How Mashape Manages Over 15,000 APIs & Microservices


Editor's note: By Ahmad Nassri, ‎Head of Engineering at Mashape


Mashape powers API-driven software. Hundreds of thousands of developers use our tools to manage, monitor, consume and provide APIs to their partners, apps, customers and employees. In fact, billions of API requests are processed through Mashape's Marketplace every month.

I'm Ahmad Nassri, Head of Engineering at Mashape. Prior to Mashape I was the Development Manager at The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC ) and spent many years building Web, Mobile & API products across many startups and businesses.

Engineering Team

The Mashape engineering team is one of the most highly skilled teams I've had the pleasure to work with. While we operate as a single team, our responsibilities are split and organized per project. Currently we have three main projects:

As our team is spread out among San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal, Paris and London, we have faced a number of challenges in scheduling, communications and syncing. To overcome these issues, we follow the open source model of building software and collaborating; ensuring that all communication is clear and verbose, assuming asynchronousity, and keeping a communication channel open at all times on Flowdock, while regularly jumping on Google Hangouts whenever further discussion is needed.

Despite having a focus of responsibilities, the engineering team members are not isolated in silos. We encourage everyone to work and touch different parts of the codebase, across all projects; in fact, most of us will end up working on Mashape Analytics, Marketplace and Mashape ID all in the same week.

Mashape's design team interacts with the engineers on a daily basis. By compiling engineer comments and gathering feedback from users, we're able to design the best Developer Experience (DX) by focusing on our users first. It also helps that we are engineers and developers!

We have regular one hour conference calls every Monday where the previous week's work is reviewed, and new objectives for the coming week are established.

Engineering Team (API marketplace team meeting, mid 2014)

General Architecture

Once upon a time, Mashape's architecture consisted of around 150K lines of Java, a true Monolith! But it's now split into 400 different microservices built with a variety of languages including: Node.js, Lua, Ruby, Java, Python, and OCaml. Everything is an API.

Mashape ID, as an example, is an identity authentication platform operating entirely as an API. Any time a new product is created, we simply plug it into Mashape ID; which provides out of the box account & email management with a companion billing microservice of its own.

One of our new projects is powered by a Ruby API, while the frontend app is built in Ember.js. Conversely, Mashape's marketplace has Java-powered internal APIs which in turn are consumed by a number of Express.js microservices serving as the web frontend; all our applications & APIs follow The 12-factor methodology.

In front of all of our applications and APIs is Kong. We use ElasticSearch for search while also storing data in a number of databases including: MongoDB, PostgreSQL, Redis and Cassandra (each solving a different problem domain). All of our products run on AWS, though on occasion we use Heroku and DigitalOcean for smaller projects to experiment with prototypes or test environments. Splunk is our centralized logging system, Datadog as a unified monitoring dashboard, and PagerDuty for alerts.

Mashape pushes business intelligence metrics from all our products directly into Additionally, we dogfood quite a lot by running Mashape Analytics to monitor and visualize API traffic for the APIs managed by our platforms. TravisCI is utilized for testing, CodeClimate for quality control, while using Chef for deploys. All our code is on Github. For code snippet generation we use our own HTTPsnippet and Mockbin for mocking & testing API prototypes.

All of these applications and systems, alongside all the deployment, monitoring & metrics tools may seem like a lot, but the microservices approach coupled with the 12-factor methodology allows for zen & simplicity in a sea of chaos!

During the course of a slow week we have ~400 internal services running over a cluster of hundreds of EC2 machines (consisting of mainly large instances). Having a microservice architecture allowed us to move much faster and independently, we clearly saw the benefits of the transition. But it's probably helpful to understand why we made the transition.

Scaling challenges

Sometime around 2013, we experienced scaling issues with the dozens of standalone third-party APIs added to Mashape's Marketplace.

Between July 2012 and July 2013 our volume in API transactions grew 50X.

Scaling Problems

Not only was the volume of requests passing through our proxy taking off, Mashape was starting to manage more APIs than anyone else in the market. At that time, the Marketplace had 3,500 public APIs under its belt.

The Marketplace needed to scale fast. Our API proxy had been built in Node.js, with a heavy Java backend. It was a monolithic architecture, and our Node.js proxy could not handle large traffic spikes.

Overtime it became unpredictable and resulted in consuming larger amounts of AWS resources. Our bank account suffered as a consequence and our CEO lost some hair.

We had to find a solution that satisfied not only the massive amount of traffic, but also be best in class in reliability and security. We wanted to move away from a monolithic architecture towards something much more flexible.


