Large gate representing API Gateways

An API’s main purpose is to allow multiple applications to communicate with one another. This is made possible by the API’s functions allowing applications to access data and interact with external software components, operating systems, and microservices. While APIs are extremely useful tools on their own, they can present some security vulnerabilities. Of course, security vulnerabilities are a clear drawback whether working with enterprise APIs, mobile applications, or web applications. However, APIs can easily be made more secure and efficient through API gateways which provide a unified entry point across internal APIs. This unified entry point allows for greater control over user access and helps elevate API security measures like rate limiting while also applying security policies like OAuth or JWT. Plus, API gateways are extremely beneficial for securing microservices. 

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What Is an API Gateway? 

API gateways are API management tools that sit between a client and a collection of backend services. In most cases, “clients” are the apps making the actual API requests, and backend services can include AWS, databases, and web service providers. Because the API gateway sits between the client and backend services, it works to provide a single point of entry for developers to access an organization’s APIs. 

An API gateway generally handles elements like:

  • Authentication
  • Load balancing 
  • Rate limiting or limiting latency 
  • Caching  

 In addition, API gateways act as a reverse proxy, working to:

  • Accept API calls
  • Aggregate the various services required to fulfill them
  • Return the appropriate result

How Does an API Gateway Work?  

API gateways sit between a user and a collection of microservices and provide three key services. These services include: 

  • Request routing: In request routing, an API gateway first receives a new API request. After receiving the request, it turns it into multiple requests. The API gateway then consults a routing map that shows where each request should be sent. Once this is mapped out, the API gateway sends the requests to the appropriate internal microservices. 
  • API composition: The API gateway provides workflow orchestration during API composition as it aggregates the requested information from multiple microservices. Data is then bundled and returned to the requestor in composite form. 
  • Protocol translation: With protocol translation, API gateways help client requests and microservices communicate with each other by translating those protocols. The gateway works to translate API protocols from what the end-user device uses to the microservice’s protocols. For example, if a microservice provides a response in XML, but the request comes in using JSON, the API gateway automatically completes the translation. 

Key Benefits of API Gateways 

API gateways are components of an overall API management solution and offer a variety of benefits to the business and Ecommerce operations that implement them. Implementing API gateways creates an API design that allows for scalable services. In addition, many business operations follow a DevOps approach where developers use microservices to build and deploy apps quickly and efficiently. API gateways come in handy as APIs are one of the most commonly used microservices communication tools.

Additional benefits of implementing API gateways include: 

  • Segmenting your backend into microservices architecture can make it easier to manage and maintain each service independently. 
  • The security of microservices is enhanced as an API gateway puts a barrier in front of an application’s back- and front-end. 
  • API gateways provide business operations with more access control via rate limiting, authentication, and more.
  • Through authenticating API calls through a single entry point, API gateways provide another security layer that protects against hacks and data breaches.
  • APIs are made more secure by ensuring that all requests go through singular endpoints. 
  • Input validation ensures that API requests have all the necessary information in the correct format before the gateway passes it along to a microservice. 
  • Companies offering services to consumers or other companies can monitor APIs. In order to make this process more efficient, API gateways can handle traffic, monitor usage, and send billing information. 
  • API gateways can help optimize API calls through microservices caching. 
  • API gateways can create traffic logs that help efficiently monitor and track an app’s analytics. 
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Getting Started with DreamFactory

Overall, API gateways have the potential to provide many key benefits to any organization. If you’re ready to discover how APIs can help elevate your business, DreamFactory is here to help. Register today to start your 14-day trial in our hosted environment, discover DreamFactory’s new features and API management platform, and test the user experience for yourself.