APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) have quietly evolved into the backbone of contemporary business operations, even though it's ironic that most people use APIs without even realizing it. For instance, you're ordering your favorite takeaway online; you tap the payment button, and voilà! Through APIs, your payment information swiftly traverses the digital landscape, promptly reflecting the adjustment in your credit card balance.
From ride-sharing apps to e-commerce platforms, APIs are the driving force behind the digital transformation revolutionizing how we interact with technology. However, the current API-heavy architectural approach has resulted in a reliance on intricate multi-step transactions and third-party API integrations, making the system more complex and interconnected. In this installment of our IPM Best Practices Series, we’ll explore how organizations can monitor APIs effectively to ensure resilience and user satisfaction.
The hidden layers of API transactions
This diagram depicts the basic steps in a typical online sneaker purchase. What the shopper does not see is everything that happens in the background, making this transaction look highly straightforward. Even before the shopper encounters the UI, a series of steps is initiated, beginning with DNS and progressing to fetching content from the server. APIs take center stage as they interact with the UI, bridging the gap between the front-end and targeted services. Initiating a shoe search triggers the search service, which checks the database to see if the sneakers are in stock. Simultaneously, inventory service requests provide additional information, like colors, sizes, and cost.
The modern consumer expects all of this to occur in the time it takes to blink. What happens, though, when something goes wrong?
When APIs Fail
Depending on the context and the nature of the application, API failure can have several catastrophic impacts on users, including functional disruption, data inaccuracies, loss of features, delayed updates, and security concerns.
If a third-party search widget on your e-commerce site fails, your customers cannot browse through your store. So, right from the outset, user experience is severely compromised, leading to frustrated customers who’ll likely abandon their transaction and try out the competition.
If the API call is responsible for fetching or updating data, an unresponsive API call can result in outdated or incorrect information being displayed to the user. Think of the potential impact of zip or postal code lookups becoming unresponsive on a ride-hailing app - the angry customers, the load on customer support, the outrage on Twitter.
If the APIs connecting to your payment gateways fail, you lose both customers and revenue, not to mention the impact on security. As APIs carry business-critical information, the loss of data integrity and security vulnerabilities become significant concerns, leaving your organization susceptible to cyber-attacks and data breaches.
API Resilience Under the Spotlight
Failure to address API issues promptly can have dire repercussions on business continuity and overall success. Monitoring APIs and ensuring their responsiveness thus becomes a critical consideration for businesses seeking to integrate them into their infrastructure.
The challenge is that APIs function within intricate webs of third-party dependencies, dynamic architectures, and microservice meshes, which often exceed the capabilities of traditional monitoring tools. The growing adoption of GraphQL APIs further amplifies this challenge. GraphQL's core flexibility empowers clients to request specific fields and nested data structures. While this adaptability is beneficial, it can complicate predicting the precise format and size of incoming requests.
A Basic Guide for API Monitoring
To ensure performant APIs, businesses must make room for an API monitoring phase in their API Lifecycle to improve performance. Consistent monitoring helps keep uptime high and outage rates low across all applications and services. Below are some essential API monitoring best practices:
- Go beyond API availability; validate functional uptime
Monitoring API availability is critical but not enough for API transactions involving data exchange. You have to test various verbs such as Create, Read, Update, and Delete (CRUD) services against all of the application resources that are exposed via the API to ensure that they are operational.
Using synthetic monitoring tools with multi-step API monitors is one way to improve API availability with data reliability. Just remember, synthetic monitoring uses only a predefined set of API calls. Therefore, real-world traffic can be different from the inputs in synthetic monitoring.
- Account for API dependencies
APIs do not operate in isolation; they are interconnected components of a larger ecosystem. Your application's APIs likely depend on other internal or external APIs, and any disruption in these dependencies can affect your services. It's crucial to monitor not only your APIs but also third-party APIs your application relies on, regardless of whether they have their own monitoring strategies.
- Adopt automated testing into API monitoring
The CI/CD and DevOps approaches promote ongoing and automated testing. By establishing a robust API monitoring strategy that covers each phase of the CI/CD pipeline and includes frequent checks, you can significantly improve the performance of your API throughout the code release cycle.
- Choose tools with proactive alerting capabilities
Tools that offer only metric visualization require continuous manual monitoring to detect and address API issues. Therefore, selecting an API monitoring tool with robust alerting functions is essential for efficient error handling.
Enhance API resilience with Catchpoint
The stakes are high when it comes to API performance and resilience. Traditional monitoring can't keep up with the complex services behind our digital experiences. Catchpoint can help you ensure the resilience of your business-critical APIs with an Internet Performance Monitoring (IPM) approach that goes beyond traditional APM. Now enhanced by end-to-end Tracing capabilities, our IPM platform offers true end-to-end management and visibility of distributed applications, spanning from the user's experience all the way to the backend. With tools designed to proactively manage API incidents, your teams can reduce and even avoid the impact on end-users, enhancing overall service delivery.
In the final blog in our IPM Best Practices Series, where we'll explore data mastery with custom dashboards. Learn how to transform raw data into actionable insights with advanced AI tools and integration techniques for a comprehensive view of internet health and trends