We've always had a desire to create our own API gateway; targeting the following attributes:

  1. Predictable stability over months and years, not days.
  2. Efficient and easy to scale across multiple geographic regions with little overhead.
  3. Modular and extensible via simple plugins.
  4. Independent: environment, framework & language agnostic.
  5. Easily configurable via a RESTful API.

Basically an "ElasticSearch" for API management. Our CTO began his search and eventually met an engineer at CloudFlare, who introduced us to the amazing world of OpenResty. Built on top of Nginx it allows a developer to extend Nginx functionalities with Lua, an embedded scripting language used by many heavy traffic websites.

CloudFlare built Lua scripts around security and caching. We thought we could do the same but with a focus on API and microservice management. Nginx was already proven worldwide as a stable and trustworthy HTTP server, and was perfect for our base requirements. In combination with OpenResty, we started building Kong.

Kong is born (the API Gateway)

In 2013, Mashape adopted Nginx / OpenResty to implement features on the Marketplace's published APIs. Billing, authentication, throttling and rate-limiting became custom OpenResty plugins written in Lua. We called it Kong (yes, like "King Kong", after our own namesake: MashAPE).

King Kong

Today Kong efficiently manages over 15,000 APIs. Serving both our internal microservices and our Marketplace clients' APIs, all while handling spikes, high concurrent scenarios, and billions of successful API calls per month.

We created our own "ElasticSearch" for API management; much like Elastic's approach to wrapping Lucene in a RESTful interface with some sugar on top, Kong was a wrapper around Nginx.

Below are some examples of Kong's operations within the Marketplace.

Once an API is added to the Mashape platform from the GUI, it sends a POST request to Kong:

curl -i -X POST \
  --url http://localhost:8001/apis/ \
  --data 'name=mockbin' \
  --data 'upstream_url=' \
  --data ''

Then, based on the API provider's needs, a collection of various plugins are added on top of it. As an example, if the user needs Key Authentication:

curl -i -X POST \
  --url http://localhost:8001/apis/mockbin/plugins/ \
  --data 'name=key-auth'

User management is a breeze; the Consumer object allows for an abstract entity that can represent Users, Applications, Clients, or any system accessing the API. They are easily created and managed through the RESTful interface.

curl -i -X POST \
  --url http://localhost:8001/consumers/ \
  --data "username=Jason"

Kong's RESTful API allows us to manage thousands of APIs in the Marketplace. With simple and single-focused codebases, we keep our Microservices and individual systems completely independent. Kong itself, by its pluggable nature, can be described as a paragon of microservice architecture. At its core, it consists of no more than a couple thousands lines of code, which handle database abstraction, routing and plugin management. Plugins can live in different code bases and inject themselves anywhere into the lifecycle of a proxied request in a few lines of code. We are very proud of this approach which is quite unique in API management gateways today.

Kong was released to the public in April 2015 - after being partly rewritten for the occasion - and has built a strong community of users and contributors since then. We are very grateful for the contributions brought by developers all around the world, and feel rewarded for our decision to open-source Kong, all the while contributing back to the community by improving many Lua packages used in OpenResty.

We generate Kong packages for many Linux distributions and cloud providers to allow ease of installation and deployment. The most successful distribution so far is Kong on Docker with over 180,000 downloads since it's release.

The Road Ahead

Every month, we release more pieces of Kong to the open-source realm as part of our commitment to drive and grow the open-source API developer community. We are working hard to make Kong reach the 1.0 public milestone so that everybody can enjoy what this internal tool brought to our company and our community.

We are also working on a number of other products that complete the family of services we offer to API developers, and we can't wait for you to hear all the exciting announcements we are going to make over the course of the next few months!

Our Vision

Inside our office we have giant pictures of the first Ford Assembly Line, serving as our inspiration.

Over 100 years ago the second Industrial Revolution happened. Among many new inventions came two in particular: Electricity and The Assembly Line (thanks to electricity). This combination allowed Mass Production for the first time. The result was a dramatic decrease in the cost and time required to bring a product to market. Mass production quickly became a worldwide phenomenon, building companies worth billions. It changed the world.

We see a huge correlation in the software industry today: electricity is cloud computing, while the assembly line is APIs, where you pick up the components / services you need to build your product. This is history repeating itself and we want to be the pioneers of the next revolution, to change the world, yet again.

Assembly Line

If you have questions about the transition we have made and the lessons learned, or about Kong and our open source projects, please drop me a line at: - always happy to chat!

