API Gateway Deployment Patterns

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When it comes to deployment of API Gateways, there are a couple of well-known patterns, that of the Internal Gateway and External Gateway (described in several resources including here).

These two deployments essentially reflect the considerations of offering endpoints up to less secure network segments such as the internet (external gateways) and trusted network zones (internal gateways). But in addition to the physical deployment within a network, these deployments are likely to host APIs with different characteristics, reflecting levels of trust, and emphasis on enterprise decoupling/abstraction (internal) –  the reason why APIs are sometimes associated with the idea of SOA 2.0. Compared with security sensitivity, and potentially monetization or at least usage metrics to help protect specific attack vectors.

These deployment patterns can be seen in the following diagram.

B06989_05_04

Both the internal and external gateways are reflective of interest in the origin of the API traffic. However a rarer 3rd pattern does exist.

Outbound Gateway

This pattern of crops up when you need to consider the ability to manage how internal solutions connect to outside services, for reasons such as:

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Security Vulnerabilities in Solution Deployment

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To varying degrees, most techies are aware of the security vulnerabilities identified in the OWASP Top 10 (SQL Injection, trying to homebrew Identity management etc), although I still sometimes have conversations where I feel the need to get the yellow or red card out. But the bottom line is that these risks are perhaps more appreciated because it is easier to understand external entities attacking seeking direct attacks to disrupt or access information. But there are often subtler and at least more costly to repair attacks such as internal attacks and indirect attacks such as compromising software deployment mechanisms.

This, later attack Is not a new risk, as you can see from the following links, been recognised by the security community for some time (you can find academic papers going back 10+ years looking at the security risks for Yum and RPM for example).

But software is becoming ever more pervasive, we’re more aware than ever that maintaining software to the latest releases means that known vulnerabilities are closed. As a result, we have seen a proliferation in mechanisms to recognise the need to update and deploying updates. 10 years ago, updating frameworks where typically small in number and linked to vendors who could/had to invest in making the mechanisms as a secure as possible – think Microsoft, Red Hat. However we have seen this proliferate, any browser worthy of attention has automated updating let alone the wider software tools. As development has become more polyglot every language has its central repos of framework libraries (maven central, npm, chocolatey ….). Add to this the growth in multi-cloud and emphasis on micro deployments to support microservices and the deployment landscape gets larger and ever more complex and therefore vulnerable.

What to do?

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Development Standards for API Policies?

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When it comes to development, we have had coding standards for almost as long as we have been coding. We tend to look at coding standards for purposes of helping to promote good quality code and reduce the likelihood of bugs and so on. But they also help with readability, making it easy to navigate a code base and so on. This is sufficiently important that there is a vast choice of tools to help us ensure we align with good practices.

That readability etc, when it comes to code interfaces lends to making it easier to use an interface as it promotes consistency and as Don Norman would say avoids ‘cognitive load‘, in other words, the effort involved in performing actions with the interface. Any Java Developer will tell you, want to print out an object (any object) you get a string representation using the .toString() method and direct it using the io packages.

That consistency and predictability are important not just for code if you look at any API best practises documents you’ll encounter directly or indirectly the need to use conventions that drive consistency – use of singular or plural for the name of entities, application of case – camel case, snake case etc. Good naming etc and we’ll see related things appear together in the documentation. Products such as Apiary and SwaggerHub include tooling to help police this in our API design work.

But what about policies that we use to define how an API Gateway handles the receipt and routing of API invocations? Well yes, we should have standards here as well. Some might say, governance gone mad. But gateways are often shared services, so making it easy to see and logically group APIs together at very least by using a good naming convention will help as a minimum. If API management is being administered in a more DevOps fashion, then information security professionals will probably want assurance that developers are applying policies in a recommended manner.

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Techfest 19 & ACED

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TF_speaking_twitter-01This year’s UKOUG TechFest 19 conference is over.  The first time in a number of years where the user group conference hasn’t been a combined Tech, Apps and JD Edwards event.  I have to admit that I was a little concerned with the separation of Tech and Apps as some of the tech stack overlaps for the two groups – for example, Integration Cloud.

That said, the situation being what it was, I got involved with the committee for planning the event including inheriting the stream lead responsibilities for Dev (in the sense of modern development e.g. microservices etc) and what had been historically referred to as middleware (Integration Cloud, Digital Assistant, Helidon, WebLogic) with a lot of support and input from Mark Simpson, Grant Ronald and Susan Duncan.

From my perspective, I  don’t think there was a concern (and this isn’t an attempt at being self-congratulatory) as the hard graft is done by the UKOUG office staff.

As the number of people was smaller, we had a smaller venue rather than the ICC in Birmingham or the ACC Convention Centre in Liverpool – which actually worked out well. The problem of the ICC and particularly the ACC is that main community spaces had been very large as a result atmosphere suffered. This time the Grand Hotel in Brighton was really busy and vibrant as a result.

