April 10th, 2012

Faking the Cloud in API Management

API Management - Infrastructure Versus SaaSThe CEO of competitor API management provider Mashery recently mentioned a post I wrote discussing tradeoffs of infrastructure-based versus service-based solutions when it comes to API management. Unintentionally, my original post has apparently hit a nerve.

Oren suggests that a “true” Cloud solution can only be SaaS-based. While Amazon Web Services, among others, may take umbrage at that definition, I am also a little confused by Oren’s statement since, by most definitions Mashery, is not a SaaS. Typically, a SaaS provides self-enrollment and self-service aspects. Mashery may let you manage your APIs in the Cloud like Layer 7 or Apigee but it doesn’t do this without help from engagement consultants. In that way, they are more akin to IBM than Salesforce.

In the end, our customers don’t get too caught up in Cloud semantics. Some of our customers want to own a solution, others “rent”. Some want a solution in a data-center, others in a public Cloud. We understand that different deployment models are needed to accommodate different needs. If a Cloud deployment is what you are after, try several vendors, verify what you get and compare each solution’s strengths.

February 7th, 2012

API Management – Infrastructure Versus SaaS

API Management - Infrastructure Versus SaaS

The Enterprise is buzzing with API initiatives these days. APIs not only serve mobile applications, they are increasingly redefining how the enterprise does B2B and integration in general. API management as a category follows different models. On one hand, certain technology vendors offer specialized infrastructure to handle the many aspects of API management. On the other, an increasing number of SaaS vendors offer a service which you subscribe to, providing a pre-installed, hosted, basic API management system. Hybrid models are emerging but that’s a topic for a future post.

Before opting for a pure SaaS-based API management solution, think about these key considerations:

The Cloud Advantage
One can realize the benefits of Cloud computing from an API management solution without losing the ability to control its underlying infrastructure. For example, IaaS solutions let you host your own API management infrastructure. Private Clouds are also ideal for hosting API management infrastructure and provide the added benefit of running "closer" to key enterprise IT assets. Through any of these SaaS alternatives, an API management infrastructure optimizes computing resource utilization. IaaS and private Cloud-based API management infrastructure also provide elasticity and can scale on demand. Look for an API management solution that offers a virtual appliance form factor to maximize the benefits of Cloud.

Return on Investment
The advantage of a lower initial investment from SaaS-delivered API management solutions quickly becomes irrelevant when the ongoing cost of a per-hit billing structure increases exponentially. With your own API management infrastructure in place, you can leverage an initial investment over as many APIs as you want to deliver, no matter how popular the APIs become. Many early adopters, which originally opted for the SaaS model, are currently making the switch to the infrastructure model in order to remedy a monthly cost that has grown to unmanageable levels. Unfortunately, such transitions are sometimes costing more than any initial costs savings.

Agility, Integration
SaaS solutions provide easy-to-use systems isolated in their own silos. This isolation from the rest of your enterprise IT assets creates a challenge when you attempt to integrate the API management solution with other key systems. Do you have an existing Web portal? How about existing identity, business intelligence or billing systems? If your API management solution is infrastructure-based, you have access to all the low-level controls and tooling that are required to integrate these systems together. Integrating your API management with existing identity infrastructure can be important to achieving runtime access control. Integrating with billing systems is crucial to monetizing your APIs. Feeding metrics from an API management infrastructure into an existing BI infrastructure provides better visibility.

Security
Depending on the audience for your APIs, various regulations and security standards may apply. Sensitive information traveling through a SaaS-based system is outside your control. Are any of your APIs potentially dealing with cardholder information? Does PCI-DSS certification matter? If so, a SaaS-based API management solution is likely to be problematic. In addition to the off-premise security issue, SaaS-based API management solutions offer limited security and access control options. For example, the ability to decide which versions of OAuth you choose to implement matters if you need to cater to a specific breed of developers.

Performance
Detours increase latency. By routing API traffic through a hosted system before it gets to the source of the data, you introduce detours. By contrast, if you architect an API management infrastructure in such a way that runtime controls happen in the direct path of transaction, you minimize latencies. For example, using the infrastructure approach, you can deploy everything in a DMZ. Also, by owning the infrastructure, you have complete control over the computing resources allocated to it.

I'll be touching upon some of these issues when I give a presentation called Enterprise Access Control Patterns for REST & Web APIs on March 2, at the RSA Conference in San Francisco.

November 11th, 2011

FROM THE VAULT: Webinar – Extending Enterprise Security into the Cloud presented with The 451 Group

CA World - CSA CongressNext week, Layer 7 will be exhibiting at a couple of events, both of which have a strong Cloud security focus. Between November 13 and 16, we’ll be in Las Vegas for CA World, where we’ll be setting up shop in the Cloud Section and the Security Section. On November 16 and 17, we’ll be at the Cloud Security Alliance Congress in Orlando.

With these Cloud security-focused events just around the corner, it seems like a good time to mention our archived webinar Extending Enterprise Security into the Cloud. Presented with The 451 Group, this webinar explored ways for enterprises to extend existing security investments into the Cloud without incurring significant costs or creating additional IT complexity.

Presentations from Layer 7 CTO Scott Morrison and 451 Group Security Analyst Steve Coplan, delved into how enterprises can leverage the identity, privacy and threat-protection technologies they already own to facilitate the secure adoption of SaaS, IaaS and other Cloud-based technologies.

You can read more about the webinar in our Resource Library or simply watch the recording in the player below, courtesy of the Layer 7 YouTube Channel.

And if you happen to be attending either CA World or the CSA Congress, stop by and say “hi”. CA World attendees can find us at Partner Pedestal 261A in the Cloud Section and Partner Pedestal 338B in the Security Section. For the CSA conference we’ll be at table 10. Hope to see you there!