API Monitoring refers to the practice of monitoring Application Programming Interfaces, most commonly in production, to gain visibility into performance, availability and functional correctness. API Monitoring tools are designed to help you analyze the performance of your applications and improve poorly performing APIs. They provide measurements of how long a routine takes to execute, how often it is called, where it is called from, and how much of total time is spent executing that transaction. Monitoring helps teams answer these key questions: Are the APIs available? How are the APIs behaving? Are the APIs functioning as expected?

Recap- What is an API?

An Application Programming Interface (API) allows two systems to communicate with one another. An API essentially provides the language and contract for how two systems interact. Each API has documentation and specifications which determine how information can be transferred.

Just like a webpage is rendered, APIs can use HTTP requests to get information from a web application or web server.  

APIs are typically categorized as either SOAP or REST and both are used to access web services. SOAP relies solely on XML to provide messaging services, while REST offers a more lightweight method, using URLs in most cases to receive or send information. REST uses four different HTTP 1.1 verbs (GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE) to perform tasks.

Unlike SOAP, REST doesn’t have to use XML to provide the response. You can find REST-based Web services that output the data in Command Separated Value (CSV), JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) and Really Simple Syndication (RSS). The point is that you can obtain the output you need in a form that’s easy to parse within the language you need for your application.

 

Business Case for APIs

APIs expand the capabilities and functionalities you can offer, without putting a ton of resources behind integrations. To get the most out of APIs, businesses use APIs in the following ways:

  • Integrate with third party APIs
  • Build APIs for internal use
  • Build APIs and expose APIs for external use

APIs have potential to add value to your business for customers and employees alike. Understanding what an API endpoint is and how to measure performance is key in capturing the potential value APIs offer.

 

Why is API monitoring critical?

If APIs fail, your applications fail. APIs fuel modern applications. In digital transformation efforts, APIs are often the building blocks used to push organizations into the modern digital age. As a result, most applications depend on APIs for business critical transactions. Without truly understanding what's going on behind the scenes with each API endpoint or APIs called in sequence, organizations create blindspots in their performance. 

Think of a continuous cycle of development, testing, deployment and monitoring- as engineering organizations embrace Agile practices and other modern techniques for software development, testing and deployment, it is critical that monitoring becomes a required extension of that continuous integration cycle. Maintaining monitoring scripts with the correct and latest versions of the functional tests to ensure uninterrupted availability for the consumers of the services is critical in delivering the experience envisioned in the original design. 

If you are using APIs to provide services for the functioning of your app and they are either not available, functioning improperly, or not responsive, it impacts the performance of your app and impairs the end user experience.
 
API monitoring lifecycle
 
 

How Can I Monitor an API/Web Service?

Firstly, identify the APIs that you rely on, whether they're internally facing, public facing, partner APIs, or third-party APIs that you employ. Understanding which transactions and functional use cases that you need to have visibility into is a great second step in crafting an API Monitoring strategy that can transform your performance and MTTR. Once you've identified the key APIs and functionalities, determine if there are current test scripts or specifications available that could possibly be reused either to create new API Monitors or to save as a reference for Ops teams to use in scripting new monitors (required depending on what tool you select). 

From there, selecting a tool that can support these initiatives is vital.

Choosing an API Monitoring Tool

Similar to web monitoring, API monitoring provides crucial performance data from which developers and operations teams alike can use to improve user experience. There are a variety of tools available, but selecting an API Monitoring solution that can provide actionable data is essential, not only to increase your ROI, but to get genuinely useful performance data. When choosing a solution, it’s good to keep these functionalities in mind:

