Implementation of the API strategy at ENGIE Electrabel

ENGIE Electrabel sells electricity, gas and energy services. They offer new applications and specialized services to companies and households to improve comfort and reduce the impact on the environment.

The customer is central to their approach. Each customer, whether a household or an enterprise, receives an offer adapted to its profile and needs. Engie develops partnerships with its customers to better meet energy challenges together.

To achieve the above strategy ENGIE Electrabel saw a growing need to expose its internal data towards third parties that can offer value added services to its clients. Building a set of standard APIs ensures a short time to market for third parties to develop new solution and it allows ENGIE Electrabel to build stronger relationships with its partners.

Furthermore, standardized APIs will also provide a means for the internal teams to build applications faster. APIs are not only seen as a way to facilitate communication with third parties but also with the ENGIE Electrabel application landscape. Internal applications are distributed across multiple network zones and locations. Adding a well-defined and standardized API layer will help application mobility and provides a consistent access mechanism, both for internal and external consumers.

To implement the API strategy ENGIE Electrabel started with an evaluation of what was needed to define and expose business APIs. The following set of high-level architectural principles were defined:

  • Native backend APIs need to be consumed via a well-defined business API, both for internal and external consumers. No direct access is allowed.
  • An API gateway is needed to protect the business APIs
  • All access to applications must be logged
  • All APIs must be listed in an API catalog
  • Access is granted at the application level
  • Self-service capabilities for onboarding API consumers are desired.

Next an API Management platform was selected to support the architectural principles. A good fit with the existing application landscape was requested as well as strong performance and excellent security.  ENGIE Electrabel reached out to i8c to implement the API Platform and to execute a pilot project to evaluate the feasibility of the desired API Management approach. Several use cases were defined to test the architectural principles.

Based on the outcome of the pilot project it was decided to rollout the API Management platform on a broader scale. ENGIE Electrabel, together with i8c, defined the overall governance to facilitate consistent usage of APIs; developed implementation and security guidelines; set up design guidelines for REST APIs and further developed the architecture and infrastructure.

Additional effort was put to generate business APIs automatically starting from an OpenAPI specification document. Today ENGIE Electrabel can release new APIs very efficiently thanks to the automation framework and the well-defined governance and design guidelines. The enforcement of API usage also supports the cloud strategy. Applications can be moved more easily from on-premise to cloud locations.

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