API Architecture – Best Practices for Building APIs

PUBLISHED ON August 23, 2023
LAST UPDATED Aug 23, 2023

With every advancement in information networking, companies are forced to take stock of their infrastructure. These constant changes have led to a fundamental reassessment of how commercial enterprises can design smarter, more adaptable systems. Today, more and more decision-makers prioritize API architecture as the solution.  

Focusing on API architecture doesn’t have to mean overhauling your current infrastructure. You can integrate it to improve communications between application components, ensuring more seamless transactions. We’ll look at how it works in different scenarios, the best practices for piecing it together, and how you can better protect the integrity of the architecture from the ever-increasing number of threats. 

What Is API Architecture? 

API architecture refers to the designing and implementing of a software interface that allows for an external application to access information and functionality of a back-end application. The exchange includes the interfacing, runtime execution, and traffic control of the applications. Thoughtfully designed API architecture makes for more reliable interactions, limiting snags or delays even at the apex of demand.  

The two most common types of architecture are GraphQL and RESTful (Representational State Transfer). GraphQL makes it possible to gather specific data from multiple sources in one fell swoop, whereas RESTful architecture is built on a simpler foundation and may require multiple calls. RESTful architecture is typically favored over GraphQL for simpler processes. It’s relatively easy to set up and allows for multiple security configurations, depending on the organization.  

How enterprises choose depends largely on their requirements and preferences. For instance, SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) API architecture still retains a presence in some organizations thanks to its built-in security features — despite its general reputation for being outdated.  

How It’s Used 

Here are just a few ways that these frameworks are applied to different organizations: 


A restaurant might use several applications, depending on the requests. For instance, a REST application could be used to interface with customers. The API can deliver relatively static information, such as hours and menu items. A GraphQL architecture could be used to deliver more complex data, such as the terms to a third-party delivery service (e.g., fee surges during peak hours, custom catering orders, etc.).  

Payment Gateways  

SOAP is built on the data format XML and can be used when customers are ready to make purchases. Secure and widely supported, this architecture allows for website requests to the gateway, so the credit card information can be verified and processed. SOAP can be used for one-time, recurring, or international purchases.  

Healthcare Supply Chain Management 

A healthcare supply chain management might use GraphQL API architecture to give healthcare providers and patients the data they need to make purchases. The customer’s query to the supply management company would return the shipping information, price, and quantity of supplies available. This is especially useful in the case of wide-scale orders for hospitals or large clinics.  

Why Is Thoughtfully Designed API Architecture Important? 

The term ‘thoughtfully designed’ is subjective, and its parameters will be different for every organization. If your team or business is decentralized, you’ll want API architecture to introduce more flexibility to your operations. The more agile the business is, the faster your developers can implement and maintain functional software. Teams can be segmented so they can focus on improving specific products. Downtime and overhead can be minimized, and the back end of applications will be easier to manage.  

For centralized teams and organizations, a thoughtful design might implement a specific framework, one that sets strict controls on functionality. This doesn’t necessarily translate to using a specific type of API architecture, but it may mean having to reconfigure your infrastructure. For instance, if you need to centralize the management of your architecture in a relatively decentralized environment, you could implement an API gateway to narrow your applications to a single point of entry.  

As you run through the application requirements, consider how the configuration will impact both internal and external users. The data and processes delivered to customers or clients should be valuable, but there are multiple paths to the same destination. If there’s no internal consensus about the architecture (e.g., functionality, security, etc.), it can lead to a deconstructed framework.  

What to Consider When Choosing an API Architecture? 

Before you choose an API architecture, you should first map out what you need it to do and the resources at your disposal. You’ll need to specify which architectural components to employ, how you want requests and responses to flow, and which design patterns best suit your priorities. From integrity to performance, values can vary widely from one organization to the next. Above all else, you’ll need to define how security fits in and how the controls and tools will impact end users. We’ll look at the top five factors to keep in mind: 

1. Consistency  

Your API architecture needs to guide every interaction of the application in a systematic way, thereby increasing the transparency behind each response. RESTful API architecture is usually the easiest way to implement more consistency in your systems. It’s run by simple HTTP requests that aren’t dependent on previous requests or server-side storage.  

2. Scalability  

Scalability refers to the architecture’s ability to handle higher volumes of concurrent requests. For organizations with overwhelming demand and complex requests, GraphQL can pare down each request so the system is less likely to crash. For instance, a concert ticket website might implement GraphQL to retrieve subsets of data during peak purchasing times.  

3. Security  

An API exposes a significant number of resources and infrastructure, making them candy to attackers. If there are any vulnerabilities in the architecture, a criminal will leverage this for their personal gain. Whether they’re trying to cause havoc or steal data, their attacks (e.g., bots, DDoS, OWASP, credential stuffing, etc.) can cause irreparable damage. Certain types of architecture (e.g., RESTful, etc.) are inherently less secure than others, though thankfully, there are automated ways to detect and mitigate attacks regardless of the architecture you choose.  

4. Analytics  

The analytics of an API architecture should routinely monitor the system for errors while providing useful information to teams. Reports should show the total of requests, the types of requests, and the response times for each request, as well as the number of calls made per second and the average response times for the calls. Should there be a performance bottleneck, teams should have access to a tracing tool that will show them where and how the requests first became logjammed.  

5. Business Benefits  

Business objectives should be heavily considered before choosing an API architecture. This element will require you to define the target audience, users, and activities supported by the API and what their expectations are. For instance, clients will want security controls in place, but they won’t want to deal with constant hassle during the verification process. Internal employees will want to verify data, but they won’t want to comb through endless results in order to find what they need.  

How does ThreatX help manage API architecture in a secure way? 

ThreatX has built the company around our clients’ needs, leveraging the best tools available to meet the needs of different organizations. Our system provides sophisticated visibility to application and API owners, giving them everything they need to respond to threats in real-time.  

There are numerous solutions in the market that promise to detect threats, but the majority are too simplistic to bring value to the organization. They may immediately place blocks on users based on preset rules. This may make sense in the case of a well-planned attack by a genius hacker, but it will only create busywork if the attacker or bot is merely poking around or worse, if legitimate users are fumbling as they often do.

ThreatX’s risk-based blocking is automated and, more importantly, accurate against a wide range of attacks. It doesn’t require security teams to lay out all of the rulesets for every scenario. Plus, we make our tools easy to implement into your current architecture. When you don’t want to integrate another program into your gateway, ThreatX uses native blocking and a risk-based approach to drastically reduce any hiccups between your current architecture and better threat detection.  

When you employ a system like ThreatX in your current environment, you immediately augment the style and analytics of the architecture. The extra layer of security and data makes it easier to identify usage patterns as well as the security threats below the surface. 

About the Author

Neil DuPaul

Neil DuPaul is the Sr. Director of Demand Generation at ThreatX and works with the team to execute impactful, customer-centric campaigns. He has 15+ years marketing a variety of cybersecurity solutions, executing a range of tactics and strategies across many business functions. A lifelong learner and gamer with a zest for physical activity.