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API Security

API gateway Vs Service Mesh

Though quality development of an app is already a big task, the most tedious one is establishing secure and continual communication across all the end-points. As API gateway as well as service mesh makes good choice in overcoming this problem, developers get confused about which one to choose.

Same problem with you? Get it resolved 

API gateway Vs Service Mesh

Service Mesh

To say it simple, it is an IT infrastructure component that features a collection of proxies and aims at streamlining microservice message exchange for your app. Control planes in the service mesh assist the app in storing the data related to communications, in order to boost its performance. 

By directing microservices to perform the data exchange at the internal layer, the service mesh intends to improve internal communication portability.

Unlike the service-to-service communication method for internal services that attaches a code snippets for each message exchange, it does not burden the app with a lot of code. As linked network addresses are likely to be changed very quickly in microservices infrastructure, it is a better choice undoubtedly.

If this path is not taken, the other way is to introduce a code-driven mechanism that will drive the automated discovery to monitor the network change. Both ways will get the job done but will consume more time and effort.

The introduction of service mesh simplifies things at every stage as all the locations and microservices will be automatically detected and data exchange will take place without any hassles.

Service Mesh

API gateway

As we all know that APIs are crucial for application development. More than using the right API, its proper management is crucial.

There should be a system that can identify all the incoming calls and direct them to the fitting resources. That’s where you can think of using API gateway. It is the technology handling the task of API client call routing for a suitable application, processing it, and forwarding the resulting response to the client.

Technically speaking, an API gateway is not necessary, while a service mesh is. Afterall, developers can also embed a code for correct request routing. However, doing so consumes a lot of time as code development and insertion should be done for each request, so it still is a suggested component.

Not to forget that such extensive coding has higher possibilities of code errors and risks. Application testing, bug fixing, maintenance, and many other application development stages are elongated than before.

API gateway is a smart solution. Only an API gateway is placed and all the API requests reach their destinations without any diversions. Additionally, the API gateway can do in:

  • API request monitoring
  • Request balancing in the case of multiple instances
  • Moving API requests between nodes
API gateway

Detailed comparison: API Gateway Vs Service Mesh

Now that you’ve understood the functionality of these both, it’s time to understand the fronts where these two differ from each other. 

  • Type of communication handled

One takes care of internal discussions while another thinks of external ones. 

The external aspects, which deals with client-side requests in the app, for example - visiting a specific page, placing an order, or connecting with a chatbot, are taken care of and routed by the API gateway. 

On the contrary, service mesh deals with internal communication, for example, a conversation between two microservices from the same app development environment.

In other words, the API gateway is handling the client-to-server conversations. Letting services talk to other services in a streamlined way is service mesh’s responsibility. 

  • Placement location 

API gateway is necessarily placed on public-facing infrastructure. It may (or may not) include the service mesh in it.

  • Management 

API gateways are easy to develop and manage. The only deployment will be done once and monitoring/centralization will become seamless. Service mesh deployment is too tedious as it has to be done separately for every app. 

While using a API Gateway, one gets the most value from application health tracking. For instance, it can provide data on aspects like time taken by API requests to respond, spot the problematic APIs, applications having problems, and what impacts it causes on the traffic. So, observation your app is easy with it.

On the other hand, with service mesh, it’s easy to spot performance issues. But, it won’t explain what impact it’ll have on end-user experience and response. So, even when the troubleshooting is easy, guaging the impact of problem is tough with it.

  • Tools and support availability 

In a few hours of research, you will realize that the majority of API gateway resources and tools are paid and are highly compatible with all the popular architectures an app can opt for. There is no dearth of free tools and resources when the service mesh is concerned. 

We have Istio, Envoy, and many more offered at no cost. But, you can’t expect cross-platform compatibility with these pen-resource tools. They work with a specific ecosystem. For instance, Istio works only with Google while AWS App Mesh gets along well with AWS cloud. 

Here is a quick service mesh comparison with the API gateway. See the summzation details in given table

Difference CriteriaService MeshAPI Gateway
Existing/usage purpose
  • Mainly used to have boosted portability for service-to-service systems and microservices
  • Only internal communication is handled
  • Commonly used to route all sorts of API requests between client and server
  • Works with database, external API request, and internal calls
OperationsFunctions within an application architectureRoutes the API calls/requests taking place outside the given application.
Use of APIAPIs simplify securing the large service mesh networkAPIs are route, managed, and handled easily with the help of API gateways
Utility in digital transformation
  • Helps in managing microservices more effectively and speeds up the delivery cycle
  • Adds threats for microservices by opening security loopholes when used alone
  • Creation of a unified API management portal leads to longer app delivery cycle, i.e. increased time-to-market
  • There are no certain security risks
Usage complexityMakes the business scalability a bit complex as endpoints are addedApplication complexity is not increased as endpoints are where they should be
Maturity levelRelatively new technology and need more time to be perfectedAssisting developers from quite long time and is quite a matured technology
Security processingManualAutomated

When to use API gateway and Service Mesh Together?

Those who want to use the best of both worlds have a reason to rejoice as it’s feasible to use API gateway and service mesh together. Most of the applications, seeking to streamline communication at an external and internal level, are already using these two technologies together.

You can club these two when your aim is: 

  • Have great security scalability

Combining both solutions will lead to scalable security. It happens as service mesh improves the inter-service connectivity while the API gateway serves as a centralized point of contact for client-server requests. When one seeks seamless application scalability, API gateway proffers enough technical support required for improving proxy security. It also leads to early threat detection and resolution at the proxy level only.

  • Improved innovation 

Bringing service mesh and API gateway together promotes innovation as API gateway promotes. Where the effective use of APIs in external interactions improves its compatibility “range”, internal resources optimization is better when a service mesh is deployed. Applications used for or have anything to do with digital revenue and services can be benefitted hugely from these two technologies. 

  • Accelerate the digital transformation 

Both these resources can fuel the fire of the digital transformation of an enterprise and make the linked application easy to manage. An application using both these two technologies will have a unified API gateway managing the internal service meshes. 

API Gateway Vs Service Mesh


In a world filled with applications, only those having improved scalability, security, and innovation will manage to rule over the customers’ hearts. API gateway as well as service mesh contribute immensely to all these success-driving factors. We presented to you the key differences between them so that you make most.

While both of them simplify communication, reduce the coding burden, and ensure that the data reaches the allotted destination, they are functionally and structurally different.

Despite the differences, they two get along with each other and lead to better application development. So, bring these two actions and digitally transform your organization in no time. With API gateway providers like Wallarm, configuring the API gateway and using it is easy. You can use them with service meshes easily and enjoy better app development and quick time-to-market.



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April 26, 2024
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