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When ENGIE started working with Axway – the leading provider of API management and integration software – on the subject of APIs, its organisation was still very decentralised. The group's 25 business units around the world had great operational autonomy, particularly in terms of IT. ENGIE's head office IT department operated in a recommendation and animation mode rather than imposing technological choices. When the head office chose the Axway API Gateway solution to expose its API catalogue, it was followed by several entities, but two thirds of the others opted for other solutions, in particular Google Apigee, or the API Gateways integrated with AWS and Microsoft Azure.
Grégory Wolowiec, Chief Technology Officer for data analytics at ENGIE, summarises the implementation of the Axway API Gateway solution: “We completely adapted the Axway solution by providing it with a catalogue overlay that did not exist at the time. This development was dubbed Common API Gateway and it went live in 2018.”
A paradigm shift for IT
In 2020, the restructuring undertaken by ENGIE into four major strategic units (called GBUs for Global Business Units) was a real paradigm shift for the IT department. Decision-making was more centralised and it was decided to converge all the APIs of the entities in a single catalogue, without however initiating major migration projects. The idea was then to federate all the gateway APIs into a unified API catalogue. “Some GBUs used the Axway gateway, others had made another choice,” explains Wolowiec. “The question was how we were going to manage our APIs as high potential assets in a heterogeneous environment.”
The project team conducted a joint reflection with Axway on this approach to federating the different API gateways. The chosen course of action is to deploy a marketplace with both a governance layer and an internal and external exposure layer above the gateways. Wolowiec recalls: “When we consulted the market players, none was really in this logic of federation of exogenous API gateways. Google Apigee can federate, but only if all the gateways are those of the publisher... Asking the GBUs to replace their gateways would have generated exorbitant costs for almost zero added value at their level, because the gateway APIs are almost a commodity today, with a few minor differentiators. We didn't want to impose any change in technologies and bringing this layer of federation made a lot of sense.”
In 2021, Axway presented version one of its brand new Amplify Enterprise Marketplace solution to the project team, and its deployment was launched at the end of 2021. “We have, in a way, co-constructed the solution with Axway throughout 2022,” adds Wolowiec.
The project team then worked on not only the migration of Axway API gateway to the new solution, but also on federating the API catalogues of entities that had chosen Google Apigee and the gateways of AWS and Microsoft Azure. One of the possible approaches was to deploy a connector on each cloud, but ENGIE's preferred option was to rely on connectors operated by Axway. However, not all connectors are yet provided by the publisher in this as-a-Service form.
Beyond the marketplace, an API governance solution
The API governance layer was particularly important for ENGIE. The group is global in size and the central entity wanted to be able to govern its APIs in such a way as to enforce the strong constraints that weigh on the SI in terms of compliance and cybersecurity. On the marketplace, each entity has a space to publish its APIs and obtain authorisations to be able to expose its API in the form of a digital product. In addition, the entity dedicated to B2C services wanted to be able to instantiate the marketplace in order to expose it to the public under a very specific branding. “At the beginning, it was mainly about exposing internal APIs on internal data services or products,” details Wolowiec. “The desire to open certain products to the outside emerged later, during the work related to the marketplace solution.”
2022 was devoted to developments on this base in order to prepare the deployment to users in 2023. “The functional coverage is good and we will be able to consider decommissioning the Common API Gateway and removing this specific development.”
A step towards API monetization
With the migration of the Common API gateway to the Amplify Enterprise Marketplace solution, around ten entities will naturally use the marketplace. The first customer who will really use it for external use is the general public. In addition to subscribers who can consult their customer accounts, ENGIE also wants to develop access with third-party partners such as professionals who sell energy contracts and who have their own APIs to carry out their operations with ENGIE.
The solution's API monetization capabilities and the possibility of transforming a data product into a source of revenue interests Wolowiec for the future: “Monetization is a capability that could notably simplify things in terms of invoicing services internally, with a re-invoicing for the use of meteorological APIs which are very important for forecasting energy consumption or in the exploitation of renewable energies, for example. Externally, we are still in the reflection phase.”
Amplify Enterprise Marketplace's governance layer remains one of the strengths of the solution. A whole validation process for new APIs has been put in place in order to lead to its publication. This includes a cybersecurity component, but also API design, with API documentation with its various swaggers (interface descriptions). Also, the tool gives the ability to document APIs. The approach contributes to increasing the skills of all the business units that submit their APIs. They can rely on Axway's expertise and Axway Catalyst experts to help them mature. For Wolowiec, the most complex element remains the organisational aspect to be put in place by everyone to reach this level of requirement. “API management joins notions that already exist in the data mesh where each data domain is responsible for the quality of this data. It is the organisational aspect that requires the most time.”
Wolowiec concludes: “We must not neglect the organisational and human aspects to improve the governance of an API portfolio. With the Amplify Enterprise Marketplace solution, the technical aspect is now well covered. In contrast, APIs must be properly governed upstream for the approach to be effective. It is necessary to set up a course of acculturation of the contributors. The interest of having a layer of governance is to be able to automate the process, to integrate it into dumps of the ‘Infrastructure-as-code’ type. Placing blocking checkpoints or not is a way to raise awareness that we want to apply a global framework to all APIs and ensure the level of compliance of all APIs submitted.”