APIs (application programming interfaces) allow apps and systems to “talk” to each other, which makes them essential for digital transformation. This applies whether you're looking at hybrid integration or want to go fully cloud native. Ergo, you need to know how to manage them—and what the best API management platform is for your business.
API management helps you centralize and govern your vast API ecosystems. It also assists you in securing your APIs and the backend systems they expose.
An API management platform allows you to reap the benefits without the hassle of doing it yourself. Top-tier platforms offer full lifecycle API management, including tools to build, test, govern, and monitor APIs.
So, what’s the ideal platform for your enterprise? Let’s find out.
What is API management?
API management is the process of centralizing control of your API ecosystem by moving it to a single platform. You can then scale, analyze, secure, govern, share, and monetize your API programs throughout their lifecycle, from creation to retirement.
For instance, you can secure APIs with authentication and access control, track performance and usage metrics in real-time, control API traffic between endpoints, and more. With proper management, it’s easy to deploy and reuse APIs and get the most from your digital assets.
You can deploy API management tools on-premises, in the cloud, or through hybrid SaaS, giving you the flexibility to manage your APIs in a way that suits you.
Five key API management benefits
We’ve already touched on the benefits of API management, but let’s now explore them in more detail.
1. Cost and time efficiency
One of the major benefits of API management is its cost and time efficiency. By centralizing, developers can share documentation and code, speeding up development.
Each API management platform has pre-built templates and reusable building blocks. That means less coding and faster innovation一as cited by 52% of IT specialists.
Also, nearly every API management platform automates the development process with point-and-click functionality, further reducing time to market and lowering development costs.
2. A simplified workflow process
By centralizing your approach, API management avoids duplicate work, allowing developers to check for APIs that already exist and meet their requirements.
Most API management systems also use automation to eliminate manual processes. This improves productivity and allows employees to focus on business-critical tasks like enhancing the customer experience, which is vital for those looking to succeed in an increasingly competitive market.
3. Data-driven strategies
API management tools offer a variety of API analytics to monitor APIs, diagnose problems, and make data-driven decisions to fast-track growth and improve the customer experience.
For instance, an API management platform tracks API usage patterns, device types, and geographic locations. This information helps developers understand their customers and pinpoint areas for future development. 56% of organizations say APIs help them create better digital experiences and products (see the image below).
It’s also easy to access and share API analytics throughout the company and externally with stakeholders. This means everyone has the data they need to make the best possible decisions.
4. Improved security
APIs are a common source of vulnerability, so the best platforms come with API security features like end-to-end encryption, plus security protocols such as OAuth, OpenID, and JWT.
Almost every API management platform provides role-based access control (RBAC) too, which restricts access to certain systems. This adds an extra layer of protection and ensures your business meets strict compliance and data privacy standards.
5. A quality user experience
A final benefit of API management is it creates a quality user experience for both employees and customers. Each API management platform gives users a unified space for API design, building, testing, and monitoring, saving time and boosting efficiency.
Also, by automating manual tasks, API management platforms allow developers to spend more time building products and web services to make their customers’ lives easier. So, good API management fuels business growth and boosts customer satisfaction, which ultimately increases revenue.
What is an API management platform?
An API management platform is a suite of services for the design, maintenance, management, and monitoring of APIs. It's different from an API integration platform like OpenLegacy, which unlocks your on-prem, core, and legacy assets by transforming them into composable APIs and microservices.
The best management platforms have a layered architecture for developing, securing, documenting, and analyzing your APIs. They include a number of components, such as:
- An API gateway. This connects APIs with a company’s backend systems. API gateways handle requests, manage runtime, provide security, and more.
- An API developer portal. This is a self-service hub for API creation, testing, and discovery.
- An API store. This is an API marketplace where users can find APIs, offer community support, and more.
- Reporting and analytics tools. These allow you to track a variety of API usage and performance metrics.
