You can hear the mumbling and the whispering getting louder and louder within the industry courts this days and here’s our take on this intriguing question.
To start, I would like to distinguish and clarify. The API management demand is different than the API management business.
The API management demand is still peaking and if you look into the emerging technologies stacks, the API management is an essential component of the Reactive and the Microservices Reference Architecture, you can find more about this in here and here.
So, how come the demand is increasing and the business is slowing down?
I use “business” here to refer to what -I think- the companies/customers are spending or expected to spend on buying from the API Management leading vendors in that magic quadrant, a disclaimer is warranted here, my view is based on the customers’ input and the collective wisdom I fortunately get from my colleagues in that space, no stats or numbers to back this up, however, if this is your observation too or this is still of interest; go ahead and read further.
Traditionally, the buying decision in this niche market was “build vs. buy”, the customers would evaluate the vendors based on their needs and requirements and how each vendor can meet those requirements in the most strategic and cost effective way, however, recently the market transformed to commodity market and the question dramatically changed to “how cheap” you can provide a solution in that space?
Consequently, many leading vendors started to adapt and offer a small business subscriptions that are more cost effective and dramatically dropping down prices.
Let’s have a closer look at how the market transformed using the API Management common offerings and features as guidelines.
This is the core, focusing on API security such as authentication and authorization DDOS, supporting main stream protocols such as oAuth 2.0 Or SAML 2.0 and message and protocol transformation.
Amazon lead the charge on converting this one to the commodity realm using their gateway offering.
Along with the Amazon basic gateway features, you can add extra features by buying from the partners in the AWS Marketplace.
Along with Amazon, you have new open source gateway players in the market that possess very attractive offerings such as Kong and Tyk.
Another major driver is the MVC based development frameworks that built on top the non-blocking I/O principals such as Play! Framework or other similar offerings such as the Neflix API Gateway.
You can find more on the Amazon Gateway evaluation here.
The API/Developer/Consumer Portal
The developer portal is the API interface, the provider engages the API consumers on the portal, publishing APIs, documentation and examples, it needs to be visually appealing and some use the portal as a marketing tool to engage the community and bring in more business leads.
Swagger UI, the famous open source project is considered as the de facto standard in that space and used by many as the foundation for both internal and external APIs.
Some of the API Management vendors would include API analytics with their enterprise offerings and those vendors might use those analytics features as product differentiators, however, many customers prefer to use standalone open source Big Data platforms to analyze historical events and use Fast Data platforms to support the near real-time use cases such as IoT or near real-time consumer trends such as retail peak times.
Open source based Fast Data platforms such as Akka, Kafka and Spark offered by Lightbend are a good example of that.
You can adapt different strategies on that front without using a dedicated monetization complex rules engine.
You can use different support tiers with different subscription levels that offer different features at different capacities. This will improve performance and simplify accounting and taxation.
Mobile enablement and modernizing legacy application are not as strong drivers as the way it used to be in 2012, many companies and customers decided to go on parallel paths, creating more agile and flexible platforms vs. spending more and more money on legacy applications and using phase-in, phase out approach to replace the legacy base. Also, using responsive design and mobile first design to support different platforms using the same codebase.
Conclusion and your Strategy
The demand is still there so is the business, however the commodity effect should drive the prices and the cost further down.
“How cheap?” is usually not the perfect path to a strategic solution, for instance you might be better off using SMB vendor offering or partnering with an Open Source enterprise production support provider vs. assembling or maintaining your own solution.
Depends on the solution’s requirements, the solution and the vendor selection process might be a lengthy and complex one, that might impact your time to market and might not provide the strategic depth that you would hope for. Alternatively, you can outsource the vendor selection process to a trusted and strategic emerging technologies partner that can help you avoid the learning curve and provide crucial insights based on the lengthy experience gained from working with other customers and vendors in that space.
That partner should be able to provide smart architecture strategies to avoid the risk of the vendor lock-in by building portable solutions that can be relatively easier or smoother to migrate from one vendor to another.
Those are my personal views and not representing the people I worked with, the companies I worked for, or my/our past and present customers in any shape or form. Any resemblance to real life use cases or situations is accidental and not intentional in any way, shape or form.
Hope this is helping some and again I understand other’s experience and views could be completely different than mine and I completely respect that.