The ultimate API gateway checklist for platform teams

You’ve decided your platform team needs an API gateway. Great. Now the fun begins…

Clearly, you’ll want to ensure seamless integration of the gateway and related API security, versioning and monitoring measures. No doubt performance optimisation and documentation are also high on your agenda.

How else will you ensure your APIs are as resilient and efficient as possible?

Never fear. We’ve got you covered with everything you need to know to implement your API gateway smoothly and gain maximum benefit from doing so. Work through our checklist to enjoy peace of mind and an easy, efficient implementation.

1. Define your project needs

An API gateway can deliver a range of benefits for your platform APIs, from baked-in security to easy versioning and insightful analytics that can help drive better business decision-making.

Start by detailing what’s important to you in terms of API gateway features and capabilities and working out your budget. Different API gateway providers deliver different benefits and vastly different pricing models, so be clear on what you need and afford from the outset.

Defining your needs in this way puts you in a strong position to review different API gateways to see if they could be a good fit for your business. Get technical in detailing what you’re looking for, including your existing product stack and integration points, to know which software and systems your gateway needs to play nicely with.

Consider your views on open source technology as part of this process too. Do you want an open source API gateway with a strong community commitment or one that uses proprietary technology you can’t get under the hood of?

2. Make use of free trials

When considering gateway providers, make note of any that offer fully featured free trials. These can be immensely helpful in discovering whether a gateway is the right fit for your business and how easy it is likely to be to implement.

Free trials allow you to test how easy it is to create, deploy, version, monitor and otherwise manage your platform APIs. You can test buy-in from your internal teams during the trial period, to get a taste of how efficient your platform engineering could become with that particular gateway in place.

3. Vet gateways’ customer support systems

With a shortlist of products in place, look into gateway providers’ customer support offerings. How easy is it to get hold of someone (an actual real person with expert knowledge) if you run into a bump in the road with your implementation?

This can make all the difference when it comes to how painlessly you can integrate your product as well as maintain it ongoing.

4. Ready, set, go!

Once you’ve selected your gateway (rather predictably, we recommend Tyk!) It’s time to get serious about your implementation. If you’ve already used a free trial, you’re off to a flying start. If not, ensure your team is fully up to speed about the product, timescales, resource requirements and the overall implementation plan.

The more engaged everyone is, the better. This doesn’t just mean your platform team but everyone internally who will benefit from implementing the platform API gateway.

Thanks to the nature of the tooling and workflows their internal developer platform delivers, platform engineers are both consumers and creators of APIs. They use APIs for integration, leverage infrastructure APIs and support the discovery of APIs (more on this below).

This means they are well-placed to map out the integrations, creations and deployments in implementing an API gateway. Planning this out in advance means everything is ready to roll out with the new gateway.

In terms of installing the gateway itself, your options will depend on the product you have chosen. With Tyk, for example, you can quickly and easily with Docker, Kubernetes, Ansible, Red Hat, Ubuntu, AWS, Heroku or Microsoft Azure. You can also get started with Tyk Cloud, which comes with a handy ‘Set up API platform automatically’ option, and the ability to personalise your implementation.

5. Create your platform APIs

With your gateway up and running, it’s time to import and or/create your APIs. This is where you can control your API security, using approaches such as key hashing, TLS and SSL, trusted certificates, certificate pinning, bearer tokens, HMAC, JSON Web Tokens (JWT), multi-chained authentication, OAuth 2.0 and OpenID Connect.

Tyk supports all of these and allows you to use security policies that incorporate several security options. Depending on your specific needs, you can implement Partioned Policies or secure by Method and Path. Either way, everything is accessible through the Tyk Dashboard, meaning the security element of implementing your platform API gateway and APIs is easy and intuitive.

With your APIs created or imported, you can go on to deliver the deployments and versioning needed to ensure your platform’s tooling and workflows are perfectly aligned with your internal teams’ needs.

6. Focus on your documentation 

Tyk enables API providers to import existing documentation (and modify it) using OpenAPI Specification (OAS) or APIary blueprints and host it on the Tyk developer portal, making it easy to consume. Why? Because property documentation is essential for both the developers using an API and those who maintain it.

Focusing on your API documentation means including clear, concise information about using the API, its available endpoints, relevant request and response formats, the authentication methods and error handling – all with examples and user-friendly explanations. The more attention you give to documenting everything clearly, the easier you make it for people to consume and maintain your API products.

7. Set up your developer portal 

Creating a developer portal to expose APIs to your platform users is key to your seamless API gateway implementation and adoption. Putting careful thought into how your APIs are described and categorised in the portal can pay significant dividends in terms of how efficient and effective your platform gateway implementation and operation is.

This is your chance to ensure that your internal teams can quickly and easily find the APIs they need. The more user-friendly the experience, the more successful your platform will be. It’s also important that the process of contributing to the portal is efficient. With Tyk, you can use Tyk Operator to create a PortalAPICatalogue resource to configure which APIs and policies to expose to the portal.

8. Monitor and optimise 

The final items on our API gateway checklist for platform teams are monitoring and performance optimisation. These two go hand-in-hand, as you need to monitor the performance of your APIs to see how to optimise them.

There are multiple ways to observe and monitor the performance of your APIs. Doing so means you can check on the overall health of your APIs and spot any issues before anyone else does. With an API gateway for your internal developer platform, you can automate the monitoring process to ensure that you receive a notification of any issues with availability, performance or functional correctness.

Tyk allows you to monitor performance through its user-friendly dashboard. You can also tweak your APIs there to optimise them, from shaping and managing traffic to implementing security and governance measures.

The power your platform team has been waiting for

With an API gateway in place, your platform team has the world at its feet. You can turn business processes into reusable, repeatable assets that support rapid scalability. All while controlling access with confidence and delivering a positive user experience.

Now that you’ve read up on the practicalities of implementing an API gateway for your platform team, why not take a look at our new online programme, ‘API platform engineering fundamentals’‘ – seven weeks and seven modules on the processes, people and API platforms that make platform teams successful!

The Tyk team is also always here for a chat if you have any specific questions or challenges we can help with.