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February 04, 2010

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Davis W. Frank

I'm not sure I fully understand your solution.

Are you saying there's a market for API proxies for analytics, load balancing, and access control? Mashery does this now.

Or are you saying that webapp developers who support APIs would do well by themselves by separating these concerns away from their core application into a separate API proxy app?

Sam Ramji

I think you understood very clearly, in fact. My perspective is not provider centric but app developer centric. Not every app will expose an API but most will use one. This is why we've built Apigee (http://www.apigee.com).

So yes, there's a growing market for API proxies. There are a number of players in this market, including Sonoa (my company), Mashery, 3Scale, Webservius, and I expect that there will be others soon. Each has its own focus areas and features. Apache Synapse can perform similar functions but was not designed with this use case in mind.

Additionally, not just webapp developers but any app developer - including iPhone app developers, for example - who uses 3rd party APIs will benefit from an API proxy.

Finally, the idea of the separation of concerns is important but most of my experience with this pattern (business policy vs. business logic) is from the API provider's perspective. My thoughts on this are posted here: http://blog.sonoasystems.com/detail/business-logic_vs._business_policy_in_cloud_services_and_apis/.

Steven Willmott

Interesting points and I think the architectural changes APIs are driving will be profound. I'm not sure I really agree with the proxy control point though (unless I misunderstood).

There are really two interesting control structures involved for APIs - provider side and consumer side. On the provider side you certainly want a gateway of somekind which enforces security, rights, rate limits etc. There are some API infrastructure vendors which solve this problem with cloud-hosted or on-premise proprietary gateways (labelled proxies) which provider traffic control. At 3scale (http://www.3scale.net) we solve it by providing control agents which you plug into different systems - either open source proxies such as Varnish or most flavours of software stack.
Either way, you are bringing traffic management to the data ingress point.


On the API consumer side however, as you point out, you need mechanisms to track the rights that you have on any given API. Currently this is very weak since it depends on essentially having a list of keys and certs + hoping that some other system is tracking the rights that those give you.

You seem to suggest that the two sides will necessarily be unified in the middle but I doubt this will happen broadly (it may for certain applications) - primarily because A) the way the web works at scale is point to point, traffic needs to go peer to peer otherwise overwhelming volume will choke bottlenecks, B) the actual problems you need to solve for APIs are actually various (establishing identity, tracking rights, analytics, payments, monitoring) and it's not actually obvious the will all need to go through the same point. For example Facebook has become a leading Web Identity provider and it's used to track credentials/access to many sites - yet, the content of those sites subsequently does not pass through facebook.

Interesting debate!

There were recently some sessions on this at Gluecon and in one we had the chance to provide a bit of an overview on possible evolutions of the web - I think some of those topics are relevant here also! http://slidesha.re/KQltld

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