Ten handy tools for API development for web and mobile

Also read "How mobile commerce is changing customer service"

The rise of RESTful APIs has been met by a rise in tools for creating, testing, and managing them. Whether you’re an API newbie or an expert on an intractable deadline, you have a gamut of services to help you get your API up and running quick, and many of them won’t cost you a dime.

Following is a sampling of free services for working with APIs: load testers, API designers, metrics collectors, and much more. Some are quick and dirty applications to ease the job of assembling an API. Others are entry-level tiers for full-blown professional API services, allowing you to get started on a trial basis and later graduate to a more professional level of (paid) service if and when you need it.

mazon AWS Free Tier and Amazon API Gateway
The Free Tier for AWS provides developers with no-cost access to nearly everything AWS offers. Granted, it's subject to usage caps, so consider this route best for getting a taste of how things work. Still, even with those caps, you can accomplish a lot.

Amazon API Gateway is one API-related service offered with a free tier quota. The full, for-pay version of Amazon API Gateway allows you to build front-end APIs for applications built on EC2, AWS Lambda, or “any Web application,” with meta-tools like traffic management, API version control, and monitoring all part of the package.

The Free Tier allows you to receive up to 1 million API calls per month, so it's good for seeing whether the Amazon way fits with the APIs you want to create.

IBM Bluemix API Management
Like AWS, IBM Bluemix offers a free tier that’s robust enough to provide developers with a taste of what’s available, but not to build full-blown production applications. And like AWS, IBM Bluemix offers API management tools on that free tier: API Connect, for creating APIs and hitching them up to live code; API Management, for enforcing policies around APIs, encouraging discovery, and creating composite API designs; and Connect & Compose (currently in beta) for “[integrating] cloud services with enterprise systems of record.” All have a free tier of a few thousand API calls a month -- more than enough to get one’s feet wet.

Runscope offers a Web-based tool set for testing your APIs to make sure they are running properly, return valid data, and can be debugged. You can even import test plans using theSwagger 2.0 API definition standard, along with a slew of other common formats, including the format Runscope uses for its own testing products. The free tier provides only testing, uptime monitoring, and traffic logging/debugging functions, but no private APIs and no traffic alerts. It also maxes out at 25,000 requests per month.

Runscope also sponsors Hurl.it, a basic Web interface for performing one-off GET or POST requests, and Requestb.in, for collecting HTTP requests made by a client.

Restlet Studio
Billed as a “Web IDE for API design,” Restlet Studio describes APIs with a set of visual tools. This includes more than setting methods or query parameters, but also autogenerating Java or Node.js skeleton code for the APIs and even autocreating client SDKs. Both Swagger and RAML are supported; in fact, you can toggle between them while working on an API.

The free plan supports only one API, but you get an unlimited number of calls to that API in testing and 1,000 calls for an in-production API. That’s right -- you can use the free tier to deploy to production, albeit without support for the likes of CI/CD (continuous integration/continuous depoloymnet) or custom domain names.

APImetrics is an API monitoring and altering service that includes a visual API designer, support for both REST and SOAP APIs (a nice way to move from the latter to the former), a workflow system that allows multiple API calls to be triggered in sequences, and dashboarding for everything that needs to go right or can go wrong. The service’s free tier only allows for manual calls, offers a reduced level of access to data published by APImetrics’s services, and can run only on the company’s West Coast (U.S.) servers.

JsonStub is a Web interface that allows you to create quick mockups of API endpoints, returning static text (such as a JSON response) to test a front end that queries for data. It isn’t very involved, but it isn’t meant to be, and it can be valuable when you want to, as the JsonStub home page says, “Fake the back end while you develop the front end.”

Mockable is another quick-and-dirty tool for mocking up REST and SOAP endpoints. The service’s base tier is free in perpetuity, although any routes not used within three months are deleted, logs are only retained for 24 hours or unless they exceed 5MB, and you’re only allowed to create up to 10 mockups per three-member team. Best part: You don’t even have to register to try it out. Temporary accounts are automatically created for you the minute you enter the admin console.

Httpbin.org is another Runscope project that’s interesting enough to deserve a separate look. It provides you with an array of HTTP API endpoint responses that are useful for testing or debugging front ends that send requests. Instead of configuring them through a Web interface, though, you configure them with URL parameters. For example, the /links/:n endpoint allows you to request a Web page with n HTML links -- as a way to test a Web scraper, for instance. The whole project is also available as an MIT-licensed Python package.

Little is more embarrassing than to have a public-facing API fall over dead the minute it goes live because you didn’t test how well it held up under heavy load. Set up a target host’s endpoint via Loader.io’s Web interface or API, and test results are delivered to you via a browser page in real time. The free version of the service only allows testing a single target host for one minute at a time, with up to 10,000 simulated clients.

Like Loader.io, BlazeMeter is an API load-testing service that provides real-time reporting features, plus other goodies like geodistributed load testing (you can have traffic generated from servers on multiple continents) and support for tests created by Apache JMeter. Sign up, and you’re given a 14-day trial of the Pro version (normally $649 per month), but after that, you’re on the feature-restricted free tier, where you’re limited to 50 concurrent users in tests, up to 10 tests, a maximum test duration of 20 minutes, and data retained from tests for only one week. You do, however, get to use BlazeMeter’s Selenium Webdriver test suite, albeit for only five concurrent (simulated) users.

Source: CIO.com