APIs are the building blocks of applications. Companies are exposing back-end systems as APIs to create apps faster, build partnerships and increase revenue, but what happens when those APIs fail?
There are many stories out there of API failures causing the apps they support to malfunction. Look no further than the social media giants — Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have all experienced API outages that caused their apps to break.
Or if you've already jumped on the Bitcoin bandwagon, you may have seen that exchanges for the cryptocurrency experienced API outages as well, causing trading to halt.
So how do we safeguard our apps against API failures? It starts with continuously monitoring the APIs themselves. Many organizations use a combination of application performance monitoring, synthetic monitoring and app analytics solutions to understand how their apps are performing and to get a better understanding of the experience they're providing for customers, but APIs are unique and if your app relies on an API, you need to monitor those APIs so you know when they break before your customers experience a problem.
There are three main components you need to understand when monitoring APIs:
1. API Uptime
The first and most critical thing you need to understand is API uptime. If the API is down, all services relying on that API are going to have problems. Whether it's your own internally developed API or a third-party API your app relies on, having insight and alerting into API failures is essential. When an API breaks, you'll want to identify and address the issue before your customers start opening tickets or turning to social media to let you and others know your app isn't working.
2. API Performance
API performance can vary from location to location, so if you have customers that are in different parts of the world, you'll want to ensure that your API is performing well in every geography. To do this, you'll need a solution that can monitor API performance and provide detailed information about how quickly the APIs are returning data. The last thing you want is to have a key customer get frustrated because your application is taking too long to provide them the information or service they want. This also applies to the third-party APIs and if you have an SLA agreement, you’ll want to ensure the agreed upon service levels are being met.
3. API Data Integrity
APIs are a wonderful tool for sharing information with your customers and partners, but if they aren't sending the right information, you have a problem on your hands. You'll want to ensure that your APIs are returning the right data by leveraging a flexible tool that can systematically monitor the output of your APIs.
Synthetic and Real-User API Monitoring
If you have a business-critical application that relies on APIs, there are two essential ways to monitor the APIs — from an outside-in and inside-out perspective.
Synthetic monitoring is your first line of defense against API issues. It allows you to achieve an outside-in view by continuously monitoring uptime, performance and data integrity of your API from an end-user perspective whether or not your customers are accessing the API at that time. It also enables you to achieve a global view of API performance by leveraging servers around the world to act as end-users so you can ensure your customers in other geographies aren't experiencing app issues caused by APIs.
Real-user API monitoring provides an inside-out view of API performance so that you're monitoring all backend components and each individual transaction. If your customer does experience an issue, you'll know which customers were affected and how they were impacted. The real-user view allows you to identify exactly what's causing the API issue so you can speed mean-time-to-repair and fix the issue before other customers experience a problem.
Leveraging a solution that provides the inside-out and outside-in view of APIs will go a long way in safeguarding your app against API failures. To learn more, visit the API Precision Monitoring page on CA.com or get started with API Monitoring in under 5 minutes by visiting Runscope.com and signing up for a free trial.