How GraphQL fits into the API lifecycle
The API lifecycle is a series of steps that teams must take to successfully design, develop, deploy, and consume APIs. Although every API lifecycle is different, teams that follow a clearly defined lifecycle are more productive and better equipped to deliver high-quality APIs. A stable API lifecycle is an essential part of an effective API governance strategy, as it lays the groundwork for stage-specific policies and processes that support collaboration and enable organizations to maximize the value of their API portfolio.
The API lifecycle can also be applied to APIs that use GraphQL, a query language and runtime for APIs that has gained popularity among developers for its flexibility and efficiency. GraphQL allows clients to request exactly the data they need, and nothing more. In this blog post, we will explore how GraphQL fits into the API lifecycle and the benefits it offers in each stage.
Defining an API
This step is the foundation to gather all of the information you need about your GraphQL APIs in order to effectively create an API strategy. Before creating an API, it is crucial to define its schema. The schema includes the available data types and operations that can be performed on them. Therefore, the design phase of GraphQL APIs involves defining the available data types, queries, and mutations for retrieving and modifying that data. In GraphQL, the schema is defined using the GraphQL Schema Definition Language (SDL). This schema acts as a contract between the client and the server, ensuring that both parties agree on the exchanged data.
Postman’s GraphQL client provides the option to create GraphQL schema definitions using either SDL (Schema Definition Language) or a visual interface. If the GraphQL API is going to be public, creating a public workspace makes it easy to provide documentation and give examples to consumers.
Querying an API
Once the schema is defined, clients can query the API using GraphQL’s query language. The query language allows clients to specify the exact data they need, eliminating the need for multiple API calls. This is in contrast to RESTful APIs, where clients must request all the data associated with a specific endpoint, even if they only need a subset of that data. GraphQL’s query language is also strongly typed, ensuring that clients receive the data they expect and reducing the likelihood of errors. Postman’s GraphQL client offers a query builder that helps writing clean queries, mutations, and subscriptions that are based on the schema.
Implementing an API
During the development and documentation phase, the server-side code is implemented to handle GraphQL queries and mutations, and to retrieve and update the data in the backend. One of the core advantages of using GraphQL is that it is self-documenting. The GraphiQL IDE provides an overview of all the data that the schema will allow you to see.
As applications evolve, so do their APIs. With RESTful APIs, any changes to the API’s schema can have unintended consequences for clients. For example, removing a field from an endpoint could break a client that relies on that field.
Evolving an API
With GraphQL, making changes to the schema—and therefore evolving the GraphQL API—can be done without versioning because adding fields and types does not impact existing queries. Therefore, your consumers are guaranteed continuous access to new features. This ensures backward compatibility and reduces the likelihood of breaking changes.
Testing an API
Testing is an essential part of the API lifecycle, ensuring that the API is functioning as expected and catching any issues before they reach production. Once the API is developed, it is tested to ensure that it is functioning correctly. Postman provides a powerful API testing suite that allows you to create and run automated tests to validate the API’s behavior and performance. Postman’s GraphQL client provides a graphical interface for creating and executing queries, making it easy to explore the API, write test scripts, and verify that the data being returned is correct.
Documenting and publishing an API
After the API is tested and validated, it needs to be documented to make it easy for other developers to understand it and use it effectively. Postman allows you to generate interactive documentation for your GraphQL API, which includes details on its schema, queries, mutations, and more.
Once the GraphQL API is designed, developed, tested, and documented, it can be published for others to use. Postman allows you to publish your GraphQL API on the Postman API Network, which enables other developers around the world to discover and consume your API.
Monitoring an API
Once an API is in production, it is essential to monitor its performance and usage. Finally, GraphQL APIs need to be maintained to ensure that they continue to function correctly and meet the evolving needs of users. Postman provides tools for monitoring and analyzing API usage, as well as collaboration features that allow multiple team members to work on the API together.
Distributing an API
Enabling discovery of your GraphQL API is an important step in the API lifecycle to match your GraphQL API consumers with existing APIs, saving developers time and effort from building new ones. Creating feedback loops for your GraphQL APIs in the Private API Network and Public API Network allows you to reach your target audiences and connect the right consumers with your GraphQL endpoint.
Scaling an API
Finally, as an API grows in usage, it becomes necessary to scale it to handle the increased load. With GraphQL, scaling can be done using a variety of techniques, such as vertical scaling (adding more resources to the existing server) and horizontal scaling (adding more servers to the cluster). GraphQL also provides features like batching and caching, which can help reduce the load on the server and improve performance.
GraphQL for greater ease
GraphQL has become an increasingly popular choice for building APIs due to its flexibility, efficiency, and ease of use. By fitting into the API lifecycle, GraphQL provides a way to define, query, evolve, implement, test, monitor, and distribute APIs in a consistent and scalable way. Continued innovation around Postman’s GraphQL client makes it even easier to build and maintain high-quality APIs across teams and to distribute public-facing GraphQL APIs together with documentation through the Public API Network.