How to Select the Best API Gateway for Enhanced Connectivity

by Stoplight on June 30, 2023 8 min read

If you’re looking to implement the best API gateway you can on top of your microservices architecture, you won’t be short of choice. To narrow down your options, it’s a good idea to think about which features of your services and applications you’re hoping to optimize.

This article looks at the issue from the point of view of optimizing for enhanced connectivity. It explains what API gateways are, why they’re so widely used, and what features to look for when you’re planning to source one.

What Is an API Gateway?

An API gateway stands between the user-facing client application and backend services. It’s particularly useful if you’re building on top of a microservices architecture because it provides a centralized entry point. When the client puts out an API request, the API gateway receives it and routes it to the backend services as needed.

The primary role of an API gateway is to manage and control the flow of requests and responses between clients and backend services. There are a number of situations where it’s appropriate to implement one.

For example, in the telecoms industry, an API gateway often features automatic call distribution (ACD) processes. You can use an automatic call distributor in call centers and telecommunication systems to route incoming calls to the most appropriate agent or department. API gateways can play a role in making this happen by managing call routing and integrating with the underlying telephony infrastructure.

Benefits of Using an API Gateway

Here are just a few of the advantages you can benefit from when you implement an API gateway:

Better traffic control: API gateways offer features like rate limiting, throttling, and caching to regulate the volume and speed of requests. This helps protect your backend systems from traffic spikes and is also handy for optimizing your resource utilization.

Simplifies adding new functionality: If you need to build in additional functionality like load balancing or authentication, you can use an API gateway to do this without having to make changes to the underlying microservices.

Gives you a range of protocol options: An API gateway can handle requests and responses in different protocols and convert them to a common format if needed. This makes it straightforward for clients to interact with APIs using a variety of protocols (e.g., REST, GraphQL) without affecting the backend services.

Easier API lifecycle management: API gateways simplify the task of managing API versioning and allow you to introduce changes to APIs without breaking existing client applications. They do this by supporting multiple versions and handling version-specific routing. Even better, the gateway itself can handle the retirement of older versions while supporting the adoption of new ones, meaning less downtime for your system as a whole.

Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best API Gateway for Enhanced Connectivity

Among the many reasons digital transformation with APIs has become so popular is that using API gateways gives you precise control over interacting with diverse system architectures. But what kind of elements should you be on the lookout for when your primary focus is connectivity?

Individual Features and Capabilities

Not all API gateways are the same. First and foremost, of course, you need to make sure to choose one that offers robust integration with the other services or frameworks you use. Go for a gateway that can integrate with your existing infrastructure components like identity providers, message queues, logging, and monitoring systems, as well as your API management platforms. Seamless integration is the key to achieving excellent connectivity between different parts of your system.

You should also focus on individual processes in key areas such as:

  • Authentication.
  • Rate limiting.
  • Caching.
  • Request/response transformation.
  • Protocol support.

Protocol Support

Let’s look at the last item on the list in more detail. Think about the protocols used by your backend services and client applications. The gateway should support these protocols to make sure system communication and connectivity are on point. This is probably best illustrated by walking through a concrete example.

Suppose a user in the US wants to access a website with a .il domain. Even in this everyday kind of situation, there can be compatibility issues that can slow down the experience.

If necessary, an API gateway can normalize the communication protocol between the browser and the backend services. For example, suppose the backend services use a specific protocol that the browser doesn’t support. In that case, the gateway can act as an intermediary, translating requests and responses as needed. This means the user won’t notice any slowdown in performance, and everybody’s happy.


Another element to bear in mind is scalability. You want to make sure that your solution is as future-proofed as possible. That means determining that your selected API gateway will still be able to handle high traffic loads and route requests efficiently, even if user volume suddenly explodes.

Again here, the relevant features to look out for include load balancing capacity, horizontal scaling capability, and solid caching mechanisms. It’s all about putting emphasis on optimization techniques that can improve connectivity.

Security and Authentication

API gateways can play a key part in API authentication and system security. You need an API gateway that provides reliable security mechanisms such as authentication, authorization, and encryption.

In short, it should be able to deliver a high level of protection against common attacks. Suppose it’s enhanced connectivity you’re after. In that case, you need to create a secure environment to protect the integrity and confidentiality of the data being transmitted.

Other Important Aspects of API Gateways to Consider

There are likely to be a number of API gateways that fit the bill for your purposes. So it’s worth considering a few more points that can help you narrow down the candidates and make your final decision.

How Good Is the Developer Experience (DX)?

It’s no good to choose an API gateway that developers will find frustrating to work with. Make sure the one you select provides comprehensive documentation, clear guidelines, and a load of useful examples to help developers with resource and API integration challenges.

The other upside of implementing an intuitive and well-documented gateway is that the learning curve will be simplified. Developers will be able to master it quickly and leverage its connectivity features much more effectively.

Does It Have Analytics Functionality Built-In?

Built-in monitoring and analytics capabilities are essential for tracking your implementation’s progress and conducting ongoing assessments. Many API gateways provide detailed logs, metrics, and analytics on API usage, performance, errors, and other relevant data.

The insights you obtain from your analytics suite will be helpful in all sorts of ways. For example, imagine your company needs to perform an audit to ensure compliance with, let’s say, Sarbanes-Oxley legislation. API gateway analytics can generate reports and provide documentation regarding API usage, access patterns, and security controls. This can be valuable for demonstrating compliance with SOX requirements and will help tick off a crucial box on your SOX compliance checklist.

How Customizable Is It?

You should be able to tailor your gateway’s behavior to fit your connectivity requirements. Customizable elements to explore include the following:

Middleware or plugins: These allow you to extend the gateway’s functionality. Middleware components can intercept and modify requests and perform additional processing. Meanwhile, plugins can add specific features or integrate with external systems.

Request and response transformation: This means modifying the structure, format, or content of requests and responses as they pass through the gateway. It involves a number of elements like manipulating headers, adding or removing data, or converting between different data formats. Customizing these helps you adapt more flexibly to the requirements of your system.

Rate limiting and throttling: These are used to control the rate of requests. You can customize these settings to define specific rate limits.

Routing and load balancing: Related to limiting but slightly different. You can customize routing rules based on various factors, such as request metadata or URL patterns. To optimize resource allocation, you can configure load-balancing algorithms and strategies to distribute traffic across multiple backend services.

Does the Gateway Come With Adequate Vendor Support?

It’s vital not to neglect the practicalities of finding support after purchase. There may be considerable complexities to deal with when you first implement your gateway, so you want to make sure the provider is on your side.

How easy will the vendor be to contact if something goes awry? Do they use up-to-date customer service and call center technology? Is it possible to get in touch 24/7? Look for comprehensive documentation, a variety of support channels, and watertight service-level agreements. These should ensure you know exactly how to get help when you need it.

Connecting the Dots to Find the Best API Gateway

Using an API gateway simplifies API management, enhances security, and provides centralized control and management capabilities. But finding the right one for your needs can be a challenge.

When you want to optimize for enhanced connectivity, focus on the basics. Ideally, you want a solution that provides wide-ranging protocol support, is highly customizable, and delivers top-end security. You should also make sure that it is truly scalable so that it’s ready for any sudden traffic spikes.

Luckily, there’s a terrific selection of API gateways available, so you’re bound to find one that dovetails perfectly with your business needs.

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