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Rory Murphy for APIDNA

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API Gateways: The Impact on API Management and Security

With API usage on the rise, using API gateways for API management and security has never been more important.

With such a wide variety of different microservices being incorporated into modern web applications, there are a lot of API calls and endpoints that need to be managed and secured.

API gateways serve as a single entry point and common interface to handle all of these endpoints.

API gateways handle traffic routing, load balancing, authentication, and more, ensuring efficient and secure API operations.

They make it easier to monitor, scale, and secure API interactions.

In this article, we discuss the impact of API gateways on API management and security, helping you to make the right choices in your integration journey.

Understanding API Gateways

Let’s break down a working example to understand when and how an API gateway would be used.

We’ll use an e-commerce application for this example, using a variety of different microservices, integrated with a payment processing API.

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Some basic microservices include:

  • User Service: Manages user registration, authentication, and profiles.
  • Product Service: Handles product listings, inventory, and details.
  • Order Service: Manages order processing, history, and tracking.
  • Payment Service: Integrates with a third-party payment API (e.g., Stripe) for transaction processing.

We would select an API gateways, such as AWS, and then configure it to define endpoints for each microservice:

  • /api/users/* routes to the User Service
  • /api/products/* routes to the Product Service
  • /api/orders/* routes to the Order Service
  • /api/payments/* routes to the Payment Service, which further communicates with the third-party API

We would then implement authentication at the gateway level, ensuring that only authorised requests reach the backend services.

This can be done using JWT tokens or OAuth.

The API gateway can translate between different protocols if needed.

For instance, converting a RESTful request to a gRPC call if one of the microservices uses gRPC.

When a payment request is made to /api/payments/process, the gateway routes this request to the Payment Service, which then interacts with the Stripe API to complete the transaction.

Enhancing API Management with Gateways

API gateways significantly enhance API management by streamlining traffic management and load balancing.

They efficiently distribute incoming traffic across multiple instances of backend services, preventing any single service from becoming a bottleneck.

This ensures high availability and reliability, as traffic is evenly balanced, and any service failures are mitigated by rerouting traffic to healthy instances.

API routing and request handling are also simplified through API gateways.

Instead of clients needing to know the specific endpoints of each microservice, they interact with a single entry point.

The gateway then routes requests to the appropriate microservice based on the defined routing rules.

This abstraction layer not only simplifies the client-side logic but also allows for seamless updates and modifications to the backend services without impacting the clients.

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Centralised logging and monitoring capabilities provided by API gateways further enhance management.

All API interactions are logged at the gateway level, offering a comprehensive view of traffic patterns, request types, and response times.

This centralised approach enables easier monitoring, troubleshooting, and performance optimization.

Administrators can quickly identify issues, track usage metrics, and generate insights to improve the overall API infrastructure.

API Gateways and Security Enhancement

API gateways ensure that only authenticated and authorised requests reach the backend services.

This is often achieved using JWT tokens, OAuth, or other authentication protocols, which verify the identity of clients and grant them access based on predefined permissions.

In an OAuth flow, the user logs in to an authorization server, which then provides an access token to the client application.

This token is used for API requests and contains information about the user’s permissions.

The API gateway verifies the token with the authorization server to confirm the user’s identity, and ensure the user has the appropriate permissions to access the desired resources.

JSON Web Tokens (JWT) are a compact, URL-safe means of representing claims to be transferred between two parties.

When a client authenticates, the authentication server issues a JWT, which the client then includes in the headers of subsequent API requests.

The API gateway validates this token before forwarding the request to the backend service.

The JWT contains information (claims) about the user and their permissions, and it is digitally signed to ensure its integrity.

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Rate limiting and throttling are essential features of API gateways that prevent abuse and ensure fair usage of resources.

By setting limits on the number of requests a client can make within a specific timeframe, gateways protect backend services from being overwhelmed by excessive traffic.

API gateways can detect and block malicious activities such as DDoS attacks by monitoring traffic patterns and blocking suspicious IP addresses.

They also offer protection against SQL injection and other injection attacks by sanitising inputs and enforcing security rules.

To learn more about API security, check out our previous article here.

Choosing the Right API Gateway

Beyond management and security, there are several other features you’ll want to consider when choosing the right API gateway for your application:

  • Scalability: Ensure the gateway can handle your traffic volume and scale seamlessly as your application grows. Check out our previous article about building scalable API architectures.
  • Ease of Integration: The gateway should support various protocols (REST, gRPC, SOAP) and easily integrate with your existing infrastructure. With APIDNA, all API integrations are simplified thanks to our use of autonomous agents. Click here to get in touch and request a FREE demo.
  • Monitoring and Analytics: Comprehensive logging, monitoring, and analytics tools to track API usage, performance, and security events. Click here to check out our previous article about AI-driven API analytics.
  • Customization and Extensibility: The ability to customise policies, extend functionalities, and support plugins.

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Here are four of the most popular API gateway services to begin your search with:

  • AWS API Gateway: Highly scalable, integrates well with AWS services, supports REST and WebSocket APIs, and offers strong security features.
  • Kong: Open-source, highly extensible with plugins, supports a wide range of protocols, and provides robust logging and monitoring.
  • NGINX: Known for high performance and reliability, supports various protocols, and offers powerful configuration options.
  • Apigee: Google’s managed gateway service, provides advanced analytics, developer portal integration, and strong security features.


API gateways play a vital role in modern API management and security by centralising traffic management, authentication, and monitoring.

They simplify API routing, enhance performance, and protect against security threats, ensuring robust and scalable API infrastructures.

As organisations increasingly rely on microservices and third-party integrations, the importance of API gateways will continue to grow.

We encourage you to explore the further reading resources linked below to further expand your knowledge of API gateways.

Further Reading

5 key capabilities – solo

API Gateway Security: What is it and is it Enough? – Salt

API Gateway vs WAF vs API Security Platform – noname

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