What is API Inventory

April 26, 2023 | by Tony Bailey

API Inventory

API inventory is an integral component of API governance and compliance and is the process of identifying every API deployed across all organization environments, its use, users, limitations, and security profile. Leveraging this inventory, a comprehensive API catalog must be created and updated continuously to get visibility into the number of APIs used across the organization and their core purpose. This cataloguing helps you handle the issues emerging from the uncontrolled proliferation of APIs across the organization. This approach to an inventory is important to ensure an effective API security program

The API economy is growing, and enterprises are witnessing a rapid adoption of APIs. According to the State of APIs report, the API economy is a top priority for more than 59% of organizations. Couple this with the fact that more developers will rely on APIs this year than in previous years, and you can understand the significance of APIs in an organization.

APIs come in many shapes and sizes and can be classified into various categories: web, browser, standard, embedded, and more. They can also be classified by scope, including microservices, single-purpose, aggregate and more. Their diverse characterization and the fact that organizations cannot do without them make inventory an absolute must.

Why Inventory Processes are Necessary?

API inventory is critical from the security and management perspective. First and foremost, you cannot protect what you cannot see, making a complete list of APIs the most critical first step in an API security initiative. A runtime inventory also drives API awareness for the respective business owners, which is essential because most organizations do not have clear visibility of who owns the APIs. They are unaware of the number of APIs their organization leverages and, therefore, cannot deploy a comprehensive API security strategy. You cannot secure APIs if you do not know how many exist across diverse environments.

Organizations are battling an API sprawl resulting from the prevalence of a hybrid architecture, including on-premises, data centers, public clouds, private clouds and edge computing. Another reason for the rapid and unmanaged proliferation of APIs across an organization is the increasing usage of microservices infrastructure, the need for accelerated release and deployment of software, and abandoned APIs.

This results in operational and security challenges. The proliferation of API endpoints is not only limited to multiple environments but also the various teams across these environments. It also drives up development costs; imagine a scenario wherein APIs have been created for a specific process, but an inability to catalog the API means its existence is lost, and developers create the same API again, resulting in shadow API proliferation.

The inability to develop and update your inventory means an extreme lack of visibility into API configurations and traffic. Also, there is an excellent chance of developing an IT system backed with unreliable APIs due to API misconfiguration. Lack of inventory management means many undocumented APIs across the IT environment, wherein many remain unsecured, making them easy targets for attackers to commit fraud, business logic abuse and disrupt the business.

Why Do Organizations Struggle to Build an API Inventory?

An extremely detailed, well-taxonomized inventory is critical for ensuring API security, governance and compliance, but establishing a clear roadmap for API inventory remains a challenge. Tallying an API manually becomes a massive challenge as many APIs are continuously modified or updated. Organizations that depend on passive inventory tools or scanners are trapped in a legacy approach to inventory management, resulting in an inaccurate picture of APIs from design to production and deployment. Granular visibility of APIs evades them, which becomes a big chink in their API security strategy armor.

APIs have long been owned and deployed by developers, often for internal use only, and with little to no security oversight. As APIs have become more integral to the business and are now deployed externally, the act of tracking them and securing them continues to lag in many organizations, evidenced by recent API related security incidents.

What is the Right Approach for API Inventory?

The right approach towards understanding the number of APIs spread across an organization, should focus on three critical pillars: creation, deployment, and management. Also, inventory is deemed complete only if the API list includes internal and external APIs. Therefore, the idea is to make API asset management an integral component of the API security initiative.

API Sentinel conducts an ongoing runtime inventory to help organizations get complete visibility into their API footprint, irrespective of the number. The information provided includes API traffic patterns, geographic source and destination, and organization ISP that helps the IT team identify potential malicious activity. API Sentinel covers external and internal APIs, and its modular architecture and deployment options allow organizations to keep pace with expanding API deployment and coverage. The core focus of this tool is on delivering immediate inventory ROI and an outcomes-focused approach backed by meaningful intelligence that tallies API expanse and risks and suggests effective measures that can eliminate all potential security risks.

Ideal API inventory management can help organizations harness the power of APIs in their entirety and help you govern APIs in a centralized manner that is more effective and better configured for security. Even more important is that it will help you create an API ecosystem that unlocks agility across heterogeneous environments.

Organizations that have adopted an API first development methodology are using the Cequence Unified API Protection solution to view their API attack surface with API Spyder; then create a run-time API inventory and begin monitoring compliance with API Sentinel. In addition, API Spartan provides your team with ML-based detection and prevention of automated attacks against your APIs and web applications.

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Tony Bailey


Tony Bailey

Senior Director of Product Marketing

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