- Lifecycle management tools. These allow you to manage the entire API lifecycle, from design and creation to API testing and retirement.
The 10 best enterprise API management platform options
There are many API management platform options to choose from, including those developed by major players like Google, Red Hat, Microsoft, and IBM. There are also several open-source platforms, each with its own capabilities and features.
Below, we’ve included a detailed API management platform comparison to help you choose the best one for your business.
Akana offers API platform management for cloud-native, on-premises, hybrid, and multi-cloud environments. It supports all API types, including SOAP, RESTful, and GraphQL, plus the full range of API languages and protocols.
With Akana, you’ll enjoy seamless integration and enormous flexibility courtesy of its decoupled architecture. Also, thanks to its powerful API gateway, you can accelerate the time-to-market with full API lifecycle management.
The disadvantage is there’s no integrated billing feature, so the billing process can be complicated. There’s also no support for mobile devices, limiting Akana’s use cases.
Key features include full lifecycle management, automated security, real-time analytics, financial grade API (FAPI), and integrations such as GitHub, Eclipse, AWS, Java, and Microsoft Visual Studio.
Akana offers a 30-day free trial. You can contact them to request a quote for your company.
Apigee is an API management platform that’s considered a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant. It was acquired by Google in 2016, so you can enjoy API integration and management on a global scale. You can host your APIs in Google Cloud, on-premises, or in hybrid or multi-cloud environments.
Apigee gives developers the tools to build, monitor, publish, monetize, and analyze APIs across their applications. You can secure these with multilayered security and privacy and store data in the region of your choice.
With Apigee and Google Cloud, you can rapidly scale your operations, generate actionable insights with AI-powered automation, and get products to market faster.
Apigee also seamlessly integrates with hybrid integration solutions such as OpenLegacy to help you generate and manage APIs in a fast, developer-centric, and cost-effective manner to become a digital-first type organization.
The downside is that Apigee requires customization and configuration, especially Apigee Hybrid. You will need to use Apigee Hybrid or Apigee Public Cloud to access certain features, like advanced API operations and monitoring.
Apigee provides full lifecycle management, security and compliance (encryption, two-way TLS, OAuth2, and SAML), analytics, monetization tools, microservice management, rate limiting, AI-powered automation, and app integration.
Apigee offers a range of pricing plans to suit your needs, including:
- Evaluation. Try out Apigee’s features free for 60 days in your own sandbox.
- Pay-as-you-go. Pay for what you use with no upfront costs.
- Subscription. Pay a fixed rate on one of Apigee’s flexible subscription tiers (Standard, Enterprise, or Enterprise Plus).
3Scale is an enterprise API management platform powered by Red Hat, which prioritizes performance, growth, and customer control. With 3Scale, it’s easy to manage your APIs on-premises, in the cloud, or both. Plus, you can share, distribute, secure, and monetize APIs however you want.
3Scale gives you centralized control of your APIs and workflows, so you’ll enjoy a unified view of them. You can also leverage automation to build and run high-performance apps.
The problem with 3Scale is it’s targeted mainly at developers, so it may be a less appealing option for some businesses i.e. those with lower budgets and less specialized in-house expertise.
3Scale offers full lifecycle management, security (authentication, credentials, and access control), analytics and alerts, rate limiting, interactive documentation, monetization tools, and integrations (such as OpenShift and Red Hat Fuse).
3Scale offers a 90-day free trial and three pricing plans:
- Personal. A free plan for up to 50 developer accounts and 5,000 API calls per day.
- Pro. $750 per month for up to five admins, 5,000 developer accounts, API and webhook access, and management for up to three APIs.
- Enterprise. Custom pricing for unlimited admins, unlimited developer accounts, full SLA, analytics, and more.
For the past decade, Layer7 has been a leader in full lifecycle API management. You can deploy this platform as an on-premises, SaaS, or hybrid solution to test and monitor your APIs in real time. It’s able to support a range of use cases with Android, iOS, Cordova, and MQTT WebSockets.
