In the development process of an Application Programming Interface (API), API virtualization is the last phase before the product is released into the market. It’s a means of testing out a fully functional virtual copy of the API, i.e. the closest that the API’s design team can work with before they declare it a sellable product.
Upfront, you can already see the advantage of having this one development stage precede any API’s commercial release—it means the API’s team can assess how well the API will work before the product launch, and not after it. It should very well pre-empt headaches on the part of the API team, as well as any bad impressions from third-party developers and end users.
If you’re part of the API team and have seen the project go from its stubbing, mocking, and simulation stages to full-on virtualization, then congratulations for making it this far. Like in the stubbing, mocking, and simulation stages, you shouldn’t expect development to be error-free upon virtualization, but this is definitely your chance to weed out the very last obstacles to your API’s launch.
And if you need to be reminded of how API virtualization will enrich the project, here’s a run-down of the good things it will yield for you.
1. Virtualization can go beyond the capacities of individual mocks.
In other words, this is the stage where you’ll be able to see the API as the sum of all its individual parts, the stage that will build on the advantages of open API mocking processes. You’ll be able to survey the API as it behaves in a more robust and less static manner than individual mocks. The full assembly will achieve more complex things, like record virtual API responses. You’ll also be able to run tests on the API that are more thorough in nature, such as its overall performance, its security, the smoothness of its integration, and the like.
2. It’s at the virtualization stage where you can shear down redundancies.
Speaking of integration, the API virtualization stage is where you can make it your primary focus. Now that you have all of the components in place, you can slowly trim down the number of redundancies there are in the structure. The fewer redundancies, the more seamless the integration experience will be for your API’s adopters.
3. During virtualization, the API’s development team can simulate errors in a safe, controlled, and adjustable environment.
At this stage, failure isn’t necessarily a bad thing—to be sure, you will want to confront what failure looks like on your API before your target users experience the failure for themselves. It’s during the virtualization stage that you can test error messages, determine rate limits, and note what happens to the API during downtime—all without worrying about real users suffering from real-life downtime at the moment.
4. The fine-tuning in the virtualization stage may speed up an API product’s time to market.
The less time the product spends in its testing and development phases (where costs can really build up), the better it will be for your company’s profits. Many API development companies like Stoplight understand that if you are efficient enough during virtualization, you can reduce the time API takes to get to market and collect the earliest possible profits from it.
5. You have the option to open up the API virtualization to a limited user and developer base.
This last benefit is completely up to you. If you think it would serve you well to get third party developers and users into the process early, and if you trust them enough, you can make the API virtualization available to them. They may be very grateful to you, as they’ll be able to get a complete picture of the API for themselves—so, in this case, API virtualization can be your first step toward building a whole community around your API.
API Virtualization can never be underestimated. The value it brings to the API development cycle is far too valuable for it to be overlooked. Once you’ve cleared the API virtualization stage with flying colors, it’ll be all systems go for your API product launch.