Organizations have become API-centric to allow Data Integration with third-party applications for business growth. However, diverse clients require varied data and effective network performance, for which developers have to spend significant time designing API tiers. To mitigate such challenges, AWS REST API Gateway offers a fully managed service to create, publish, maintain and secure APIs at scale. It streamlines all tasks that involve accepting and processing concurrent API calls, including traffic management, monitoring, authorization, and access control. In addition, the tiered pricing models must reduce costs and allow enterprises to leverage AWS REST API as per the API usage plan.
This article discusses the stages of using API Gateway for building AWS REST API. It introduces you to API Gateway and the parameters involved while developing, publishing, and optimizing REST API.
Table of Contents
What is AWS?
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is Amazon’s cloud service platform that allows users to design and deploy end-to-end applications in the cloud using a variety of cloud computing services. AWS includes approximately 200 fully-featured services, including Analytics, Storage, Database, Application Services, Internet of Things, Security, and Deployment, and it operates from several geographical areas across the world. AWS is also very cost-effective since it eliminates the need to manage a huge infrastructure to keep databases and servers up to date. AWS is popular among developers and organizations for expanding and promoting their businesses to the next level because it provides such comprehensive and secure cloud services.
What are REST APIs?
By offering publicly available codes and information pipelines, an Application Programming Interface (API) establishes a connection between computers or between computer programs (applications). It’s a form of software interface that acts as a middleman between different pieces of software to help them communicate more efficiently. Different types of APIs (such as Program, Local, Web, or REST API) aid developers in constructing powerful digital solutions due to varying application designs.
REST APIs are a lightweight and flexible way to integrate computer applications. REST APIs are a straightforward and standardized method of communication, which means you don’t have to worry about how to format your data because it’s all standardized. REST APIs are also scalable, so you won’t have to worry about increasing complexity as your service grows. You may quickly make changes to your data and track them across Clients and Servers. They support caching, which helps to assure excellent performance.
What is Amazon API Gateway?
API stands for Application Programming Interface — A software mediator that takes your request to the desired provider and delivers the request back to you. An API can be classified into many types depending on the application. However, an API strictly adhering to REST Architecture is a REST API. REST technology uses less bandwidth, and higher flexibility, making it more suitable for web applications.
On the other hand, Amazon API Gateway is an AWS service to develop, publish, maintain, and secure REST, HTTP, and WebSocket APIs at the desired scale. It helps API developers create APIs that can access AWS or other web services. With API Gateway, developers can also create APIs for their client applications or make them available for third-party app developers. Some features that assist API Gateway to create RESTful APIs are:
- Stateless Client-Server Communication.
- Standard HTTP methods that follow CRUD operations.
In API Gateway, a REST API is a collection of resources and methods integrated with HTTP endpoints, Lambda functions, or other AWS services. API Gateway facilitates all aspects of the API Lifecycle, from creating API to monitoring it in production. As it uses a request/response model, the client sends a request to a service, and the service responds synchronously. This kind of model is suitable for applications that depend on synchronous communication.
Developing AWS REST APIs
The development of API invariably depends on the number of desired characteristics for a given use case. Some of the stages for developing REST API are as below:
1) Creating a REST API
A REST API has a collection of programmable entities called API Gateway resources, and each Resource entity has one or more Method resources. A Method defines an interface for the client to either access exposed Resource or represents an incoming request submitted by the client. Methods with backend endpoints are integrated by creating ‘Integration’ resources to forward incoming requests.
An API endpoint type refers to the hostname of an API that can be edge-optimized (default), regional, or private, depending on where the API majorly traffic originates. To read more about the setup of API, you can know more about the API Gateway console.
For responses, a ‘MethodResponse’ resource is created to represent ‘requests responses’ received by clients. Similarly, ‘IntegrationResponse’ is created to represent request responses returned by the backend. In API Gateway, an API method uses HTTP requests and responses that can be configured in the API Gateway console.
2) Controlling and Managing Access
API Gateway supports multiple mechanisms for controlling and managing access to API. The Amazon resource policies are JSON documents attached to control whether a specified principal can invoke API. Resource policies allow an API to be securely invoked by:
- Users from the mentioned AWS account.
- Address ranges or CIDR blocks of specified source IP.
- Specified Virtual Private Clouds (VPCs) or VPC endpoints.
API Gateway facilitates control access with IAM permissions, tags, lambda authorizers, and Amazon Cognito user pool.
3) Setting up REST API Integrations
Configuring an integration request involves:
- Configuration of passing clients.
- Submitting method request to the backend.
- Transforming the requested data.
- Specifying incoming requests to an HTTP server.
- Specifying AWS service actions to invoke.
Before proceeding with integration requests, the configuration of API also allows performing basic validation to reduce unnecessary calls at the backend.
