20 Nov 2023
by Nuwan Dias

API Gateways - Defining the Future of Cloud-Native Applications (Guest blog from WSO2)

Author: Nuwan Dias, Vice President & Deputy CTO - API Management and Integration at WSO2.

The emergence of cloud-native applications has made API gateways crucial for secure and scalable communication between microservices. However, the rise of the Kubernetes Gateway API and the Envoy Gateway project is pushing for standardisation and interoperability in this space. As the Gateway API becomes integral to the cloud-native ecosystem, the importance of traditional API gateway runtimes will decline, allowing organisations to benefit from a standardised API gateway and foster innovation among API gateway providers.

This blog explores how API gateways are adapting to meet the demands of modern cloud-native applications, including the concept of the API gateway as part of the cloud operating system, the roles of the emerging Kubernetes Gateway API and Envoy Gateway projects, and potential future advancements. 
API gateways have evolved to become crucial components in modern cloud-native applications. These applications are designed to take full advantage of cloud infrastructure, emphasising scalability, resilience, and flexibility. A typical cloud-native application consists of various components, including the front-end, Backend For Frontend (BFF) services, back-end services, and a database. The API gateway plays a pivotal role in orchestrating and managing communication between these components, simplifying development, enhancing performance, and bolstering security.

Front-end components are responsible for rendering user interfaces and interacting with end-users, often built with frameworks like React, Angular, or Vue.js. They communicate with back-end services via APIs exposed by the API gateway.
Meanwhile, BFF services function as intermediaries, aggregating and transforming data from various back-end services to fulfil specific front-end requirements. They encapsulate business logic, manage authentication, and optimise data delivery, and the API gateway plays a role in routing requests to the appropriate BFF service.

Back-end services in cloud-native applications are designed to be loosely coupled, independently deployable, and scalable, communicating through APIs. The API gateway is vital in routing and load balancing requests across these services.
The choice of a traditional relational database or a NoSQL database depends on the specific application requirements.

As modern applications embrace cloud-native principles, the API gateway is becoming an integral part of the cloud operating system. Kubernetes, the emerging operating system for cloud-native applications, abstracts underlying infrastructure, providing a unified API for deploying and managing containerised applications. It integrates with API gateways to create a comprehensive application delivery infrastructure. Kubernetes offers cloud portability, enabling organisations to deploy applications across various cloud providers and on-premises environments easily.
Therefore, API gateways are now becoming a part of the cloud operating system as cloud-native applications comprise numerous microservices communicating through APIs. Yet, managing, and securing APIs as the number of microservices grows can be complex, which is where the API gateway simplifies the process, offering a higher-level abstraction for APIs.

The Shift from API Gateway To Gateway API

The Kubernetes Gateway API has been introduced to make APIs a first-class citizen on Kubernetes, providing a standardised way to define and manage API gateways within the Kubernetes ecosystem. The Gateway API specification offers a consistent interface for configuring and operating API gateways, allowing for declarative configuration and ensuring portability and interoperability.
The Envoy Gateway project is a popular implementation of the Kubernetes Gateway API, offering advanced features such as load-balancing, service discovery, rate limiting, and observability. Integrating Envoy as a gateway implementation provides organisations with powerful capabilities while adhering to the Gateway API specification.

With the emergence of the Gateway API, the focus is shifting from the runtime to the API specification, making the actual API gateway runtime less relevant. Organisations can now choose different API gateway runtimes interchangeably without impacting the application code or configuration, promoting competition and innovation among API gateway vendors.

The Gateway API brings a significant shift in how APIs are configured and managed within Kubernetes, enabling developers and operations teams to define API gateway configurations directly in Kubernetes manifests, promoting consistency, versioning, and scalability. This shift simplifies the API management process, enhances collaboration, and leads to faster and more reliable API delivery.
As cloud-native applications continue to shape the future of software architecture, the API gateway is becoming an essential part of the cloud operating system. The Gateway API, along with Kubernetes, is driving standardisation and interoperability, enabling organisations to build cloud-native applications that are portable, flexible, and robust. The future holds the promise of the Gateway API becoming a vital pillar of the cloud-native ecosystem.


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 Nuwan Dias

Nuwan Dias

Vice President & Deputy CTO - API Management and Integration, WSO2