How to Tackle Anomalies in RESTful APIs (the Right Way)

Software Developer Managing APIs

No doubt, RESTful APIs have become a critical component of modern software development, favored for its simplicity, scalability, and flexibility. However, with this increased reliance on RESTful APIs comes the challenge of anomalies. In this blog post, we will talk about API management and how to properly tackle anomalies in RESTful APIs.

What is API Management

API management refers to the process of creating, publishing, securing, and monitoring application programming interfaces (APIs) in a scalable and secure manner. Properly managing APIs is essential for ensuring that they are available, reliable, and easy to use for developers and consumers.

API Management Best Practices

Here are some best practices for managing APIs:

  • Design: Start with designing an API that meets the needs of developers and consumers. Proper API design includes defining the endpoints, the request and response payloads, and the authentication and authorization mechanisms.
  • Security: APIs should be secured to prevent unauthorized access and protect sensitive data. This can be achieved by implementing proper authentication and authorization mechanisms, such as OAuth 2.0 or JSON Web Tokens (JWT), and by encrypting data in transit and at rest.
  • Documentation: API documentation should be thorough and updated regularly. It should include details about the endpoints, request and response formats, error codes, and other relevant information that developers and consumers need to use the API effectively.
  • Testing: APIs should be thoroughly tested before they are published. This includes functional testing, performance testing, and security testing.
  • Monitoring: APIs should be monitored to detect issues and identify opportunities for optimization. This includes monitoring for uptime, latency, throughput, error rates, and other performance metrics.
  • Versioning: As APIs evolve, it is important to version them to avoid breaking changes for consumers. Versioning allows developers to continue using older versions of the API while new features are added to newer versions.
  • Analytics: Analytics can provide valuable insights into how APIs are being used and how they can be optimized. Analytics can also help identify potential security threats and performance issues.

Properly managing APIs is essential for ensuring that they are effective, efficient, and secure, with fewer anomalies to worry about.

Read: Benefits of Integrating APIs for Developers

What are API Anomalies?

API anomalies are unexpected deviations from normal API behavior. They can manifest in various ways, such as increased response times, error rates, or even downtime. API anomalies can be caused by a variety of factors, such as changes to APIs, network issues, server issues, or security threats.

What Causes API Anomalies?

API anomalies can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Changes to APIs: Changes to APIs, such as adding or removing endpoints or changing the data formats, can cause anomalies in API performance. It is important to thoroughly test APIs after making any changes to ensure that they continue to perform as expected.
  • Network issues: Network issues, such as high latency or packet loss, can cause API anomalies. These issues can be caused by problems with the network infrastructure or by high levels of traffic.
  • Server issues: Server issues, such as high CPU or memory usage, can cause API anomalies. These issues can be caused by poorly optimized code or by high levels of traffic.
  • Third-party dependencies: APIs that rely on third-party dependencies, such as external databases or services, can be susceptible to anomalies if those dependencies experience issues.
  • Security threats: Security threats, such as DDoS attacks or attempts to exploit vulnerabilities in the API, can cause anomalies in API performance. Proper security measures, such as rate limiting and API key management, can help mitigate these risks.
  • Load spikes: Load spikes, such as sudden increases in traffic, can cause API anomalies. It is important to design APIs to handle these spikes and to scale infrastructure as needed.

Example of an API Anomaly

Company X, a popular e-commerce website that relies heavily on its API to provide real-time inventory updates to its customers, experienced a bug in its API code. This caused it to double-count the available inventory, leading to the website displaying an inaccurate number of available items. Customers who tried to purchase the item were met with an error message, and the website's support team was flooded with calls and emails from frustrated users. The issue was quickly identified and resolved, but the website's reputation took a hit, and some customers switched to a competitor.

This is how much an API anomaly can cost a company. Therefore, there is need to implement strategies that will effectively address the malaise of API downtime.

How to Tackle Anomalies in RESTful API

RESTful API, or Representational State Transfer API, is a web-based API designed to be scalable, maintainable, and easily accessible over the internet. It is built on top of HTTP, which is the protocol that powers the web.

Over the years, RESTful APIs have become a favorite among many popular web applications and services, including social media platforms, e-commerce websites, mobile applications, etc. This is due to its simplicity, scalability, and flexibility. But with much usage come peculiar challenges. And one of those challenges faced by RESTful API (and indeed, APIs in general) is anomalies.

Read: What You Need to Know About REST APIs

API anomalies are bad for business; they cause downtime and latency degradation, which can not only affect the performance of your APIs, but also the reputation of your company. Tackling API anomalies is a mandatory activity for every API developer and tech company. We cannot tell when APIs will fail, and Gartner posits that the average cost of IT downtime is $5,600 per minute, which extrapolates to well over $300,000 p/hour.

API Anomaly Dashboard on APIToolit Image source: API anomaly dashboard on APIToolkit

Here are key strategies you can use to tackle API anomalies in RESTful APIs:

Define Normal API Behavior

Before you can detect API anomalies, you need to define what constitutes normal API behavior. This involves setting baseline metrics, such as response times, error rates, and throughput, that your API should meet under normal conditions. You can use these metrics as a benchmark for detecting anomalies.

Monitor APIs

Effective API monitoring is key to detecting anomalies before they cause significant disruptions. Use a tool like APIToolkit to track key metrics such as response times, latency distribution, error rates, and throughput. Receive alerts that notify you when these metrics deviate from normal behavior. This can help you catch API anomalies early and address them before they become major problems. APIToolkit uses machine learning algorithms to detect anomalies in real-time, such as unusual traffic patterns or abnormal usage behavior.

APIToolkit Anomaly Detection Dashboard Source: APIToolkit's app interface.

Read: Best API Monitoring and Observability Tools in 2023

Investigate Anomalies

When you detect an API anomaly, investigate it promptly. Look for potential causes, such as changes to APIs, network issues, or server issues. APIToolkit can help you with API tracing to pinpoint the source of the issue. This can help you address the issue quickly and minimize its impact on your system.

APIToolkit Logs and Metrics Explorer Source: APIToolkit's query explorer.

Implement Safeguards

Implementing safeguards such as rate limiting, caching, and load balancing may prevent API downtime from occurring. Rate limiting can help prevent overloading APIs by limiting the number of requests that can be made within a certain period. Caching can help improve API performance by storing frequently accessed data in memory. Load balancing can distribute traffic across multiple servers to prevent any one server from being overwhelmed.

Read: Top 7 Reasons Why Your Team Should Use an API Monitoring Tool

Continuously Improve

To tackle API anomalies effectively, you need to continuously improve your monitoring and observability processes. Regularly review your baseline metrics to ensure they are up to date and accurately reflect normal API behavior. Evaluate your monitoring tools to ensure they are effective in detecting anomalies. Seek feedback from your API users to understand their experiences and identify areas for improvement.

APIToolkit uses best-in-class technology to detect and resolve anomalies in RESTful APIs. We utilize advanced AI and machine learning algorithms to perform thorough API anomaly detection.

Get started with APIToolkit.

Recommended Post: How to Generate Automated API Documentation

Recommended Post: How to Write API Documentation: 10 Essential Guidelines

Recommended Post: API Documentation vs API Specification: What It Means for You

Recommended Post: API Observability vs API Monitoring: What's the Difference?