Reception Desk

 

We had a good blend of sessions covering traditional integration, low code, cloud, microservices, API, UI with people from customers, partners and Oracle travelling in from all over Europe and the US to participate and present.

In terms of my presentations and the ones, I managed to see, I’d particularly recommend checking out in the UKOUG library …

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Notifications from Oracle API Platform Cloud Service

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There are circumstances in which notifications from the Oracle API Platform CS could be seen as desirable.  For example, if you wish to ensure that the developers are defining good APIs and not accidentally implementing APIs that hit the OWASP Top 10 for APIs. Then you will probably configure things such that developer users can design the APIs, configure the policies, but only request an API to be deployed.

However, presently notifications through mechanisms such as email or via collaboration platforms such as Slack aren’t available.  But implementing a solution isn’t difficult.  For the rest of this blog we’ll explore how this might be implemented, complete with a Slack implementation.

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More Free Oracle Cloud than you might know

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free-750x536The news about Oracle offering some free cloud services ‘for life’ is making an impact.  But, the free services don’t end there. The pricing of some other native cloud services includes some free bands. So it’s worth keeping an eye on the fine print. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see limited capacity access in other areas.

Oracle Functions – whilst the core of this service is built on the open-source Fn Project (also largely driven by Oracle) the managed service has a free tier allowing up to 2 million invocations that can consume 400, 000 gigabytes of memory per second use (details can be seen here). Plenty enough to experiment with the concepts behind Serverless aka FaaS capabilities.

Oracle Notifications whilst focussed on the technical side of gathering key event data from OCI and its services, as the document states “sending notifications to numerous interested parties, or even synchronizing the moving parts of a distributed application” – this obviously means a service with characteristics a bit like AWS’ SNS. Like SNS it can be hooked up to email and other HTTPS services using Oracle Events which also has free use. Events is particularly interesting as it is bases the event structure on the CNCF CloudEvents spec. There is an excellent illustration of such a use case in the Oracle blogs here.

It will be interesting to see if we a similar trend with other Oracle cloud-native services. A new take on the now-defunct Application Container Cloud Service (ACCS) would be an ideal vehicle – whether there is sufficient demand for such a capability is not clear (it would in effect be an always live service like a Kubernetes solution, but the simpler, smaller footprint more like Functions in a multi-tenant environment. At the same time, it doesn’t have potential latency of a Function being activated).

OGB Appreciation Day : Support of Hybrid

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This is my blog post as part of the Oracle Ground Breakers Appreciation Day (more about this with oracle-base) isn’t about a specific product or feature but an approach or possibly two approaches that exist with many of the PaaS services available from Oracle.

One of the key things that many of Oracle’s products such as Integration Cloud, API Platform and the foundation of Functions (Fn) and Containers is the recognition that many organisations are not so fortunate to be cloud-born, or even working with a cloud-native model for IT. For those organisations who would rather have across location unifying approach, Oracle cloud is not a closed capability like AWS, whilst products like Integration Cloud are at their best on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, they can be executed in your data centre, or even another cloud.

Whilst the teams I work with experiment and build our service offerings ‘on Oracle’, when we engage with customers to help them with their specific problem spaces, we are more often than not operating in a multi-cloud or on-premises hybrid model.

This hybrid story is helped with a renewed vigour for open source both contributing to but also leading the development of open source. In addition to providing free tiers to some of their stack such as Functions, IaaS and Database (here). Many do forget the Oracle JVM is free as long as you keep up to date, you have got a small footprint Oracle database for free (XE), MySQL is part of the Oracle family. Then many of the modern development technologies are true to the core open-source, Blockchain, Container Engine meaning that the solutions on these layers are portable, can be run on-prem. Yes, Oracle adds value by wrapping these cores with tooling and features that make easier rather than diverging with proprietary Ingress controllers for example.

The irony is that organisations that tend to be associated with a low cost or being faithful to open source goals actually can end up locking you in and appear to be moving away from the original open-source ideals. Consider RedHat, the champion for a lot of open source-based enablement have removed Kubernetes from the official RedHat downloads for their Linux in-favour of a single node license of OpenShift, to get Kubernetes of RHEL you have to go outside of the normal binary source channels (other challenges are documented here).

London Oracle Dev Meet-up gets Blockchained

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Whilst the weather may have put some off venturing out, not for our intrepid duo of presenters – Joost Volker (Oracle PM for a Blockchain) and Robert van Mölken Oracle Groundbreaker Ambassador and author of Blockchain Across a Oracle who both had to negotiate protesting farmers, traffic jams, flight delays (wrong kind of rain to land in London) and London’s rush hour traffic.

So, what was covered in the meet-up…

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