API stands for “Application Programming Interface” and refers to the various means one company has of communicating with another company’s software internally. It is a type of software interface, offering a service to other pieces of software, and is a fundamental part of the rapidly developing API economy.
Ben Lutkevich says that “The API economy refers to the set of business models and practices designed around the use of APIs in today’s digital economy. It involves the exposure of an organization’s digital services and assets through application programming interfaces (APIs) in a controlled way”.
In an API-driven economy, APIs must be 100% reliable.
But as businesses and applications scale exponentially, this can also be seen as a drawback, as the number of different APIs can be overwhelming for developers who are new to the platform.
In this article, we’ll take a look at what API sprawl is and its impacts. We’ll also provide 9 methods to deal, prevent, and how to avoid a growing sprawl in organizations.
Let’s define What is API sprawl
Trying to squeeze the definition into one line I would say that API sprawl is the result of having too many APIs in an organization. This can lead to problems with manageability, discoverability, and security.
Some might say that API sprawl is a phenomenon of having too many different APIs available for use in a given platform or ecosystem. This can be a problem for several reasons:
- It can be overwhelming for developers who are new to the platform. Trying to learn all of the different APIs can be a daunting task, and it’s easy to get lost in the sea of information.
- It can lead to code that is difficult to maintain. When there are too many different APIs to keep track of, it can be hard to know which one to use for a given task. This can lead to code that is needlessly complex and hard to read.
- It can impact performance. Having too many different APIs can lead to unnecessary overhead, as the platform has to load and initialize all of the different libraries. This can impact the startup time of your application and lead to longer load times for users.
How can you avoid API sprawl?
API sprawl can be avoided by having a clear governance strategy in place. This should include who is responsible for creating APIs, what standards they need to follow, and how they will be used. There also needs to be a way to track and monitor APIs so that duplicates can be identified and removed.
There are a few ways to fight API sprawl:
1.The first step is to take inventory of the APIs you currently have in use, and determine which ones are essential to your business and which ones can be retired. This can be a difficult process, but it’s necessary in order to get a handle on the scope of your API sprawl.
There are many tools to create an accurate map of an API like BLST’s Security Platform that is easy to implant and an integrated part of any organization’s CI/CD test pipeline, like Salt and NoName Enterprise Solutions.
2.Once you know which APIs are essential, you can start to put together a plan for how to keep them organized and easy to use. This may include creating a central repository for all your APIs, setting up clear documentation and guidelines for how to use them, and establishing a process for regularly reviewing and updating your APIs.
A guideline for such a tool would be one that can be integrated right in the CI/CD process and real time alerts.
3. Limit the number of APIs that are created: One way to avoid API sprawl is to limit the number of APIs that are created. This can be done by setting up strict guidelines for when a new API is needed and ensuring that all stakeholders agree on the need for it, in parallel this should be outlined to the CISO and DevSecOps teams so tasks will be in sync through all development teams.
4. Use a centralized API management solution: By using a centralized API management solution, you can keep track of all your APIs in one place and ensure that they are properly managed and monitored.
6. Set up a centralized team to oversee all API development: Having a dedicated team responsible for all API development can help to ensure that new APIs are properly planned and integrated with existing ones.
7. Security education should be a central requirement, “The primary cause of insecurity is the lack of secure software development practices” said Jim Manico of manicode.com Educate Developers on API Management: Developers need to be aware of the importance of API management and the risks associated with API sprawl. They should be trained on how to properly use and manage APIs.
8. Implementing API security: API security is the process of protecting APIs from unauthorized access and use. It can help to control API sprawl by ensuring that only authorized users have access to APIs and by preventing unauthorized access to API resources.
9. Monitor API Usage: Keep track of how APIs are being used and who is using them. This will help to identify any trends in usage that could indicate a problem.
Organizations need to be aware of the risks associated with API sprawl and take steps to prevent it. API sprawl can be a big problem for an organization because it leads to an unmanageable number of API endpoints and a lot of duplicate code, which can lead in turn to breach, loss of data and at the bottom line a financial loss. It can be very difficult to keep track of all the different API endpoints and make sure that they are all working correctly.
It is extremely important for organizations to find ways to manage API sprawl, such as by standardizing on a small number of APIs or by using API management tools.
In this ever expanding API economy we must fight back and keep our API strategy clean and concise. Using the methods suggested above, we can make that happen, and minimize the impact of API sprawl on our organizations and businesses.