Tools mentioned in article
Open jobs at Kong
Solutions Engineer - Seattle
Seattle, WA
Are you ready to join the API revolution? About the role: Kong is looking for a seasoned, customer facing Sales Engineer who is motivated to help drive new business, evangelize our technology, onboard and train new customers, and establish revenue potential with existing customers. Ideally this candidate should have experience working with open source technology and strong knowledge of NGINX, Docker, HTTP, AWS, Postgres and Cassandra
  • Support field sales in helping customers understand the value of the Kong API Management platform
  • Understand and help establish customer requirements and grow trusted client relationships throughout the entire sales lifecycle, from initial product reviews to production
  • Support PoCs throughout the entire evaluation process
  • Ensure 100% customer satisfaction across assigned set of accounts
  • Prioritize customer needs and coordinate with support, product, and engineering teams to help support customer needs
  • Create technical documentation for DevOps, implementations, and services engagements

  • 5+ years software engineer and/or sales engineer management experience at SAAS, Open Source or Enterprise Software company.
  • Solid understanding of cloud computing trends and open source business models.
  • You are a strong listener and communicator.
  • You can confidently lead a discussion with a group of Product Managers, Engineers, and Executives.
  • Enthusiasm for working in a high profile, fast-paced startup culture.

  • Experience with Docker.
  • Fluent working on Linux OSes.
  • Familiarity with CD/CI pipeline.
  • Any knowledge on Kubernetes, DCOS/Mesos and Docker Swarm is a plus.
  • Senior Full Stack Engineer - Enterpri...
    Distributed or Flexible
    Are you ready to join the API revolution? Kong Enterprise is deployed in companies around the world that need performant, reliable, and scalable services in front of their APIs. Key applications in this offering include Kong Manager, for configuring and monitoring the proxy, and Kong Developer Portal, for publishing API documentation and managing developer experience. Two deployment models -- on-premises and hosted -- give Kong's customers flexibility and give you the opportunity to architect solutions for both. As a Senior Full Stack Engineer, you will design, develop and deploy features on one or both of these applications, for deployment on-prem or in the cloud.
  • Design, develop and maintain features in web applications
  • Write automated tests to ensure code quality and avoid regressions
  • Contribute to Kong's open-source component library, kongponents
  • Work as an integral part of an agile software development team to build features end-to-end
  • 5+ years working on teams to develop and deploy web applications
  • Expertise with Javascript frameworks such as React.js, Vue.js
  • Experience writing and consuming RESTful APIs
  • Expertise with data modeling
  • Comfortable with git and Github workflows
  • Expertise with test-driven development and automated testingExcellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Bachelor's degree in Computer Science or equivalent work experience
  • Vue.js and NestJS
  • Writing and supporting large-scale SaaS solutions
  • Senior Engineer - Enterprise (Remote)
    Distributed or Flexible
    Are you ready to join the API revolution? You will be responsible for delivering high visibility and impact features in Kong Enterprise. Working closely with Engineering, Product Management, Sales and Customer Success you will add features, plugins and custom fixes that will materially impact customer’s and Kong’s business. You will also help to maintain a streamlined build and test CI/CD system. You will help coordinate the incorporation into Kong Enterprise of upstream features from the Kong open source distribution. Close coordination with the Customer Support team will bring the opportunity to engage directly with customers to help them succeed
  • Work on large impact, high visibility features that drive business
  • Maintain and extend Kong Enterprise to support application features
  • Write automated tests to ensure behavior of code and avoid regressions
  • Maintain the CI/CD systems needed to deliver a high quality product
  • Work closely with Customer Success to deliver requested fixes, features and custom builds
  • Work as an integral part of an agile software development team to build features end-to-end
  • 3+ years working in a team to develop, package and deliver applications
  • Experience designing, prototyping, building and debugging server platforms and applications that are highly scalable, reliable, and resilient
  • Experience writing and consuming RESTful APIs
  • Experience with data modeling in relational and no-SQL databases
  • Experience with scripting languages such as Perl, Ruby, Shell -- bonus points for Lua
  • Comfortable with git and Github workflows
  • Experience with test-driven development and automated testing
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills -- engineers at Kong write the documentation for their products
  • Hands on experience with Nginx/OpenResty/Lua
  • Hands on experience with Travis/Jenkins CI/CD
  • Staff Site Reliability Engineer
    San Francisco, CA
    Are you ready to join the API revolution? About the role: You will be responsible for leading a team that is building and maintaining workflows that automate releasing, testing and deploying Kong Cloud products. Improving staging and production environments for SaaS distributions. Research and build monitoring/analyze tools to optimize building and deploying code-base, manage distributed systems and application resources. You will build workflows for delivering our software to a variety of platforms including AWS, GCP, Azure, and container technologies like Docker, Swarm, Mesosphere and Kubernetes to automate deployment and scale our products.
  • BS degree in Computer Science, similar technical field of study or equivalent practical experience
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