by Spencer Nguyen • April 27, 2022
The number of applications and services is increasing as companies face time-to-market pressure from customers. Application programming interfaces (APIs) are a key component of modern software architectures. APIs are tools that let companies share their data internally or with third-party services to create new value-driven products for customers. This guide discusses the many APIs you can use to build a cloud-native infrastructure and why they are the most valuable software development tool in a developer’s toolbox.
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The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) defines a cloud-native infrastructure as one with “Containers, service meshes, microservices architecture, immutable infrastructure, and declarative APIs” as typical characteristics.
A cloud-native infrastructure is a collection of software and hardware components that form an infrastructure that is optimized for the cloud. Building a cloud-native infrastructure is a critical component to organizations looking to adopt a cloud-first strategy using APIs. There are four main principles of building a cloud-native infrastructure:
A cloud-native architecture consists of four layers. Each layer represents API-specific functionality within the environment. The first layer, the bottom layer, is responsible for provisioning infrastructure resources. Each layer adds a new set of cloud-native technologies and capabilities for cloud-native development of APIs. The four layers of this serverless methodology are:
Provisioning refers to the tools for creating and hardening the foundation on which cloud-native apps are built. These tools can create, manage, and configure infrastructure as well as scan, sign, and store container images. Provisioning also includes tools for setting and enforcing policies, building authentication and authorization into apps and platforms, and handling secret distribution. A few of the standard tools for provisioning include:
Automation and Configuration: Cloud-native infrastructure APIs to automate building computing environments. Common APIs include Teraform, Ansible, and Puppet.
Container Registry: Tools to store app executables. Common APIs include Amazon ECR, Azure Registry, and Dragonfly.
Security: API frameworks for securing the infrastructure. Common APIs include Pluto, Mondoo, and CHEFInspec.
Key Management: Cloud-native infrastructure APIs for encryptions. Common APIs include Athenz, Teleport, and OAuth2 Proxy.
The runtime layer manages containers and their environments. This layer aims to provide a common set of libraries, services, and tools that are runtimes for all operating systems. This facilitates running applications on any underlying container platform. That way, application developers can focus more on writing code rather than worrying about which technology stack they need access to. This layer has the following subcategories:
Cloud-Native Storage: Tools for virtualized disks or persistent disks for apps. Tools here include Google Persistent Disk, OpenEBS, and NetApp.
Container Runtime: Delivers services for running containers. APIs at this level include Sysbox, rkt, and kata.
Cloud-Native Network: Cloud-native infrastructure APIs to configure networking and security among nodes over a network. APIs at this level include VMWare NSX, Flannel, and Antera.
The orchestration and management layer addresses how containerized services (app components) are managed as a group, specifically for coordinating communication between services. There are four subcategories in this API ecosystem:
Orchestration and Scheduling: Container orchestration and scheduling are used to deploy and manage container lifecycles. The orchestration tool, in most cases Kubernetes, manages the containers and the operating environment.
Coordination and Service Discovery: These APIs enable services to find and communicate with each other. Common APIs include Kubernetes, Docker Swarm, and Amazon ECS.
Remote Procedure Call (RPC): RPC is a cloud-native infrastructure API that enables services on one node to communicate with other nodes connected through the internet. Common tools include etcd, Apache ZooKeeper, and AWS Cloud Map.
Service Proxy: A service proxy is an intermediary between services that controls communication. Common tools include Avi Networks, BFE, and NGINX.
API Gateway: The API gateway is an abstraction layer that allows external applications to communicate. Common APIs include Akana, Kong, and MuleSoft.
Service Mesh In a Cloud Native Infrastructure: A service mesh provides internal communication for applications through a dedicated infrastructure layer. It may also include traffic encryption, service discovery, and observability. Common APIs include Istio, Kuma, and EaseMesh.
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The application layer contains the APIs to build end-user applications. Developers can use APIs for a variety of use cases. Companies rely on these applications as a critical differentiator in a competitive market.
Databases: Allows for collecting, organizing, and storing information in data stores in a cloud-native infrastructure. Tools and APIs at this layer include Apache Hadoop, MySQL, and Redis.
Streaming and Messaging: Enable apps to send and receive messages in real time through an event queue. Tools here include open-source Apache Spark, RabbitMQ, and Google Cloud Dataflow.
Application Definition and Image Build: Services that help configure, maintain, and run container images. Tools at this layer include Chef Habitat, Gradle, and Kubermatic.
Continuous Integration and Delivery (CI/CD): Automates testing and deploying apps. Common APIs at this level include Jenkins, GitLab, and Travis CI.
These are just a few ways companies can use APIs as the backbone of their cloud infrastructure. Using APIs enables companies to build scalable, robust, and resilient architectures. APIs empower companies with the latest technology to stay ahead in a digital-first, highly competitive market.
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