DevOps in Your API Lifecycle

Your API program may be just starting or well established. Regardless, you have new APIs coming and maintenance in your future. As your program expands, so will your need to incorporate process and automation into your API workflow. A DevOps philosophy provides a framework to help you produce reliable, scalable APIs.

What is DevOps?

DevOps is a merging of multiple methodologies around development and operations. It brings automated testing practices earlier into software development and aims to decrease the time between writing and deploying code.

Over the last 10 years, DevOps has grown alongside cloud infrastructure. The repeatable nature of DevOps is well situated for the cloud’s flexibility. Even if development teams don’t consider themselves “all in” with DevOps, they practice many elements:

  • Repeatable builds
  • Automated tests
  • Continuous integration
  • Continuous deployment
  • Ongoing monitoring

Exact DevOps definitions may vary. The trend that DevOps encapsulates is development teams using automation to build more reliable software with a streamlined workflow.

APIs Have Special Requirements

All software can benefit from DevOps, but APIs in particular need high availability and reliability. You want to scale individual APIs, but also your entire API program. To do that well, you’ll need to decrease development cycles and increase automation. DevOps methodologies can help serve the special requirements of APIs.

In many situations, you won’t control the consumers of your APIs. It could be software from a partner company or another team. Your single interface serves multiple uses, which might include unpredictable traffic spikes. Further, if your API is called from devices or installable software, you might expect to get requests even beyond the lifetime of the supported service.

In all cases, APIs benefit from a repeatable build and deploy process. For high availability, you need redundancy to ensure every request can be met with a response. Similarly, to handle surges in demand for the API, you want to be able to expand and decrease server needs. Even a deprecated API may need a shim that returns error messages.

In the interest of efficiency, you’ll need automation in your API program.

Automation for Repeatability and Scalability

To get predictable performance from APIs, you’ll want a process that can quickly deploy updates, but also helps you trust the code you’re deploying. DevOps practices can help ensure reliability across your API program. Automated, comprehensive API testing can be a key factor to give you confidence.

Testing should start with the design of your API, where you determine what responses are expected with each type of request. These decisions become a development-time check before future deploys: does your response match expectations?

As you scale the single API, these repeatable tests show that each instance behaves correctly. Further, as you scale your API program, you can use the same approach to efficiently deploy APIs that are less likely to cause costly outages.

Adam DuVander

Adam DuVander

Adam DuVander is an API veteran, developer communicator, and principal consultant at EveryDeveloper. He was the first editor of ProgrammableWeb, which TechCrunch called “the journal of the API economy,” and is a frequent speaker on developer experience and developer marketing. His work with developer-focused companies helps to better engage their audiences. You can find his technical content on Wired, Zapier, and SendGrid, among many others. Adam lives with his family in Portland, Oregon.

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