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What are some solid options for open source API management tools?

While organizations have plenty of proprietary API management tools to choose from, there are plenty of open source options as well. Here are some of the top open source tools.

APIs are the fuel that powers all interactions between applications behind the scenes. APIs have become essential...

to enabling services to talk to each other, especially as more enterprises shift to distributed architectures, like microservices.

While many tend to go the commercially supported API route and make use of proprietary tools, an increasing number of organizations are making use of publicly available open source tools. Let's look at the top open source API management tools available today.

Kong

Created by Mashape, Kong acts as a management layer for all your APIs. It sits between the microservices that contain the API agents and the load balancer that routes requests across all APIs. Powered by Nginx, Kong excels at distributing API tasks, whether on premises or in the cloud. It can be set up in a single or multi-data center environment and is compatible with any modern infrastructure stack.

Based on plug-ins, Kong is easy to extend and has ready-made plug-ins for many popular services. For example, it can be used to manage and invoke Amazon Web Services Lambda functions, and monitoring data can be sent to a monitoring tool, like Datadog, or a logging service, like Loggly.

Tyk

Tyk is another capable open source API management tool. It can be set up by yourself on premises, or you can pay to use a version hosted by Tyk. A recently launched Kubernetes integration also lets you set up Tyk in a Google Cloud Kubernetes container cluster. Central to the Tyk experience is its API gateway; it's actually Tyk's API that lets you manage your own API requests.

Tyk is evolving quickly, and you'll need to keep a close watch on all its releases since many come with major updates. Tyk claims that v2.3 can handle more than double the traffic of v2.2. This fast pace of development makes it hard to document every change adequately. Some very new features may not be included in the main product documentation and are found in the release notes. While Tyk does report on performance and error metrics, it could do better at showing the details of the errors, which can help with root cause analysis.

Like Kong, Tyk is also easy to extend. There are already integrations with many tools, such as logging integration with Logstash. You can also write plug-ins for Tyk in a range of languages, including gRPC and Python. You should plan on eventually integrating plug-ins into the open source software core of Tyk.

API Umbrella

Developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, API Umbrella powers the popular data.gov website. API Umbrella provides all the standard API management features, including key management, rate limiting and analytics. It features a web admin interface and has well-indexed documentation.

The market for open source API management tools is buzzing with activity.

Unlike the previous open source API management tools, which feature commercial hosted options, API Umbrella only has an open source option. This means you will be fully dependent on the community for support. However, there is an active community backing this project, and new releases are quite frequent.

A buzzing market

Clearly, the market for open source API management tools is buzzing with activity, and you'd be spoiled for choice trying to pick the best among them. In addition to the tools mentioned above, you should also consider taking a look at WSO2, ApiAxle and Fusio offerings.

Next Steps

What do API management platforms offer that a piecemeal tool set can't?

Access our essential guide to API management strategies and tools

The open source movement is moving beyond software -- and into our lives

This was last published in August 2017

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