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New API Management Solution from NGINX Optimized for Internal and External APIs

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The NGINX API Management Module announced at the NGINX Conference in October last year is now generally available. Liam Crilly, director of product management at NGINX, describes the new module together with NGINX Plus and NGINX Controller as a next generation API management solution, and notes that it is optimized for handling both external and internal APIs in a microservices environment where the number of internal APIs can be significant and there is also extensive internal traffic.

Crilly emphasizes that in the new solution the traffic between consumers and the application or service implementing the API (API runtime traffic, also referred to as the data plane) is isolated from the traffic controlling the APIs (API management traffic, also referred to as the control plane). This improves performance by minimizing the traffic that must be routed through the control plane and reduces the average response time to serve an API call.

Another feature noted is that the gateway has a very small footprint. This increases flexibility by enabling the use of either one large centralized gateway handling all traffic, or a number of distributed gateways in front of each service in a microservices based application. In both cases, the same performance is delivered with the same functionality available. It can be deployed in various environments, for instance in public and private clouds, virtual machines and containers, or directly on a physical server.

The need for a local database has been removed by putting all configuration and policies, which includes all API keys and all microservices routing rules, into the native NGINX configuration. This in turn removed the need for database connections when processing calls, and made it possible to keep the core performance characteristics of NGINX when used together with the new API Management solution. Crilly also notes that because of the way configuration is done, they don’t have any runtime dependencies — the NGINX instance will handle traffic even if everything else dies.

Other features of the new API management solution include:

  • API definition and publication. Used for defining base paths and URIs, and publishing to different environments
  • Rate limiting, using both request and bandwidth limits; can also be used to mitigate DDoS attacks
  • Authentication and authorization, using API keys and JSON Web Token (JWT)
  • Realtime monitoring and alerting, including graphs and alerts of metrics, and dashboards for visualizing metrics and troubleshooting

Crilly finally notes that over 30% of their open source community and 40% of their commercial customers use NGINX as an API gateway, and that many other API gateway solutions also use NGINX as the core proxy engine. Managing the configuration for many APIs can be quite complex, but with the experiences they have gained from these customers and put into the new API management solution, he believes they now have a technology stack to even better support their customers.

In an interview last year, Daniel Bryant from InfoQ sat down with NGINX representatives and discussed their views on the future of networking and data centre communication.

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