Designed for Developers, Made for the EdgeStart for FreeRead the Docs

Build vs Buy: API Management Tools#

Should you build or buy your API management tool? We've got the answer.

Your decision to build or buy an API management tool directly impacts your resource allocation, time to market, and API consumability. This article explains why buying an API management tool is the best decision.


It's no news that the global economy has been declining. More than ever, companies seek ways to cut costs and utilize resources effectively. So, it may seem like a no-brainer to build an in-house API management (APIM) tool instead of paying for one because the assumption is that it will save costs. But is that really the case? Let's break it down:

  • Complexity: You'll need to staff a team of strong engineers, ops, and product folks to deliver basic in-house API Management tooling. API Gateways are complicated and a critical part of your infrastructure that can adversely impact the performance and reliability of your APIs if not built right.
  • Prioritization and opportunity cost: Building will drain resources from other areas putting other essential projects on hold, having you spending time on infrastructure instead of focusing on what's core to your business and differentiation.
  • Maintenance: The costs don't end at the software's development phase; you'd also have to continuously maintain the API management tool to ensure it's bug-free, compliant, and up-to-date. Additionally, outages could cost your company revenue and erode customer trust.
  • High upfront investment: You need to consider the infrastructure and operation costs, such as hosting, training, salaries, tools, and even hiring new employees. This investment may not be feasible for some organizations, especially smaller teams or those with limited budgets.
  • Inaccurate budgeting estimates: Studies reveal that 35% of project failures stem from budget issues. Inaccurate estimates for building the APIM may lead to a budget overrun or incomplete product, hindering API rollout.

Why buy, not build?#

  • Save engineering time: Your team will have more time to improve your API and build other essential company products while your APIs remain securely shipped and consumable by users.
  • Predictable expenses: Your cost structure will be more transparent and predictable, so you'll no longer deal with inaccurate budgeting estimates.
  • Save money and start fast: Save money on development, testing, and maintenance by paying a subscription fee and immediately getting access to a fully functional API management tool.
  • Batteries-included: The features you need will already be built in, and because the vendor competes with others, they will continue to add new features over time, which would benefit you and your users.

Time to market#

Before deciding whether or not to build vs buy, you need to consider how fast you want to ship your APIs to the end users and which of these approaches will help you achieve that goal. For instance, if you decide to build in-house, you need to ask yourself these questions:

  • How long would it take your team to build an API management tool?
  • Do you have the workforce to build it? If yes, are they equipped with the necessary skills? If not, how long will it take to train or hire? Companies we talk to have found that building an in-house APIM product usually needs six full-time engineers for over six months, often resulting in scope cuts or no launch.
  • API demand is at an all-time high, with calls representing 83% of global web traffic and over 90% of developers utilizing them. Are you willing to risk months of delay spent building and potentially missing business opportunities for your API?

Why buy, not build?#

  • You get a faster time to market, which enables you to engage with developers and stakeholders sooner, gaining a competitive edge. For instance, startups that use Zuplo have gone live in 2 hours, and large enterprises in less than a month.
  • You get everything you need to ship APIs you are proud of from day one in record time.
  • You won't be swallowed up by the ever-expanding scope of building an API management tool, and you'll be able to focus on building what matters instead of reinventing the wheel.

Quality and features#

When building an API management platform, you'll face the trilemma of finding a balance or compromising on cost, time, or scope. Adjusting any of these will affect the cost, time to market, and product quality.

Why buy, not build?#

  • Building API Management isn't easy: Crafting a top-notch API management tool is no small feat. It demands significant resources, time, and deep expertise in networking and protocols. Even with ample resources, the development spans months to a year. Notably, even vendors have large dedicated teams building them.
  • Aligned incentives: By buying, you will totally reverse the compromise you would have made on the quality of your in-house APIM platform to meet deadlines, budget restraints, skills shortages, scope creep, etc. Now, you are using a tool with a dedicated company whose primary focus is creating the best developer experience for you and your users.
  • Vast features: A paid API management tool has many features that will likely have a higher standard than you can build yourself. Upon payment, you immediately access authentication, access control, analytics, documentation, a test console for rapid API testing, etc.


Gone are the days when, if you wanted a fully customized product, you had to build it yourself. These days, you'll find pre-built tools with customization options that meet your needs and even have extra functionalities you didn't consider.

API management tools in the market (like Zuplo) are very programmable and extensible, giving you several customization options to meet your needs and those of your users. These products are built not to make you feel locked into the vendor's way of thinking but to give you the freedom to do what you want.

Another great thing is that you can try them first and decide whether you like them before fully committing to them. So, if one doesn't meet your customization needs, provide the right level of governance for your application programming interfaces, have a fast development feedback loop, etc., you can opt out and try another one.

Why Zuplo?#

So, we've convinced you to focus on what matters and buy. Great, so why Zuplo?

  • Reduced cost: Yes, buying an API management tool saves you costs when compared to building one, but most API management tools are still relatively expensive. Zuplo has enabled dev teams to save over 70% on the sticker price of products like Apigee and Kong while also providing a fully managed solution that includes hosting costs and eliminates the need to manage Kubernetes clusters and scaling. We are the most affordable API management tool in the market today.

    “The move to Zuplo from our existing API management vendor was easy, taking just over two months to switch mission-critical systems, and we're saving over 70% on costs. What's more, our engineers absolutely love working with Zuplo, and we find it a much easier product to maintain and operate.”

    - Ryan Waites, Senior Director at BlockDaemon

  • Ship to production faster: At Zuplo, we are obsessed with performance. We optimized our API management tool to speed up everything, from API development to deployment to the API's E2E performance. That way, you can move from development to production in minutes.

    “Since moving from Azure API management to Zuplo, we've experienced a much quicker path from development to production. Zuplo's built-in policies, route editing, custom code, and GitHub version control make surfacing our backend APIs to the world a breeze”

    - Reece Preston, Managing Director at iTicket

  • Everything you need for your API in one place: When you use Zuplo, you get authentication that your customers love, never-outdated API documentation, a developer portal where users can test your APIs, and rate limiting that works your way. Zuplo provides security, built-in analytics, easy monetization set-up, a gitops workflow, and support for near-unlimited deployments.

    “Zuplo is the ultimate one-stop shop for all your API needs. With rate limiting, API key management, and documentation hosting, it saved us weeks of engineering time. It lets us focus on solving problems unique to our mission.”

    - Tom Carden, Head of Engineering at Rewiring America

  • Vast customization options: Zuplo is the only programmable API management tool that lets developers use their superpower - writing code. Do you want to tweak our existing policies? You can write code to implement logic choices in the gateway without dealing with the confusing XML workflow language. Do you want to change the look and feel of your developer portal? You can update the code for that. The customization opportunities on Zuplo are endless.

    “We have customers in every corner of the world and wanted true Edge performance. Zuplo, combined with their customizability, over-delivered on both.”

    - Rex Weston, President of Dynasend


Buying an API management solution wins the build vs buy debate because the benefits outweigh building your own. It allows you to ship your API securely to end users faster and has more cutting-edge features with room for customization.

Zuplo is re-inventing API management with an edge-deployed, multi-cloud gateway that deploys to 300 data centers worldwide in under 10 seconds. It is SOC2 Type II certified and powers billions of API requests for large enterprises and startups alike—from publicly traded insurance tech to the most prominent crypto APIs in the world.

Are you ready to ship quality APIs faster? Try Zuplo today and save time, money, and engineering effort.