What is an API Gateway? Features of the RapidAPI Gateway

Wed Aug 24 2022

5 min read

The API Gateway is an API proxy that sits between client and server, performing functions like authentication, routing, rate limiting, monitoring, and more.

An API Gateway accepts API requests from a client, directs them to the appropriate services, and then combines the results into a synchronous experience. Simply put, the API Gateway takes all client requests, understands them, determines which services are needed, and then combines them into a seamless, unified experience for the user.

Let's look at API Gateways in detail.

Why are API Gateways Needed?

Because the API gateway sits between the API consumer and the API provider, it can handle a good deal of necessary functions. It can intercept incoming requests to implement authentication and rate limits, protecting your APIs from overuse and abuse.

If you have more than one API or backend service, you can combine them into a single consolidated API endpoint using an API gateway. We can also employ it to add analytics and monitoring to understand how people are using your API. Moreover, a gateway can connect to a billing system and handle billing if you monetize your API.

Key Features of an API Gateway

As we established earlier, API gateways can perform numerous functions. But here are the fundamental features a gateway should offer.

  1. Authentication and authorization
  2. Threat protection
  3. Rate Limiting
  4. API monitoring
  5. API transformations
  6. Scaling

Benefits of API Gateways

There are several benefits of using API Gateways. Let’s take a look at some of them:

  • You can standardize and centralize the delivery of services through APIs or microservices using API Gateway.
  • It provides flexibility because they are highly configurable. The developers can write the internal structure of an application in multiple ways to invoke multiple backend services using the API Gateway.
  • It allows enterprises that rely on legacy applications to work with or extend their functionality.
  • It contributes toward monitoring and observability. The API Gateway logs can pinpoint an issue during a monitoring failure.

RapidAPI Gateway

When you publish an API on RapidAPI Hub using the RapidAPI Studio, a default RapidAPI Gateway is configured automatically for your API. You can view its options from the Gateway tab inside the Hub Listing section on RapidAPI Studio.

The gateway is hosted at rapidapi.com. Now, all your API requests will first be directed to this RapidAPI Gateway and then forwarded to your API endpoint or your custom gateway. So right off the bat, you can have a gateway set up for your API that offers the following features.

Features of the RapidAPI Gateway

The gateway covers all the key features that we mentioned earlier and then some. Let’s learn more about them.

Authentication and Access Control

You can employ the gateway to authenticate API calls from outside, improving your API's security. In addition to the default RapidAPI auth, you can set up an extra layer of OAuth2, Header, Query, or Basic authentication.

You can also take advantage of the gateway to intercept all incoming requests and add secret request headers and parameters to them. You can then verify them on your backend server.

Threat Protection

APIs are vulnerable to malicious use and attacks like DDOS and SQL injections. RapidAPI Gateway provides threat protection that can automatically compare the paths, parameters, header, and body of all requests. It then blocks the invalid requests from reaching the server.

Request Schema Validation

It is another security feature that you can implement using the RapidAPI Gateway. You can set up request schema validation if you haven’t implemented it in your API.

The request schema validation provides three options:

  • Passthrough Everything (default): It is the default behaviour where if the request contains a header or query parameter not defined in the API specification, the request will not be blocked.
  • Strip and Passthrough: It will pass the request but strip the headers or query parameters not defined in the API specification.
  • Block: It will block the request if it contains anything not defined in the API specification.

Request Configurations

Besides rate limits, you can also implement request size limits using the gateway to prevent misuse and unwanted load. It will limit too large requests coming to your API, ensuring that your API stays performant. You can also specify a proxy timeout; if a request takes longer than specified, the gateway will abort it.

API Transformations

API transformations are powerful. They transform (alter) the data sent in your API's requests and responses. You can do a lot using transformations, for example, adding a secret security parameter to the request, modifying or removing specific parameters, etc. RapidAPI gateway supports transformations for requests and responses.

Custom Gateway

RapidAPI is gateway agnostic, which means that it supports custom gateways of any type. You can add a custom RapidAPI or non-RapidAPI gateway for your API. Then inside the Studio, you will be able to select the gateway you want to use.

Wrap Up

In conclusion, an API gateway is a vital part of API architecture, and the RapidAPI Gateway gives us a good insight into the capabilities it can possess. Now, why don’t you quickly create an API on RapidAPI Studio and explore these features yourself?