The lifecycle of an API describes the stages of an API from the time it is incepted to the time it is retired. When an organization wants to develop an API, they plan the entire process, knowing that a time will come when the API might no longer be useful, hence the need for retirement. This entire lifecycle of the API needs to be managed, signifying the importance of API lifecycle management.
API lifecycle management involves managing the different stages of the API. This includes the management of requirements, computer programs, software architecture, software maintenance, software testing, continuous integration management, change management, and release and retirement management. All these processes are important in the life of any API and dictate the success of the API.
Why API Lifecycle Management
Applications Programming Interfaces have made it easy for organizations to reuse libraries and frameworks. They (organizations) use APIs as contracts between client applications and other frameworks or libraries, assuming that the APIs are stable. For instance, organizations are able to reach their customers through applications in their smart devices, such as smartphones. This explains why smartphones have disrupted the technology race, of course through APIs.
However, APIs are not stable and change over time depending on the different requirements of both the organizations and their customers. When building new APIs, organizations should make sure that they have a set of requirements that the API should meet, as well as build them in a way that would be easy for them to handle future changes.
When there are changes somewhere in the lifecycle of an API, developers need to find a way of migrating all applications that rely on the API for their operations. To make these migrations easy and straightforward, developers are required to manage all the steps in the lifecycle of an API.
To make sure that everything works as expected, developers should find the best model of API lifecycle management, depending on the requirements and functionalities of their API. There are different models of API lifecycle management, the most common include;
1. Deprecation Model
The deprecation model of API lifecycle management is comprised of three stages; the creation, deprecation, and removal stages. An API goes through the creation stage after it has been designed to expose and provide functionalities to API users. After being used extensively, the API might develop issues or become faulty affecting the operations of all applications that implement it.
At this stage, developers might decide to deprecate it and then start the process of having it removed and replaced, or maybe develop another version of the API to make sure that business operations are not affected.
2. Non-Deprecation Model
This is another common model of API lifecycle management. This model contains only two stages; the creation stage and the removal stage. This means that when developing an API following this model, it is assumed that the API will never at any given point become deprecated.
In this model, an API gets to the creating stage where it is designed, created, and exposed to users. While at this stage, and as the API continues to serve its purposes, users might get to a point where they feel that the API is not sufficient enough to handle all their requirements. When this happens, the API does not get deprecated but is directly removed from the organization when new versions of APIs or libraries are released, even without any planning.
3. Hybrid Model
The hybrid model of API lifecycle management combines the deprecated and non-deprecated models discussed above. In this model, the creation stage of an API can lead to the removal stage in two different ways. An API can follow either of the paths discussed in the two models above until it is removed or retired. The only problem with this model is the fact that it inherits all the shortcomings of the two models discussed above.
Even though an organization might decide to use any of the models of API lifecycle management discussed above, it is important to note that managing an API through the different stages of its life is very important and dictates how successful the API will be. Organizations can use management tools that guide them through the entire process, making it easy, straightforward, and making sure that every step is looked into carefully and any issues eliminated.