February 10, 2021

What Is an API Catalog?

Developer Portal
API Gateways

An API catalog is an important aspect to the success or failure of your API management strategy. In this blog, we will explore API catalog best practices, API catalog uses, and important considerations when building out your API catalog.

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What Is an API Catalog?

An API catalog is a library of available APIs, most often shared through your API portal. The API catalog allows you to strategically manage, promote, and share APIs with relevant developers and end-users.

Developing a good API catalog is one of the API basics you need to know. Going well beyond a mere technical library of APIs, your API catalog should include relevant search-oriented enhancements to increase the likelihood that users, search engines, and developers find your APIs, no matter where they begin their search.

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API Catalog vs. API Developer Portal

An API catalog is most often embedded in your developer portal. While these terms are often used interchangeably, they are not one and the same. You developer portal is a branded, organized, and SEO-optimized hub where community developers can find and consume relevant APIs. This is also where your internal developers and users can access relevant APIs.

Your API catalog is the repository, or library, which lives within your developer portal.

For Internal APIs

Many organizations that only utilize internal APIs will argue against building an API developer portal and catalog. Without the need to monetize or promote APIs externally, it can be tempting to ignore this aspect of your API strategy. Yet even for internal audiences, API catalogs serve important purposes including:

This last point is critical for the large enterprise. When we partner with large organizations, we often find they are scaling multiple APIs or API management platforms in different parts of their organization. In many instances, these separate business groups will be totally unaware of the other’s efforts. A unified API catalog can limit redundancies and ensure you aren’t doubling up efforts across the enterprise.

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For External APIs

For organizations building APIs to be publicly available, the API catalog will help end users find your APIs. So, the real answer to where should you find API catalogs is everywhere. End users might perform a Google search for an API category. Or they might peruse a Reddit thread. Some might use the search functionality available on your website. In each scenario, your API catalog should be optimized so that it delivers relevant results in a user’s preferred channel. Keywords and tagging functionality are critical to this effort.

To ensure this happens, your API catalog should be built with the following:

  • A modern user experience optimized for a variety of device types.
  • Comprehensive search functionality.
  • Tagging, keywords, and categorical filtering features.

How to Go From Enterprise Developer Portal to Thriving API Marketplace

Your API catalog is an important part of your portal. But do you know how to go from developer portal to thriving API marketplace? Find out! Watch the webinar below.

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Why an API Catalog Matters

According to recent survey, a full 66% of companies plan to leverage APIs as part of their digital transformation journeys. Yet all too often, APIs are treated like a plug-and-play solution. Organizations keen to capitalize on trends and new digital tools will scale APIs without creating a cohesive strategy. Obviously, this can lead to sub-par results.

Digitally mature enterprises achieve success with digital transformation when they embrace a full lifecycle API management strategy. This accounts for the creation, management, promotion, and retiring of all enterprise APIs.

So where does the API catalog fit into this picture?

Your API catalog is the central library and beating heart of your API strategy. It’s where your API administrators and developers will:

  • Organize and promote available APIs
  • Manage access to available APIs
  • Create relevant API developer communities
  • Interface with relevant external and internal API audiences
  • Receive reviews, feedback, and performance cues from the community

Without an API catalog, you simply will not reach your strategic business objectives using APIs. Which frankly should be the only reason you leverage APIs in the first place.

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What Does an API Catalog Do?

An API catalog serves as the library for available APIs. Just like a well-organized library, your API catalog performs an organizing function. It should also create a friendly user experience. It achieves this through its structure. Whether your API consumers work within your organization or outside of it, the taxonomy and organization of your catalog will be a key factor in the usability of your APIs.

API catalogs can also unify your APIs across multiple API gateways and developer portals — including cloud APIs. Some organizations opt to build separate developer portals for internal APIs and public APIs. There are pros and cons to this approach. No matter your developer portal and gateway structure, your API catalog should function as a central library for all APIs across the entire enterprise.

This is an area where many organizations struggle. As they scale APIs, gateways, and developer portals, their catalog cannot integrate APIs across separate departments or silos. It is critical that you start with catalog functionality that can supports APIs across multiple inputs, groups, and silos. In addition, your catalog should support API-related artifacts like security policies, service-level agreements, and documentation.

If you cannot build this functionality, partnering with a full lifecycle API management platform, like Akana, is a good idea. Akana’s platform offers both a developer portal and integrated API catalog out of the box.

API Catalog: Where Should You Begin?  

When entering the realm of APIs, it can be tempting to start building APIs and think about structure later. If you want your APIs to deliver on business outcomes, you should start with the fundamentals. This includes building a strong API catalog and developer portal. With these core building blocks in place, your future APIs will integrate seamlessly, be shared more readily, and remain secure.   

Want to learn more about Akana’s automated API catalog features? Sign up for a free 6-month trial or watch our on-demand demo to see the product suite in action.

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