Looking Back at SpringOne 2021: API Gateways in the Age of Kubernetes

September 28, 2021 Sunny Xia

SpringOne 2021 was packed with news and updates on a plethora of topics. From Cloud Native Runtimes to reactive programming, Spring GraphQL, and Spring Cloud Gateway, there was something for everyone. Indeed, in the age of Kubernetes, new concepts and technologies are emerging every day. As Spring co-founder Juergen Hoeller pointed out in his keynote, Spring’s adaptability is key to its past, present, and future.

API sharing is key to enterprise digital transformation

Spring Cloud Gateway is the result of our effort to continuously listen to and address important API development challenges. That enterprises are embracing an API-first strategy is not news anymore. But APIs aren’t just being written for net-new modern applications; they are increasingly being created for “brownfield” APIs and application modernization efforts, too. As the 2021 State of Spring Survey made clear, more than 84 percent of Spring developers are currently using Spring Boot to expose APIs to internal consumers. Using APIs as the backbone of microservices communication at scale has been a key component of the successful modernization journeys of countless enterprises.

As Ajay Patel, senior vice president and general manager of VMware’s modern application business unit, noted in his SpringOne keynote, application developers rarely start from a clean slate. Monolithic systems and tech debt that has accumulated over years do not go away overnight. Organizations subsequently mesh the “old” and the “new” by taking an API-first approach, connecting modern applications and legacy systems while promoting effective collaboration across teams. Yet developers still spend energy creating and finding APIs and then coordinating with centralized API management teams to configure them, which takes precious time away from their ability to write code, innovate, and deliver business value. 

Distributed API gateways empower application developers

To address some common challenges in the API development and sharing space, the Spring team released the open source Spring Cloud Gateway project in 2017. Since then, we have seen significant growth in adoption, with project starts on start.spring.io that included Spring Cloud Gateway quadrupling in 2021.

This year, we released Spring Cloud Gateway for Kubernetes to help enterprises improve developer productivity and accelerate digital transformation. Spring Cloud Gateway for Kubernetes is a distributed API gateway. It provides a Kubernetes-native experience, supports polyglot application services, and can be deployed and managed directly by individual lines of business. Right around SpringOne, we added new capabilities, including custom extension and observability. To enable customized API operations, we leverage the extensibility offered by the SCG Open Source project and provide tooling for developers to load their own custom filters and predicates to the gateway instances. Spring Cloud Gateway for Kubernetes now integrates with VMware Tanzu Observability by Wavefront or Prometheus and Grafana. Developers can view key metrics about API performance, such as route count and error rate, in real time. We enable the propagation of trace data for API routes to downstream application services and expose the information via the integration with Tanzu Observability so that developers can troubleshoot their API calls at ease. 

Find out how we use Spring Cloud Gateway to deploy sample applications

To enable easier discovery of APIs, we launched an API portal for VMware Tanzu, which provides a unified interface to search for APIs. It works out of the box with Spring Cloud Gateway, but also supports adding any number of OpenAPI document source URLs.

Exciting results from our customers

Spring Cloud Gateway for VMware Tanzu also extends the commercial features in VMware Tanzu Application Service. We heard about numerous related positive experiences from our customers during SpringOne.  

AARP, which supports Americans aged 50 and over, needed a solution to migrate its core practices to modernized applications gradually, without impacting the nonprofit’s day-to-day operations. Spring Cloud Gateway for VMware Tanzu became a critical component in this endeavor. The solution architecture team at AARP leveraged the gateway to split and route traffic to multiple versions of an application service, enabling capabilities such as A/B testing, API manipulation, and flexible rollback and dramatically reducing risk during subsequent deployments. This is an important API gateway pattern and one that your organization might want to consider for its own application modernization journey.

Alex Cook, a software engineer at CVS, shared details of the pharmacy giant’s  API-first development strategy and application modernization journey during SpringOne. The company had developed an external file-sharing application that sent invoices to users and needed a solution to securely manage traffic and expose its internal APIs to the external environment. Eventually, it chose Spring Cloud Gateway for VMware Tanzu, which allowed Cook and his team to set up custom rules, such as rate limiting users and CORS configuration at the gateway level, and removed complexity and burden from the APIs.

Learn more about our API products 

In the age of Kubernetes, knowledge drives innovation. At SpringOne, the Spring Cloud Gateway team shared the fundamentals of the Kubernetes Operator and API gateway patterns. We hope those presentations along with the materials below will help you start a new—or speed up an existing—application development journey at your organization. 

About the Author

Sunny Xia

Sunny Xia is the product manager focused on API development experiences and efficiency at VMware. For more than six years, she has worked with enterprises to transfer legacy systems to modern digital platforms with APIs as the core part of the strategy. Sunny has brought her passion for API development and empathy to developers to Tanzu's product portfolio.

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