“Breaking Changes” Episode 5 Recap: Tyler Technologies’ Allen Helton

In episode 5 of Breaking Changes—our weekly talk show where Postman Chief Evangelist Kin Lane hosts stellar guests from all across the API universe to discuss, debate, and solve the latest topics around APIs and API-first—Tyler Technologies Software Engineering Manager Allen Helton shares his expertise. In a candid conversation, Allen talks about how his organization has internalized APIs while working with governments at every level. This episode is titled “Digital Transformation in the Public Sector.”

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Episode topics

  • What does the term “governance” refer to when it comes to the operation of APIs?
  • How has serverless computing enabled API development at Tyler Technologies?
  • What’s the reason behind using WebSockets?
  • What type of testing occurs across API infrastructure at Tyler Technologies?

Episode highlights

Here are a few key takeaways from the episode about unleashing the potential of serverless computing, pragmatic governance, and diving into API testing.

What does the term “governance” refer to when it comes to the operation of APIs?

  • API governance is a perpetual thing to wrestle with
    • Allen talks about his experience building microservices and how the entire effort seemed disconnected at first. He had to deal with varying request bodies and expected responses.
    • He shares how he got inspired to create a governance collection in Postman after watching Kin’s webinar on API governance. Allen used a collection created by Kin as a foundation. From that, he created something new “and put it in our CICD pipeline, where it just started putting in these [governance requirements]. And you have your standards around how to build a path, standards around response codes, and the normalizing of the types of responses that you can provide.” Allen says the build would fail if the APIs didn’t adhere to the requirements.

How has serverless computing enabled API development at Tyler Technologies?

  • Serverless computing empowers developers to focus on business problems
    • It’s a great way to build software with speed, reliability, and flexibility because it helps developers focus on business problems instead of servers, scaling, networking, maintenance, or load balancing. It makes developers write the most performant code because you’re paying for what you use. Allen says, “You better make it as fast as possible, because if it’s slow for no reason, or just because something isn’t written well, then you’re paying more. You’re paying a premium for that.”
  • Single-responsibility principle for security
    • While talking about security, Allen says that serverless helps Tyler Technologies keep everything locked down, which is crucial when dealing with government data. For example, he says, “This one API endpoint only has the ability to load a single item from this one table at a time; it can’t delete, it can’t update, it can’t query. It can do just this one thing. It can’t talk to any other services, so there’s no objection attempts.”

What’s the reason behind using WebSockets?  

  • Focus on iterative development
    • Allen shares, “I’m very much of the mentality that software should be iterated on.” He shares a three-phase approach: do it (create a proof of concept and make it work), do it right (with best practices and standards), and do it better (make it faster and work better).” And part of that…is in the user interface where you have an async operation.”
    • He gives an example: “Do it, or the do-it-right phase, has the “refresh” button. Do it better is refreshing automatically when it’s done and adding a little badge up in your Notifications bar that says you have a notification or something’s done. Or let’s refresh a section of the screen automatically. And that’s what WebSockets do for you.”
  • Enhancing user experience as we evolve
    • Kin observes how the user experience is driving the backend architectural decisions. He says, “A sign of maturity I see in a lot of operations is you start with REST. Simple, let’s get our resources, let’s get these used, let’s accomplish this business objective. And as that matures and evolves, and the experience evolves around that, then you’re looking at event-driven and asynchronous connections and other things like that.”

What type of testing occurs across API infrastructure at Tyler Technologies?

  • Generating  tests dynamically
    • Allen excitedly talks about testing. He built upon Kin’s governance collection to automatically generate test requests and perform really exhaustive, fuzzy tests on every endpoint. He shares how he merged what are usually fairly separate things: contract tests, security tests, and governance.
    • In order to help his team save time and become more efficient, Allen used a collection in Postman that employs the Postman API to load an OpenAPI spec and then generates a variety of tests just from spec.

Watch the full episode

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