layer7-ca-logoLast in our series of posts looking at API management platforms is Layer 7.

The Layer 7 API Management Solution evolved from their SOA gateway products, which Smart421 has been tracking for a number of years. Computer Associates (CA) acquired Layer 7 on 22nd April 2013, with the Layer 7 products becoming a key strategic element of CA’s security product portfolio.

The Layer 7 products can be deployed in four ways: as hardware appliances, as VMWare Virtual Appliances (i.e. packaged VXDs), as Amazon AWS Machine Images, and as a traditional deployable software package. Different product ranges apply to each deployment approach, but all options use a traditional perpetual licence arrangement with annual support. Exact licence terms and costs vary by deployment approach, but are in general are based on the performance of the hardware.

For companies that prefer to use hardware appliances, terms are significantly less onerous than other appliances (e.g. IBM DataPower), as hardware and software licences are paid separately, so replacing hardware doesn’t require a new software licence. Equally, software upgrades for appliances are provided as a standard part of annual support for as long as the hardware can support them, rather than being firmware upgrades which are provided for a shorter length of time.

Alongside their core API management products, Layer 7 have a software as a service offering known as APIfy. This proposition is currently in beta, is free to use, and could be an interesting deployment option for customers if a clear upgrade path to the full product becomes available when it leaves beta.

The Layer 7 products support all the features you would expect of an API management platform, but because this platform is based on Layer 7’s mature XML gateway product, it also supports very extensive and flexible features for traffic management, custom security, message encryption, transformation, and routing. The core API management functions have been implemented using the same SOA gateway primitives available to developers, which gives a good indication of the power of the gateway.

Advantages:

  • Long history of providing high security SOA gateway technology is an excellent foundation for deployment in blue chip organisations with stringent security requirements. Supports a wide range of security technologies, e.g. SAML, X.509, LDAP, OAuth, OpenID and Kerberos.
  • Very flexible technology providing support for esoteric/unusual environments common in enterprises. Supports protocol transformation (even down to TCPIP sockets), complex routing, orchestration and parallel execution.
  • Extensible with Java plugins.
  • Flexible deployment models, on prem and in-cloud.
  • Very strong scoring by both Gartner & Forrester
  • The only of the 4 vendors offerings which is available from the AWS Marketplace (but still using a BYOL model)

Disadvantages:

  • Unlike e.g. APIgee, there is no ‘free’ version that can be used for a production pilot with easy migration to the production version. This may change once APIfy leaves beta.
  • Traditional commercial models only – no pay-as-you-go option, although licences are available for trial use.

When would we use it?

  • Enterprises requiring high-security on premises deployment with virtual or hardware appliances.
  • Enterprises wanting to deploy a custom solution within an AWS virtual private cloud (i.e. where all components are hosted within the client’s virtual cloud rather than on the public internet).
  • Enterprises with complex integration requirements (e.g. integration with MQ, databases, TCP/IP sockets etc).