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Why OpenAPI Alone Won’t Create a Robust API Catalog

Posted by Michelle Niedernhuber on March 22, 2022
Why OpenAPI Alone Won’t Create a Robust API Catalog

The adoption of a microservices approach to product development, along with the decoupling of IT landscapes via APIs, has added layer upon layer of complexity to the process of API management. Organizations can have thousands or even tens of thousands of APIs. The sheer volume of APIs in play makes it hard to get a comprehensive overview of the full API landscape. What’s more, even when companies have taken the critical step of creating an API catalog, which can be difficult to maintain manually, it’s frequently the case that the catalog lacks contextual data on individual APIs.

To tackle this problem, companies rely on OpenAPI, one of the most widely adopted standards in the DevOps world. According to the folks at Swagger:

The OpenAPI Specification (OAS) defines a standard, language-agnostic interface to RESTful APIs which allows both humans and computers to discover and understand the capabilities of the service without access to source code, documentation, or through network traffic inspection.

Organizations look to OpenAPI as a means to standardize the design of their APIs. Unfortunately, while this specification does provide critical information concerning API capabilities, it cannot provide context regarding API ownership, technical dependencies, governance layers, business context, and so on.

So, how can companies create a robust API catalog that meets the critical needs of everyone from internal developers to citizen developers?

That’s where LeanIX Value Stream Management comes in.

From API Insight to API Management

An API catalog that contains the most basic information about your APIs is a good start, but it can’t drive real value within your dev organization or for the business at large. When you can supplement API information with a range of contextual data, it’s a different story.

Development Efficiency

The automated discovery capabilities built into LeanIX VSM make it possible for organizations to find APIs as well as understand how and where they are used, who owns them, and what rules govern them. Dev organizations then use this information to uncover and deprecate redundant APIs, accelerate the API standardization process, and promote API ownership more easily.

As a result, engineers, citizen developers, and non-technical stakeholders can efficiently discover and reuse APIs, saving them time and ensuring a more efficient use of resources for the organization as a whole.

Business Alignment

Automation also means that the API catalog is always up to date. The catalog can then function as a trusted source of API truth and as a common language connecting Product IT teams, Enterprise Architects and CTOs. Using this source of truth, which ties APIs to business context, stakeholders can make truly strategic architectural decisions directly linking business objectives to tangible IT deliverables.

How LeanIX VSM Integrates with OpenAPI

Mastering complexity in product development calls for complete transparency regarding technical dependencies. In addition to the business-context data mentioned above, LeanIX VSM reveals which software artifacts provide or consume APIs. This offers a complete picture of the technologies used for a particular API.

With LeanIX VSM and OpenAPI, you can discover APIs by seamlessly hooking into existing DevOps workflows, automatically pulling relevant OpenAPI specifications into VSM as API Fact Sheets. Development teams can further supplement this information by providing metadata external to the OpenAPI specification (e.g., team ownership, domain, etc.) to easily add meaningful context to these Fact Sheets.

After having discovered all the APIs in use, teams can link them with artifacts sourced from other integrated DevOps tools, such as CI/CD, K8s, or GitHub Teams. When you make complete, always up-to-date API data available throughout the organization, it reduces time spent looking for information as well as time spent unknowingly creating duplicates of existing work. It also empowers developers to quickly access information, removing unnecessary roadblocks.

Once your development teams have access to an API catalog like this, they’ll wonder how they ever functioned without it.

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