With so many approaches to proper API design, development, and management, it’s pretty easy to get lost just in the planning process. As an API provider, have you considered usage limits, gateway pricing plans, or security? Or, on a more technical level, have you thought about your current limitations, configuring frameworks, and web server infrastructure?
Putting an API into production comes with several challenges, regardless of your language and framework. For example, in traditional API deployment, you would be responsible for the hosting environment, which inevitably comes with concerns - you must maintain the infrastructure even if it’s hosted on AWS or Azure. Any infrastructure must be simultaneously deployed, such as database objects, files, storage configurations, and plugins.
For DevOps and developers familiar with AWS or Azure services, it can be faster to build with AWS Lambda or Azure Functions and run it behind their API management services. More of the infrastructure concerns are taken care of, but there are limitations on functionality compared to the language frameworks.
But for the day-to-day developer, API deployment and subsequent management is a considerable challenge, especially if it's not part of their immediate skill set.
The conventional approaches to developing software can take a lot of time and require arranging expensive and specialized tools and resources. The modern developer has several services and platforms to help when considering API development and hosting. You could use your favourite framework or language, or go for one of the popular platforms that specialize in only the deployment and hosting of the apps, or even try others such as Firebase and AWS, who provide a complete set of tools.
While these modern tools and services make developers more productive, there's still an 'app gap'. It's the gap between the code you have and the resources you require to build it, plus the knowledge, time, and cost associated with getting into production.
So it's not surprising, then, that low-code tools have become popular. Developers can build on familiar concepts, remove the complexity, and generally move faster with a low-code framework as their visual design framework and lack of boilerplate makes them much quicker to understand and use.
But besides building fast, low code is also about building right. These platforms eliminate many of the technical aspects of the API lifecycle, giving the developer much more control and visibility into the development process. They also are massive time-savers when faced with production. Platforms like Linx and Outsystems go even further, allowing you to build surprisingly powerful applications. They have several core features, such as integrating all types of data formats and providing prebuilt services and functionality to create complex - and often custom - backend applications.
Three significant shifts happening today have accelerated the adoption of low code and its inherent power of deployment.
- Infrastructure is moving to the cloud and becoming 100% software-driven (i.e., Infrastructure-as-Code)
- Applications are getting more fragmented (micro-services)
- An ever-increasing number of application functionalities have moved out of the developer’s code and into Platform Services, wholly managed by cloud providers.
These trends are often lauded as the gateway to the holy grail of digital transformation, but if your company isn't using CI/CD practices to streamline the software release process, testing and deployment are more often than not, time-consuming and difficult.
Low-code platforms streamline these processes as developers don’t need to worry about deployment, scale, or user experience. You still need developer-type skills to manage the infrastructure and architectural nuances of getting your application into production, but the timescale is considerably shorter.
About deploying APIs in particular, low-code removes the operational overhead that traditional development requires - i.e. no need for infrastructure - a major cost, plus it allows you to focus on your use case while providing easier and quicker solutions to several areas of development such as scalability, usage monitoring, security, etc.
Here’s how they help;
Nearly every vendor uses a reputable hosting provider such as AWS, Google Cloud Platform, Salesforce, or Microsoft Azure. Most will offer secure, highly available platforms and have completed third-party audits and certifications demonstrating their commitment to security.
Low-code vendors typically have some level of responsibility for managing the upper tiers of the overall stack. This helps the developer remove any concerns around hardware, security, availability, and more. Additionally, the platform most likely provides some form of dashboard, accountability, and change management capabilities.
A low-code tool is an excellent choice if you don’t know how to build robust systems to create, authorize, authenticate, and store users and their credentials. These elements can be complicated to understand and time-consuming to implement and maintain.
Even the most basic of APIs is likely to require updating. This could require continued access to the code and a dedicated process for deployment. Most platforms provide this functionality, often moving from update to deployment seamlessly.
An API can be deployed on-premise where it is operated and controlled by the developer or run serverless in the cloud. Each brings different challenges, and there are pros and cons for each. Understanding these environments and having the skills to create, configure and maintain the chosen environment is a considerable burden, often eliminated by the low-code vendor.
Managing a simple API or a complex system with multiple APIs - and their subscriptions - is a significant task. Additionally, the developer must consider documentation, usage limits, user policies, scalability, load-balancing, and more.
Low-code platforms are fast becoming a promising alternative to traditional software development, even for professionals who work daily with mature products that are well-known, well-tested, and well-understood. It should be horses for courses, and low code may just be the perfect tool to help you expedite API-centric development.
Experience low-code API development and care-free 1-click deployment by trying the Postman to Production guide. The solution provides an end-to-end process for taking an OpenAPI specification to a live server.
Watch: Specification to hosted API