Cloud Services / Development

Managing APIs Is a Time Suck

2 Jan 2020 11:14am, by

Surveys published in December 2019 by Kong and Postman shed new light on the challenges of creating and managing an application programming interface (API) as opposed to just consuming APIs. The effort needed to provide an API is significant, with 63% of the over 10,000 people surveyed for the “2019 Postman State of the API Report” spending at least 10 hours a week working on APIs. The figure goes to 74% among the backend engineers surveyed, with 35% saying they actually spend more than 20 hours a week. Only 17% of front-end developers spend 20+ hours on APIs, which shows that APIs are a key component of the back-end.

Half (52%) of the time being spent on APIs is for development and design. Since Postman is a platform for API development, the people responding to its survey are more likely than the larger IT community to be focused on this topic. Manual testing and debugging was the only area in which respondents wish they could reduce the time spent on API-related activities. The issue is most notable among quality assurance (QA) engineers. Currently, they spend 40% of API-related time doing manual testing, but want that to drop to 24%. QA engineers imagine that their time would be better spent by allocating 48% of their API efforts to automated tests. Beyond the QA team, it appears that time savings from automated testing will not be re-invested into performance, but instead on API design.

Later in the survey, 55% of respondents said they think API documentation is below average or worse. 64% said that API providers can improve documentation by providing better examples.

Unpublished data from Kong’s “2020 Digital Innovation Benchmark” shows that APIs are most likely (68%) to be used to let developers inside respondents’ organization to consume applications and services. Allowing developers outside of the organization to consume applications/services (49%) and to utilize microservices (44%) are also common use cases. Just like the Postman survey, the Kong study focuses on API providers. When asked about the challenges related to managing APIs, a generic concern about security was mentioned most often, with a range of issues related to performance, traffic and documentation also on the radar. These challenges diverge from what consumers of care about most. As previously reported in a SmartBear study, ease of use, performance and accurate documentation are the top characteristics users of APIs look for.

We look forward to even more data that differentiates between between users and consumers of APIs. One possible source will be a survey about API integration that CloudElements is running and plans to report on later in the year. CloudElements’ Chief Product Officer Ross Garrett told The New Stack that he added a question in order to distinguish between software companies that provide their own platform versus those that are integrating APIs on a more ad hoc basis. We look forward to new research that distinguishes between companies that create an API for internal-only purposes and those that have API integrations built into their larger software product.

Feature image via Pixabay.

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