SOA Governance Morphing into API Management

Loraine Lawson

Here’s a safe prediction: You’ll be hearing more sales pitches about API management in the New Year.

That’s a safe prediction because it’s already starting to happen.

Of course, API management isn’t new, but for most organizations, it also wasn’t particularly necessary.

But it’s going to become more relevant as SaaS and cloud are becoming more status quo than cutting edge, and as more companies offer their own APIs.

Here’s what’s going to annoy many of you about API management: In many cases, the same vendors that sell SOA governance tools will now be reselling those same solutions for API management.

Rebranded tends to annoy people, but from what I understand, it’s actually not so off target in this case, because both are designed to manage services. APIs are basically Web services, usually written with REST. Likewise, any SOA will be composed of services (Web, REST or otherwise).

But there are, of course, differences.

It would be easy to say APIs are external and SOA services are internal — but that’s not really true, as Software AG Director of Product Marketing Manmohan Gupta explained in a recent primer on API Management.

“The key difference lies in the objectives of these two initiatives,” Gupta writes. “API management is concerned with managing external APIs where consumers are unknown. SOA Governance, on the other hand, is about managing services with known consumers.”

By the way, the emphases are his. He also points out SOA consumers aren’t always internal, since you can have business partners that consume your services. But again, those business partners are known consumers.

(Full disclosure: I do write for, a vendor-neutral site that covers trends in B2B areas such as supply chain management, and it’s owned by Software AG.)

Of course, Software AG sells a SOA governance tool, so it’s in the company’s interest to minimize the difference.

But it’s not alone. In fact, Gartner noted in its 2011 Magic Quadrant for SOA Governance Technologies that “SOA governance in the cloud also overlaps consistently with API management …”

And this year, in its new Magic Quadrant for Application Infrastructure for Systematic SOA Infrastructure Projects, Gartner included API management as one of several important capabilities in evaluating a vendor’s ability to implement SOA governance.

(Forrester seems to take a bit more of a hardline about SOA, and doesn’t mention API management at all in its “The Forrester Wave™: Integrated SOA Governance, Q1 2012.”)

So, once we understand that, the question becomes: Are rebranded and even retooled SOA governance tools a good choice for API management? Are they perhaps even a better choice than solutions designed specifically for API management, by vendors focused on API development?

Heck if I know. The SOA governance vendors say yes, the API people say no.

For instance, a TechCrunch article offers this quote from Mashery CEO Oren Michels:

Enterprise API Management must include the entire Enterprise, not just the techies in IT. The SOA solution, and the other gateways as well, is focused on the IT person and not the business owner of the API program.

Ian Goldsmith, the vice president of product management for SOA Software, obviously sees it differently. He told TechCrunch that Mashery, Apigee and other “open API” market vendors aren’t up to the end-to-end management required by enterprise APIs.

TechCrunch writer Alex Williams seems skeptical about that statement in his piece, which evaluates SOA Software’s new management platform.

So, obviously, this issue is still open to both debate and (hopefully, at some point,) thorough analysis — which is why I feel pretty darn safe in predicting it’ll be a popular topic for next year.

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