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COVID-19 Spike in Internet Traffic Impacts API Performance
John Cocke Principal Transformation Consultant | May 14, 2020
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Strategies for Addressing Pandemic-Related Challenges and Strengthening Your Digital Transformation

Who would have expected that a private research communications network founded in 1969 would become the Internet?

How many of us know that the Internet is, actually, 40,000 voluntarily connected autonomous networks?

Could anyone have foreseen the unprecedented challenge to this collective global infrastructure in spring 2020?

Who could have predicted that the challenge would be caused by a global pandemic?

According to Akamai, 83% of the internet traffic on its secure network is external-facing API traffic.* APIs, the connective tissue between people, between people and businesses, and between applications and databases, underpin user experiences that deliver products, services, and data. Irrespective of whether APIs perform well or poorly, they are a critical factor in IT performance, policy-based security, and enablement of digital transformation.

With the incomprehensible burden that the COVID-19 pandemic is thrusting onto businesses and governments, APIs can be either an impediment or a valuable point of leverage to address the changing demands from IT.

With the incomprehensible burdens that the Covid-19 pandemic is thrusting onto businesses and governments, APIs can be either an impediment or a valuable point of leverage to address the changing demands on IT.

What is Generating the Pressure?

Consider the case of a grocery store chain or manufacturer with years-old API strategy of sharing inventory data with supply chain partners. New demands are compelling them to reveal real-time inventory levels by sharing that data directly with consumers or other customers.

Also, consider the billions of private citizens, employees in the non-essential category, unemployed people, and others who are now either working (or looking for something to keep them busy) at home. The unprecedented use of video conferencing (Zoom, WebEx, GoToMeeting, and others) has put enormous pressure on wireless and broadband internet resources and, in turn, APIs. The entire population of consumers is connecting to internet service providers, causing stress between the desire for speed and the need for strong security — another area where APIs play a critical role.

Across businesses, government organizations, healthcare and information providers, and manufacturers, current demands on APIs go well beyond the original design specifications or any anticipated use case. This impacts external customers, IT operations teams, security and compliance teams, customer support, and others.

Meanwhile, IT organizations are rushing to mitigate these challenges. They’re developing new APIs or repurposing/reviving older APIs, then testing and deploying them to address emerging service needs coming from all corners of society.  

Why Does This Matter?

The spike in internet traffic due to COVID-19 impacts business performance. For example, longer customer response times lead to a perceived drop in performance and a poor customer experience. Focusing on API performance can help so that organizations benefit from increased traffic rather than being hurt by it.

As I noted above, APIs exert great influence on the services that organizations bring to market ─ customer experience, IT performance, security, and so on. Put another way, APIs are multipliers that either help or hinder your organization’s bottom line.

Even small improvements (or issues) in APIs will ripple through your business. They affect the performance of APIs and back-end services, whether they run in a local data center, on the cloud, in a partner's on-premises center, or in the partner’s cloud. The business services you offer to external customers via APIs involve a multitude of processes (yours and your partners’) composed of associated APIs and services that execute across the internet.

Your customer's response time experience is being degraded by your lack of readiness. You need to reduce business transaction friction to prevent customers from moving to another vendor.

What to Do?

Here’s how you can leverage APIM and AIOps capabilities to address short-term, pandemic-related challenges while also strengthening your digital transformation framework and contributing to long-term digital transformation goals.

Note: This discussion addresses primarily external-facing APIs since they entail more unknowns than internal APIs.

Since changes to external-facing APIs affect many internal groups, it’s important to marshal these teams before you work through this checklist to focus on potential problem areas.

Essential team members include:

  • business analysts
  • internal and contractor IT resources
  • digital transformation consultants and technical services providers

Essential tasks include:

  1. Identifying at-risk transactions, APIs, and back-end integration points
  2. Using current monitoring tools, collecting and reviewing with business and IT stakeholders performance statistics from production environments
  3. Identifying testing and monitoring tool gaps and API performance information gaps
  4. Identifying cloud-based or on-premises tools to license or trial, which can fill gaps and be utilized immediately
  5. Triaging solution approaches, perhaps using strict backlog grooming

None of these tasks is easy, but each is vital.

Applying Business and IT Resources in the Longer Term

Many organizations, especially large ones and those in high-growth, dynamic markets, have accumulated vast but poorly managed API inventories. Many legacy APIs go unused but, by default, are still tested regularly. Other APIs are heavily utilized and may be poorly understood due to employee turnover or poor documentation. Here are steps you can take:

  • View your APIs, the business services they provide, and the associated backend points from the vantage point of your consumers and clients. Consider overall customer experience, API performance, and security simultaneously.
  • Identify shortfalls in services that cross IT silos and impact various teams. Think across the digital bizOps cycle, from the initial business requirement, through feature definition, development, testing, release, production, and feedback, to IT and business stakeholders. Ultimately, this will strengthen the partnership between your business and IT stakeholders.
  • Assess API health and improve the quality of your API assets using proven API management (APIM) approaches, beginning with an inventory of your managed vs. unmanaged APIs and smart consideration and re-consideration of use cases.
  • Minimize exposure to threats by removing unnecessary components, services, and ports and configuring well-crafted and succinct rules and policies.
  • Review and document your security operations framework, APIM and IDAM policies, standards, support, and patch management services to strengthen the day-to-day access to and security of your gateway.
  • Use combined APIM and AIOps capabilities, such as log management, unified monitoring, and event correlation, to immediately strengthen analysis and discovery of performance and security shortfalls.

Reference

*Akamai: [state of the internet]/security Retail Attacks and API Traffic Report: Volume 5, Issue 2