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In 2016 we expect that interest in microservices architecture (MSA) will drive the development of lightweight API management platforms comprising “microservice/micro API” gateways and a management layer enabling service discovery, lifecycle management, community management, and operational monitoring and analytics. The recent Ovum report, 2016 Trends to Watch: Integration and Middleware, providesinsights into the role of API management in microservice orchestration and management.

Lightweight API management will emerge as middleware for microservices architecture

Some early adopters and proponents specify "smart endpoints and dumb pipes" as core characteristics of MSA. The proposition of having smart endpoints and dumb pipes suggests MSA implementation without an intelligent middleware layer. We expect the role of lightweight API management in MSA to be similar in nature to that of an ESB in service-oriented architecture (SOA) implementation.

API management can cater for a range of requirements in a MSA implementation, including:

  • request routing

  • protocol transformation

  • service aggregation

  • exposing custom APIs (fine- or coarse-grained) according to the requirements of service consumers

  • handling of partial failure or scenarios where a specific microservice is unavailable

  • service discovery and lifecycle management

  • secure access and community management

  • operational monitoring and analytics.

From the perspective of the broader API management discipline, microservices can be thought of as "micro APIs", with proper mechanisms for service discovery, lifecycle management, security, community management, and operational monitoring and analytics. In MSA implementations involving external service consumption, external parties will use specific microservices for developing high-level services or data exchange functions, and there will be a clear need for proper access and usage control. The role of API management, beyond the core capabilities offered by an underlying API gateway, will be critical in this type of implementation. API management will offer a simple approach to developer/user registration and onboarding, as well as governing user access privileges.

Several API management vendors, including IBM, Akana, and Axway, are already planning to introduce a lightweight version of their existing API management solutions to simplify microservice orchestration and management. It is likely that some vendors will offer these capabilities as part of a broader solution marketed as “micoservices platform” that can also be used for microservice development. This will be a rapidly evolving sub-segment in the API management market.

Interestingly, different perspectives will cause confusion between closely related terms, such as “microservices”, “micro APIs”, and “lightweight SOA”, and some vendors will use this opportunity to rebadge and sell traditional SOA governance/API management solutions to enterprises undertaking MSA implementations. However, we believe that there is more to MSA than just “lightweight SOA done well”.



Saurabh Sharma, Senior Analyst, Software – Infrastructure Solutions

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