Mar 7, 2024api observability

Navigating API Observability: Gateway vs Container-Level Monitoring. How to Choose the Right Path (or Not)

An increasing need for API Observability has led organizations to consider alternative tools to understand data and API performance based on the information needed and current data structures. Gateway-level and container-level monitoring offer differing advantages depending on business objectives.

In recent posts, we have established the increasing enterprise appetite for API Observability that goes beyond traditional monitoring functionality. This need has led some organizations to consider alternative tools and methods to better understand data and API performance based on the type of information to be collected, the level of detail required, and the current data structure. Monitoring APIs at the gateway or container levels offers unique benefits dependent upon an organization's specific usage requirements and objectives.

Let's explore the advantages of best use cases for each approach to choose the right path:

Advantages of Gateway Level API Monitoring:

Centralized Control: API gateways serve as centralized entry points for all incoming and outgoing API traffic, ideal for monitoring and managing API interactions.

  • Use Case: Enforcing centralized policies, such as authentication, authorization, rate limiting, and traffic shaping, ensuring consistent behavior and compliance across all APIs.

Security Enforcement: Gateways are essential in enforcing security policies and mitigating potential threats.

  • Use Case: Plan for and monitor the use of robust security controls, such as API key validation, JWT (JSON Web Token) verification, and API schema validation, to protect against common security vulnerabilities and attacks

Traffic Management: Typical API gateways feature advanced traffic-management capabilities, including load balancing, caching, routing, and protocol transformation.

  • Use Case: Gain insights into traffic patterns, performance metrics, and usage trends to optimize resource allocation, improve scalability, and enhance service reliability.

Aggregated Metrics: API gateways provide centralized logging and monitoring capabilities, allowing organizations to aggregate and analyze API metrics and logs from multiple sources.

  • Use Case: Capture a comprehensive view of API performance, availability, and usage across an entire infrastructure, simplifying troubleshooting, capacity planning, and performance optimization.

Advantages of Monitoring APIs at the Container Level:

Granular Visibility into API Interactions: Monitoring APIs at the container level provides detailed insights into API interactions within individual containers, regardless of whether an API gateway manages them.

  • Use Case: Better insight into API usage and performance by capturing information on request/response payloads, application behavior, and resource utilization.

Scalability and Elasticity: Containerized environments, such as Kubernetes clusters, benefit from dynamic monitoring solutions that are highly adaptable to changing workloads.

  • Use Case: When monitoring unmanaged APIs across various environments, whether on-premises, virtual servers, or cloud instances, container-level monitoring tools are designed to accommodate fluctuations in usage and resource demands.

Isolation and Segregation: Container-level monitoring enables organizations to isolate and segregate monitoring data and resources based on individual containers or namespaces.

  • Use Case: Isolating resources focused on specific containerized APIs minimizes the risk of interference or data contamination from other applications or services.

Container-Specific Metrics: Containerized monitoring solutions capture a wide range of container-specific metrics and telemetry data, such as CPU usage, memory utilization, network throughput, and container lifecycle events.

  • Use Case: Container metrics offer insight into the performance, availability, and reliability of unmanaged APIs, allowing organizations to optimize resource allocation, troubleshoot performance issues, and ensure service level compliance.

Flexibility and Portability: Containerized monitoring solutions provide flexibility and portability, allowing organizations to deploy monitoring agents or probes alongside unmanaged APIs in diverse environments.

  • Use Case: If monitoring is required regardless of the underlying infrastructure or deployment model - APIs hosted on-premises, in the cloud, or in hybrid setups - container-level monitoring offers easier management and consistent monitoring capabilities.

What About A Hybrid Approaches to Monitoring?

Given the proliferation of different data models, architectures, and deployment approaches across organizations, it's no surprise that there are multiple advantages and use cases for gateway—and container-level API monitoring. It's also unsurprising that many organizations do not make an "either/or" choice but instead pursue a hybrid approach.

Monitoring APIs at the gateway and container level offers centralized control, security enforcement, and traffic management insights, as well as granular visibility, scalability, and other container-specific metrics. Therefore, it may be beneficial to implement a hybrid monitoring approach when end-to-end observability and management of API interactions across an entire infrastructure or tech stack are needed.

In the end, carefully prioritizing the information required from API Observability tools and knowing how an organization will use that information often point to the optimal use case and approach for API monitoring.

Need Help Navigating API Observability?

For organizations navigating the complexities of API observability, Revenium offers a robust solution that enables organizations to harness the strengths of both approaches, facilitating a comprehensive and adaptable observability framework, aligning with organizational goals and infrastructure dynamics while delivering optimal performance, security, and scalability at the gateway and container level.

James Powers, Customer Success


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