Layer7 combines advanced functionality for developer management, mobile optimization, and linking core systems to API products. It makes it easy to create and manage a range of APIs, and you can connect your enterprise to mobiles and smart devices.
The main disadvantage of Layer7 is it lacks certain capabilities, such as a standard developer experience, that are available on other platforms.
Key features include full lifecycle management, security (single sign-on, OAuth, SAML, and XACML), microservice creation and orchestration, mobile and IoT development, backend SOA connectivity, and integrations with enterprise BI, analytics, and reporting tools.
Contact sales to request a quote for your business.
The Axway Amplify platform helps businesses master their sprawling API landscapes via an open platform approach. It can handle API gateways from multiple cloud vendors and support both external and internal digital teams, so it’s no wonder Gartner considers it a Leader in full-lifecycle API management.
Axway provides a single pane of glass through which to manage all your API deployments, so you can enjoy high levels of collaboration. Also, with its comprehensive developer portal, you can easily create, test, and deploy new APIs and make existing APIs more consumable.
You can publish APIs in any cloud, on-premises, or hybrid environment. Plus, you can safeguard them with AI automation, which scales security and detects vulnerabilities throughout the API development process.
Axway seamlessly integrates with hybrid integration solutions such as OpenLegacy to help generate and manage APIs in a speedy, developer-centric, and competitively costed manner to become a digital-first type organization.
On the downside, Axway’s UI is more complex than some solutions, and its reliance on third-party software can result in a less streamlined experience. That said, it does give extra flexibility.
Axway’s key features include full lifecycle management, security (authentication and policy customization), analytics, API extension and reuse, pre-built connectors, and integrations with DevOps tools and third-party gateways (such as AWS, Azure, Anypoint, Mulesoft, and GitHub).
You can contact sales to request a personalized quote.
6. Cloud Elements
Cloud Elements is an enterprise API management platform that was acquired by UiPath in 2021. It now forms part of the UiPath platform, which offers robust security, flexibility, and end-to-end API, UI, and AI automation.
UiPath is a “platform in a box” that you can deploy in your cloud, the UiPath Automation Cloud, or a hybrid environment. It’s cloud-native, so it’s designed for simple, fast deployment to automate your enterprise. It makes it easy to source, build, and manage your APIs and DevOps pipeline.
Its main downside is its cost, which is higher than a lot of platforms on the market. It’s also not as user-friendly as some options.
The main features are full lifecycle management, security and compliance (SOC2, ISO, and HIPAA), analytics, the Automation Hub, no-code data modeling and storage, the UiPath Assistant, document processing, task and process mining, an API marketplace, SaaS robots, and UI + API + AI integrations.
UiPath offers the following pre-packaged starter plans:
- Automation Developer. $420 per month for business users and developers automating for themselves.
- Unattended Automation. $1,380 per month for business users and developers automating for a team.
- Automation Team. $1,930 per month for small teams automating for a business.
- Enterprise and Medium Businesses. Contact sales for a flexible service plan, or try UiPath free for 60 days.
You can also customize any pre-packaged plan to suit your business needs.
WSO2 is an open-source API management platform that meets all your management and integration needs. With it, you can expose your digital services as APIs on-premises, in the cloud, or in a hybrid architecture.
WSO2 offers total code transparency, end-to-end security, API monitoring and analytics, a complete version history, and full lifecycle management. You can also enable streaming integration to deliver real-time streaming data in the form of APIs.
WSO2’s main disadvantage is that, while it gathers technical analytics on API usage and performance, it doesn’t track metrics related to business value. This makes it less appealing for product managers.
WSO2 provides full lifecycle management, security (visibility control, OAuth, Open ID, and more), analytics, app development, rate limiting, the ESB Micro Integrator, virtual hosting, monetization tools, and integrations (such as CI/CD, microservices, and Integration Studio).
You can contact sales to request a subscription quote for your company. You’ll also get a free trial.
