What's Next for APIs: Performance Tuning

Kin Lane
Jul. 13 2011, 02:00PM EDT

As the Web API space heats up, it's becoming more difficult to differentiate yourself and attract developers. And so it's crucial that your API can perform well. Performance isn’t just about processing requests and delivering responses quickly. As Netflix experienced this year, understanding how users makes calls, why they make the calls they do, and what should be contained in your API payload is critical.

NetflixWith 37x growth in 13 months, the Netflix API has been a success. But did the number of calls on the API directly equal success? Or was it evidence of flaws in the API design? In other words, could the API be less chatty and structure its payloads in more optimal ways?

To figure this out, you need some performance analytics. There are several metering and analytics tools for API owners to employ these days. These can help you play API gatekeeper and traffic cop. But when it comes to performance analysis, it may be that you need something that will track a little deeper.

New Relic is a real-time performance analytics suite for web applications, but their tools can be just as easily applied to deeply analyze the operations of a RESTful API as a Web application.

In addition to offering a window into real-time API operations, New Relic can provide insight into how your change management process is affecting your performance, from version to version. Every time new code is written and released, New Relic can provide visibility into whether its performing optimally compared to earlier version.

Another area New Relic can be applied is to help gauge scalability. It can help you assess the performance of your API as you scale it up and down to meet the demands of your customers.

In addition to the necessary server-side plugins and web dashboard for API monitoring, New Relic provides its own RESTful API for accessing API metrics and dashboard elements. All of this can provide some unprecedented visibility into your API operations.

Kin Lane I am a programmer and entrepreneur, with a focus on the business of APIs. I study how APIs are changing the business landscape, and the rise of API driven developer ecosystems. I share my insights by blogging on API Evangelist and ProgrammableWeb, and put into action as API evangelist for CityGrid.

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