Publishing AWS REST APIs
Developing an AWS REST API in API Gateway does not automatically call users. To do so, one has to deploy an API on stage (named reference to a deployment) that helps manage and optimize a particular deployment. Additionally, it allows you to customize URLs that users leverage to access API and give a domain consistent with the desired brand. Some initial steps to publish REST APIs are as follows:
1) Deploying a REST API
To deploy REST API, instantiate the ‘Deployment’ resource and use the below command to create a deployment:
Even if deployment is done, an API is not callable until deployment is associated with a stage. When the deployment of an API is done for the first time, deployment and stage creation are combined at the same time, as shown below:
2) Setting up Custom Domain Names
Custom domain names are innate and straightforward URLs provided to API users. An API’s custom domain name requires a registered domain name, providing a certificate in a region where AWS Certificate Manager is supported. Custom domains map the alternative URL to your API. Below is the default and customized URL format (more user-friendly):
Here API Gateway generates ‘API-id,’ region (AWS Region) is specified by the user when creating the API, and the stage is specified when deploying the API.
Optimizing Performance of AWS REST APIs
After an API is callable, it would need optimization to improve responsiveness. Below are a few strategies that API Gateway provides:
1) Enabling API Caching
Enabling API caching in Amazon API Gateway caches endpoint responses. As caching reduces the number of calls made to your endpoint, it certainly improves the latency of requests to API. Although API Gateway enables caching at a specified stage, users have to decide on cache capacity.
2) Enabling Payload Compression
API Gateway also enables clients to call your API with compressed payloads by selecting one of the supported content codings. By default, API Gateway supports the decompression of the method request payload. However, an API must be configured to allow compression of the method response payload.
API Gateway helps to enable or disable compression for an API. To enable compression on an API, set the minimum compression size property to a positive integer between 0 and 10485760 (10M bytes). It can be done either during the creation of the API or after you’ve created the API. To disable compression on the API, either set the minimum compression size to null or obliterate it.
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Distributing AWS REST API to Clients
Distributing an API includes the generation of a Software Development Toolkit (SDK) for customers, who will download and integrate it with their client applications. It also includes documentation of API, making an API discoverable in the developer portal, and availing API as a product offering. Follow the below parameters to distribute REST API effectively:
1) Usage Plans and API keys
After you create, test, and deploy API, it is offered as a product for customers via API Gateway usage plans. Configuration of usage plans and API keys allow customers to access the desired APIs at agreed-upon request rates and quotas that meet business requirements and budget constraints. A usage plan specifies who can access the desired portion of deployed stages at what speed. The plan uses API keys to identify API clients and meters access to associated API stages. It also allows configuring throttling and quota limits enforced on individual client API keys.
2) API Documentation
Documentation helps customers understand and use your API. An API Gateway allows adding/updating help content for individual API entities as an integral part of the API development process.
3) SDK Generation
Protecting your AWS REST APIs
To protect API from malicious users or spikes in traffic, API Gateway provides some ways like — generating SSL certificates, configuring a firewall, setting throttling limits, and only allowing access from a VPC. Below are two ways to protect REST APIs:
1) Configure TLS Authentication
Mutual Transport Layer Security (TLS) certificate requires two-way authentication between the client and the server. To configure mutual TLS, you need a custom domain name, at least one certificate configured in AWS Certificate Manager for your custom domain name, and a trust store configured and uploaded to Amazon S3.
2) Configuring SSL Certification for Backend Authentication
API Gateway helps generate Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates that use its public key in the backend to verify whether HTTP requests are from API Gateway. The SSL certificates are self-signed, and only the certificate’s public key is visible in the API Gateway console.
Monitoring AWS REST APIs
Monitoring improves API performance by logging errors and tracing execution. API Gateway helps monitor your API with CloudWatch metrics, CloudWatch Logs, Kinesis Data Firehose, and AWS X-Ray.
1) CloudWatch Metrics
CloudWatch collects and processes raw data from API Gateway into readable, near real-time metrics to monitor API. These statistics are recorded for 15 months that help derive a better perspective of a web application. By default, API Gateway automatically sends metric data to CloudWatch every minute, which can later be used to monitor the responsiveness of the backend, overall responsiveness of API calls, and optimize cache capacities.
AWS X-Ray is used to trace and analyze user requests as they travel through your AWS REST APIs to the underlying services. X-Ray tracing is supported by all API endpoint types and all AWS regions. As X-Ray gives an end-to-end view of an entire request, it analyzes API’s latency and back-end services. API Gateway allows you to configure sampling rules in X-Ray that requests records at desired sampling rates.
Since Amazon API Gateway accounts merit to developers, it not only improves user experience, but businesses can focus more on the innovation of products. It acts as the front door for applications to access data, business ideas, or functionalities from backend services.
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