  1. Intuitive – You won’t use a tool you don’t understand. You especially won’t be able to take full advantage of the functionalities if you don’t like the tool. Finding an API monitoring tool that is easy to use and instinctual will reduce your ramp up time as well as increase the probability of your reliance on this tool.  
  2. Reuse – Find a tool that lets you use what you’ve got. Reuse scripts from the tools your API developers and testers use to avoid doing the same tasks twice.
  3. Run Options – Keeping your API monitors on a schedule that fits your needs is essential. Making sure you can run monitors in intervals of your preference or set blackout periods can be especially helpful when trying to gage performance over time. Almost just as important is the ability to run a monitor on demand – as either a test or a real run.
  4. Sequencing and Assertions – Accuracy is key. APIs transactions that require sequential functionalities should be able to be monitored, so you receive monitoring data that takes into account the big picture functionalities with the detailed step validations. While it’s imperative to understand the speed and availability of your API, functional correctness is even more important. If your API is returning the wrong data, you’ve fallen into the trap of the illusion of availability, where your customers encounter a broken system and you’re blissfully unaware. Making sure you can add assertions and validate the data the API returns is an essential functionality for an API monitoring tool.  
  5. Consumable and Shareable – A tool that can communicate data easily, swiftly, and clearly is vital to any operation. API performance is no exception. Selecting a tool that aggregates data and visualizes the data properly can help provide instant actionable insights for you to share with your teams to reduce your MTTR (mean-time-to-resolution).
  6. Adaptable – Tool stacks can include all sorts of software. Make sure you have a tool that is adaptable and flexible, so it can fit into your stack, whatever your preferences may be.
  7. Alerts – You have to actually know when something is wrong in order to fix it. Find a tool that prioritizes this, and you will be good to go!

 

How AlertSite Can Help

Getting API monitors up and running in AlertSite is easy. We’ve designed it to be the easiest, comprehensive API Monitoring platform in the market, and with API design and API testing tools in our belt, we’ve got you covered for all things API. AlertSite prioritizes the following aspects in its design:

  1. Intuitive – AlertSite is designed for pros and novices alike. Our user interface is intuitive and reactive, empowering anyone to create API monitors swiftly and painlessly. Our native API monitor creator gets you up and running in minutes.
  2. Reuse – Take the scripts your teams have already created to make an API monitor in AlertSite. Reuse SoapUI scripts, Swagger definitions and more.
  3. Run Options – With test on demand, run on demand, and blackout options, AlertSite offers customization where it matters most.
  4. Sequencing and Assertions – To cover the full functionality of your APIs, AlertSite monitors full API transactions, including those that need to be invoked in sequence. Assertions and Validations are essential and are part of the monitor creation process. Simply add in an assertion and we’ll validate the return data to make sure your APIs are functioning as intended.
  5. Consumable and Shareable – Data is great. We know that. We also know that being able to digest and act on the data is what makes a difference. Data in AlertSite is conveyed in powerful graphics with a sleek design that doesn’t skimp on details. With shareable monitor tiles, you can make sure your team is in the loop and ready to fix any issues that may arise.
  6. Adaptable – AlertSite integrates with the best of breed tools so we can fit seamlessly into your processes.
  7. Alerts – Last, but certainly not least, AlertSite has and always will prioritize optimizing our alerting capabilities. Accurately named, AlertSite has the fastest and most intelligent alerting capabilities in the market. Configurable and contextual, our alerts ensure you’re notified and informed when issues occur, and with object level detail, our error messages make it easy to spring into action.

Selecting a tool that fits seamlessly into your workflows with the capacity to montior the API endpoints and transactions that matter to your organziation is essential.  SmartBear's tools make it easy to move from design, to test, and through to production with the assets you need to create monitors in seconds. AlertSite helps organizations big and small monitor API performance, availability, and functional correctness from nodes all over the world. Getting started in AlertSite is painless and quick. Some of the ways you can create a new API monitors include

  1. Reuse OpenAPI Specification or Swagger Specification files
  2. Reuse Test Scripts from SoapUI and ReadyAPI 
  3. Creating a new API endpoint monitor by pasting the URL and adding assertions/validations
  4. Creating a chained API Endpoint Monitor natively in AlertSite using the Endpoints, URLs, and validations

 

To learn more about API Monitoring checkout AlertSite here.

 

Additional API Monitoring Resources