AWS can process thousands of API calls with low latency, and you’ll be protected from traffic spikes with traffic throttling. Plus, you can leverage the OpenLegacy + AWS integration to modernize your on-prem, core, and legacy systems, improve operational efficiency, and manage your legacy APIs in the cloud.
The main downside of this API management platform is you can only deploy it in AWS environments, so it’s less suitable for hybrid and multi-cloud organizations. It doesn’t support API marketplaces, and it only offers indirect support for API monetization.
Key features of AWS include full lifecycle management, security (AWS IAM, Amazon Cognito, OIDC, OAuth2, and access control), analytics, throttling rules, API keys, version control, SDK generation, and integrations (such as AWS ELB and AWS Cloud Map).
AWS offers a tiered pay-as-you-go pricing model, so you only pay for API calls and the data you transfer. Plus, your costs reduce as your usage scales. For instance, for RESTful APIs, the tiers are:
- First 333 million requests: $3.50 per million calls
- Next 667 million: $2.80 per million calls
- Next 19 billion: $2.38 per million calls
- Over 20 billion: $1.51 per million calls
There's also a free tier for up to one million RESTful API calls, one million HTTP API calls, one million messages, and 750,000 connection minutes per month for WebSocket APIs (up to 12 months).
9. Kong Enterprise
Kong Enterprise is an enterprise API management platform and is considered a Leader by Gartner. It helps modernize legacy systems, accelerate time-to-market, and improve the customer experience. Kong’s stylish UI offers detailed analytics and one-click operations, and you’ll enjoy 24/7 production support.
With Kong Enterprise, you can manage, govern, and monitor API connections across cloud, on-premises, and hybrid environments. Plus, you can harness the power of Kubernetes through the Kong Ingress Controller.
This API management platform provides over 400 pre-built enterprise and community plugins to enhance API security, traffic control, and more. You can also build your own in the developer portal.
The downside? While Kong Enterprise is ideal for developers, it’s less appealing for users with a focus on API monetization or API marketplaces.
Kong Enterprise offers full lifecycle management, security (RBAC, OAuth2, OpenID, OPA, mutual TLS, LDAP, and more), logging and analytics, automation workflows, rate limiting, plugins and extensions, and integrations (such as Apollo GraphQL, Hashicorp Vault, and Apache Kafka).
Kong Enterprise offers three pricing plans:
- Free. Essential security features and community support.
- Plus. $250 per service per month for everything in the Free plan, plus advanced security, rate-limiting, email support, GraphQL, and more.
- Enterprise. Custom pricing for everything in the Plus plan, as well as enterprise-grade security, self-managed deployment options, 24/7 support, and integration with Kong Mesh.
Paid plans come with a 14-day free trial.
The MuleSoft Anypoint platform is another Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant. It offers full API lifecycle management and end-to-end automation for all your APIs. You’ll get pre-built connectors, integration patterns, and templates to connect and manage your systems, giving your customers a unified experience.
This management platform allows you to scale, manage, and secure your APIs in one place. Observe your APIs and integrations in real time with contextual analytics. Plus, monitor and diagnose your operations to quickly resolve issues and optimize the customer experience.
In addition, with the OpenLegacy + MuleSoft integration, you can easily create legacy system integrations and generate SDKs automatically.
The downside is that MuleSoft has limited API monetization capabilities, and its pricing can be confusing. You also have to pay extra for integration capabilities.
Features of MuleSoft include full lifecycle management, automated security and compliance (tokenization, ISO, SOC2, PCI DSS, and GDPR), analytics, pre-built connectors and templates, and integrations (such as Salesforce, SAP, Oracle, Apache Kafka, Jenkins, and NetSuite).
MuleSoft offers a 30-day free trial and four usage-based pricing tiers for API management (API integration is extra). You can contact them for a quote.
Things to consider when choosing API management software
If you’re thinking of investing in an API management platform, there are a few things you need to consider.
