Amazon enters another market with their API Gateway

What a surprising coincidence: on the same day we were preparing our Leadership Compass on API Security Management for publication, Amazon has announced their own managed service for creating, publishing and securing APIs – Amazon API Gateway. Well, it’s already too late to make changes in our Leadership Compass, but the new service is still worth having a look, hence this blog post.

Typically for Amazon, the solution is fully managed and based on AWS cloud infrastructure, meaning that there is no need to set up any physical or virtual machines or configure resources. The solution is tightly integrated with many other AWS services and is built directly into the central AWS console, so you can start creating or publishing APIs in minutes. If you already have existing backend services running on AWS infrastructure, such as EC2 or RDS, you can expose them to the world as APIs literally with a few mouse clicks. Even more compelling is the possibility to use AWS Lambda service to create completely managed “serverless” APIs without any need to worry about resource allocation or scaling.

In fact, this seems to be the primary focus of the solution. Although it is possible to manage external API endpoints, this is only mentioned in passing in the announcement: the main reason for releasing the service seems to be providing a native API management solution for AWS customers, which until now had to manage their APIs themselves or rely on third-party solutions.

Again typically for Amazon, the solution they delivered is a lean and no-frills service without all the fancy features of an enterprise API gateway, but, since it is based on the existing AWS infrastructure and heavily integrates with other well-known services from Amazon, with guaranteed scalability and performance, extremely low learning curve and, of course, low prices.

For API traffic management, Amazon CloudFront is used, with a special API caching mechanism added for increased performance. This ensures high scalability and availability for the APIs, as well as reasonable level of network security such as SSL encryption or DDoS protection. API transformation capabilities, however, are pretty basic, only XML to JSON conversion is supported.

To authorize access to APIs, the service integrates with AWS Identity and Access Management, as well as with Amazon Cognito, providing the same IAM capabilities that are available to other AWS services. Again, the gateway provides basic support for OAuth and OpenID Connect, but lacks the broad support for authentication methods typical for enterprise-grade solutions.

Analytics capabilities are provided by Amazon CloudWatch service, meaning that all API statistics are available in the same console as all other AWS services.

There seems to be no developer portal functionality provided with the service at the moment. Although it is possible to create API keys for third-party developers, there is no self-service for that. In this regard, the service does not seem to be very suitable for public APIs.

To summarize it, Amazon API Gateway is definitely not a competitor for existing enterprise API gateways like products from CA Technologies, Axway or Forum Systems. However, as a native replacement for third-party managed services (3scale, for example), it has a lot of potential and, with Amazon’s aggressive pricing policies, it may very well threaten their market positions.

Currently, Amazon API Gateway is available in selected AWS regions, so it’s possible to start testing it today. According to the first reports from developers, there are still some kinks to iron out before the service becomes truly usable, but I’m pretty sure that it will quickly become popular among existing AWS customers and may even be a deciding factor for companies to finally move their backend services to the cloud (Amazon cloud, of course).


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