Building API platforms that delight – part 1: Central platform teams

Architecting, building and managing a performant, secure API platform is not always a painless process. But the potential gains can far outweigh the pain of not having one. If you’re just starting your API platform journey, read on to discover how to avoid the pitfalls and what you stand to achieve.

What is an API platform?

API platforms are the internal piping that permit seamless interfacing between applications and wider data platforms within an organisation – and sometimes even with external elements. Sitting as a wrapper around your API gateway, connecting everything so that you can easily develop, manage and publish APIs to enable others to securely consume them.

With everything passing through an API gateway, the API platform delivers:

  • Visibility, optimisation and governance of all APIs in an organisation and creation of an ‘API ecosystem’
  • API development lifecycle golden paths, automation and improved developer satisfaction across distributed development teams working on APIs
  • Enhanced security, improved latency, and more efficient data transfer for API consumers.


A simplified Tyk API platform architecture


Implementing an API platform drives digital governance by more granular API control and modernisation through more modular architectures. It also brings standardised DevOps best practices (e.g. GitOps or CI/CD) to your API development lifecycle while supporting more mature, overarching site reliability through enhanced central team tooling.

If you need to architect and prove the value of mature API management, or scale the use of API development tools and drive API adoption across teams, it’s time to consider the pain points below and how to overcome them. Doing so will help you govern and optimise your API ecosystem, ensuring delivery against key metrics as you implement your API platform.

Overcoming the pains of decentralised API management

Understanding the pain points associated with API management means you can factor in ways to overcome them or manage them when building your platform, as we’ve shown below.


API management pain point API platform strategy to overcome it
You need to identify and prioritise integration use cases from distributed applications and users. Taking a user-centric approach to listen to your distributed development teams, and starting small with the highest priority API development ‘golden paths’ and point to point integrations will help you demonstrate return on investment (ROI) from even your initial platform releases.
You need a dedicated team to centrally manage all your APIs, with all the associated cost and time implications. Starting with a ‘thinnest viable platform’ based around a key understanding of your organisation’s highest priority API management needs, means you can start small and iterate your path to API platform maturity, adding value incrementally along the way.
Support consumes a lot of your time, costing money and distracting from other tasks. Fully enriching your organisation-wide application monitoring with more transparent and more detailed API monitoring capabilities (such as that provided by OTel) means you can diagnose where issues lie within your application or platform stack much more quickly and resolve more easily.
You need to align and sync the team under a compliant and efficient topology. API platform adoption quickly enables you to put in place domain-driven or team topology style org structures, enabling distributed teams, automation and permitting compliance and DevOps at scale.
Your API engineers design API specs which conflict with the standard specs of your global org policy. Standard API stubs and templates shared via use of an ‘Open API specification’, and wider tooling (e.g. an API linter) make it easy to implement and check validity against globally defined API policy.
You have little awareness of third party API providers’ reliability, API performance and costs. Wrapping third party APIs into your API platform, e.g. as a proxy through your API gateway, will enable much greater visibility and control over all data flowing into and out of the organisation (and associated tooling use).
You need a strategy for updating the APIs across your organisation regularly, without breaking changes and for bringing users up to speed with changes. Linking to the benefits of centrally managed API standards, having globally enforced sections of your API specification (e.g. global security headers and rate limits), whilst enabling deeper customisation, means global changes can be inherited rather than edited.


The gains of a central API platform and distributed API development

Architecting and building a central API platform, and putting processes and resources in place to manage it as it matures, can deliver some big wins.

An API platform can:

  • Make APIs easier to develop, encouraging adoption of you API platform
  • Automate redundant tasks, streamlining processes and freeing up developer time
  • Bring standardisation to your API specifications, enhancing your API product design and delivery processes and timescales
  • Deliver advanced observability that reduces the time it takes to identify and troubleshoot errors, performance issues and their causes.

A well-managed, mature API platform can also support enhanced digital infrastructure security and governance. This gain is achieved through platform interoperability; that is, when you connect your API platform to your other internal developer platforms. By doing so, you can achieve control across your applications and wider data platforms, driving superior insights that can underpin better data driven decision-making and compliance.

The other major gain relates to developer satisfaction. No matter where your team members are based, they can all benefit from the automation, standardisation and development golden paths that an API platform can introduce. You are essentially providing guardrails within which developers can excel at designing valuable API products (whether internal or external). Developers enjoy centralised standards, easy collaboration and efficient evolution – the perfect recipe for a happy team.

At the same time as your developers are reaping the rewards of your API platform, your senior team can sleep easy at night. Standardisation means your API security can always be top-notch. It means you can ensure improved latency and more efficient data transfer too, meaning improved performance and happier consumers. Big wins all round.

Using Tyk for your API platform 

Tyk’s open source API gateway sits at the heart of all we do. The architecture that sits above it – Tyk Dashboard, Tyk API Developer Portal, Tyk Sync, Tyk Operator and everything else – provides a composable platform that you can use to manage your entire API ecosystem. Whether you deploy on your cloud or ours, you can use the components you need to build a flexible, reliable API platform for seamless central API management.

Why not book a Tyk demo to see for yourself? Or, explore our API platform maturity model to assess, set goals, allocate resources strategically, and foster collaboration within your team.