Whatever your budget, ensure you’re getting value for money. The cost of API management platforms varies widely depending on the provider and the level of customization you need. For instance, open APIs are free, while extensions, plugins, and integrations add to the cost.
You should make a list of the features you require and compare the prices of providers that offer them. Also, make sure there are no hidden fees and that you’ll only pay for features you use.
Free trials are a bonus here, as they allow you to try out the platform before you spend any money.
Robust security is essential to keep your data safe. Nearly one-quarter of companies say API security is the most important platform capability. Ideally, you want a platform with:
- The latest authentication protocols, like OAuth, SAML, and OpenID Connect
- Single sign-on (SSO) capabilities
- Role-based access control (RBAC)
- Real-time threat and vulnerability detection
- End-to-end encryption or tokenization
Your platform of choice should also help you comply with the latest security and data protection standards, such as ISO, SOC2, HIPAA, and GDPR.
You also need an API management platform that can scale with your business and manage a growing digital ecosystem. After all, you don’t want the hassle of switching to a different platform in a few years’ time.
With the right management tool, you can rapidly scale your operations by automating API development, testing, and monitoring. This also speeds up app development—an API initiative cited by 58% of organizations.
By centralizing and simplifying API management, you can expand your partner program to bring more value to your business.
Your API management platform must be flexible too. You should be able to reuse API components across multiple systems and integrate a range of apps and services. It should be easy to adjust your APIs, and you should have full control over the API lifecycle to quickly generate services and reduce time-to-market.
The platform ought to provide a full version history so you can easily track changes or revert to a previous version. It should also be able to handle multiple requests without losing performance.
You need to ensure your APIs consistently deliver high-quality data where and when you need it. Data should be complete and usable一otherwise, the customer experience will suffer.
A good API platform will monitor the quality of API deliveries. For example, by tracking API response time, error count, runtime events, and latency in real-time.
Simple and easy to use
An API management system should be easy to install and use. Setup may be more complicated if there are lots of plugins and integrations, so bear this in mind before committing to a solution.
You want it to be simple to manage your APIs throughout their lifecycle, preferably with automated workflows. The platform should be straightforward to learn, or your employees’ productivity may suffer.
Finally, you need to assess how easily it will integrate with existing apps and solutions. For instance, if you use an API integration platform like OpenLegacy Hub, ensure your API management platform is compatible.
Speed and reliability
To reap the benefits of an API management platform, you need a solution that’s both fast and reliable. Requests should be answered rapidly to reduce latency, and the platform should offer features like caching and traffic throttling to improve API responsiveness.
Downtime harms productivity, so you require an API management platform with built-in redundancy and at least 99.99% uptime, if not more. There should be automated monitoring tools to detect outages in real-time, and you should be able to add new integrations and programs without disrupting your existing services.
Alt text: A chart showing how businesses measure the success of their APIs.
The ability to generate APIs
API creation is a vital part of the API lifecycle, so you need a management system with the ability to handle this. The best API management platforms offer drag-and-drop functionality with little to no coding. They also have pre-built templates and design capabilities.
You should be able to build a range of API types, including RESTful, HTTP, JSON, SOAP, and WebSocket APIs. Plus, you should be able to create composite APIs that combine multiple requests into a single API call.
Provide a seamless user experience with an API management platform & OpenLegacy
We’ve now answered the question “what is API management?” and explored the features and benefits of a good management platform. To get the most from your legacy systems, though, you need a combination of solutions to integrate and manage your APIs and apps.
For instance, OpenLegacy connects directly to your on-premises, core, and legacy systems and exposes them as composable microservices, APIs, and serverless functions. You can then manage these via an API management platform.
If you want to take it a step further, you can do so with a cloud integration platform that integrates your apps and services. For example, you could combine AWS + OpenLegacy + Boomi to give customers a unified, seamless experience on all your business channels. The possibilities are endless一but it all starts with the right API management platform.