in creating a comprehensive, long-term strategy to design the digital platform.
  • How to address stakeholder concerns.
  • How to create a robust infrastructure to support the new digital platform. 


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