5 Pros (and 3 Cons) of API-Driven Architecture

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Thursday, November 3, 2022

Why should API-driven architecture be the basis of your next development project? Here are some of the key benefits of this approach, as well as some of the drawbacks.

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5 Pros (and 3 Cons) of API-Driven Architecture

When it comes to application development, businesses are always looking for ways to make these activities more streamlined and reduce the timescales required. There are a range of models and approaches to achieving this, but one that could be set for major growth in the coming year is API-driven architecture.

This isn't a totally new concept, with API-based application development being around since about 2010. But as technologies evolve and more developers become familiar with the capabilities and benefits of APIs across the IT stack, it's gathering much more interest.

But what does this approach involve, and why could it be a good option for your next development project?

What is API-driven architecture?

APIs, or application programming interfaces, are intermediaries within a system that enable different applications to communicate with each other and exchange data. In the context of software architecture, they enable developers to create a programming interface they can use as the basis of the project, then build the key systems around this. This represents a major shift from traditional practices, where critical systems are the first priority and everything else is developed around them.

5 key reasons API architecture is the future

API-based approaches do require a change of mindset compared with traditional strategies. But the benefits of API-driven development can be significant. Here are some of the key advantages you can expect to see.

1. Disconnecting the front end and back end

A major benefit of this approach is that it allows developers to decouple the front end and back end. This works as both communicate via the API rather than directly with each other, thereby eliminating any dependencies they would have under a standard model. As a result, each end can be built completely independently, using its own tools and technologies depending on its individual requirements.

2. Improving accessibility

When APIs are placed front and center of the architecture strategy, it's much easier to ensure that everything else that surrounds these tools is compatible and accessible. Because components are built with the needs of the API in mind, there should be fewer instances where, for example, one part of a system formats data in a way that doesn't easily fit into other elements, which would otherwise require a costly and time-consuming workaround.

3. Faster, more agile development

Another consequence of separating key front-end and back-end systems is that they can be developed independently without having to worry about issues such as how they will work together. This allows development teams to take a more flexible approach as they only have to concern themselves with maintaining compatibility with the API. In turn, this can also speed up the overall time to market for the application, as front-end and back-end development can work in parallel.

4. Simpler testing and maintenance

In API-driven environments, every component that connects to the API is self-contained and communicates on its own. This modular approach makes components easier to test and maintain, allowing for streamlined continuous delivery. This ensures every module can be unplugged, tested and updated separately at the most appropriate time, while remaining compatible with other modules thanks to the API they share.

5. Easier scalability

The modular approach that API-led architecture provides also gives companies the ability to plug in services as and when they're required and remove them in the same way, without needing to make any change to the app itself. It's therefore easier to scale solutions up or down to react to fluctuations in demand or add new functionality in response to user requirements. This can prove especially useful when working with Internet of Things devices, which are often highly dependent on APIs, and are set for significant growth in many businesses in the coming years.

Potential drawbacks to be aware of

While these benefits can make life much easier for application developers and systems architects, there are always a few trade-offs to consider. However, being fully aware of the potential challenges of API-driven architecture ensures businesses can put plans in place to minimize any issues. Here are some factors to consider.

Added management burden

The number of APIs used within businesses can quickly add up. Additionally, these will all need to be monitored and maintained, which can be a significant burden if done manually. Therefore, investing in API automation will be essential if firms are to cope with this sprawl. At the same time, APIs will require additional resources to support them, which will mean more investment in infrastructure.

Security considerations

As APIs become more commonplace across all aspects of business, this will naturally lead to them coming to the attention of hackers. Unsecured APIs can offer another attack vector to criminals, and as one survey by Salt Security suggested more than half of firms (54%) have vulnerabilities in their APIs, this is an area that will need to be a top priority.

Finding the right skills

API-driven development can only succeed if everyone on the team - from software developers to testers and security pros - is familiar with the demands of APIs and understands how they work. While not everyone needs to be an expert, for many people who are used to traditional ways of development, it may well require more training and upskilling, or even bringing in some new people to oversee these projects.

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