February 22, 2024
4 min read

Navigating API Management's New Era: Kong's Incremental Buy-in Product Principle

Reza Shafii
Senior Vice President of Product, Kong

In the rapidly evolving world of API management, the conversation around "the great unbundling of API management" has recently gained traction. This movement, highlighted by industry experts and analysts, including a recent Forbes article, reflects a shift towards a more componentized approach in API tooling offerings. Such an approach caters to the enterprise's specific needs, moving away from the traditional "does-it-all" solutions. 

At Kong, we’re not just observers of this trend; we’re active participants and innovators, aligning our platform's philosophy with the needs of a changing landscape through what we call the "incremental buy-in" approach.

The unbundling phenomenon

The concept of unbundling in API management points to the fragmentation of API lifecycle management into distinct, specialized tools and components. This trend stems from the need for flexibility and customization as enterprises look to address their unique challenges with tailored solutions that are each best designed to address the specific area of the API lifecycle at hand. 

Kong’s incremental buy-in product principle

Kong’s incremental buy-in product principle is designed to empower organizations to start with what they need and expand their toolset organically as their requirements evolve. This approach isn’t about offering a one-size-fits-all solution but providing a suite of best-in-class capabilities that cater to different aspects of the API lifecycle and its stakeholders, including application teams, infrastructure teams, platform teams, and API product owners.

Kong’s platform comprises Kong Gateway, KIC (Kong Ingress Controller), Kong Mesh, Kong Gateway Kubernetes Operator, Kong Konnect Portal, Kong Konnect API Analytics, Kong Konnect Gateway Manager, Kong Konnect Mesh Manager, and Kong Insomnia. Each of these products is designed to address specific needs of the API lifecycle management and provide the best possible experience for that specific need — it’s tailored for that specific aspect of the API lifecycle management. 

As an example, one can start by introducing a K8s native API gateway for internal ingress traffic management to Kubernetes clusters leveraging the Kong Ingress Controller, and then, when ready or the need arises, introduce Kong Mesh for service-to-service traffic management and security. The solution can then, at a later time, be extended with Edge traffic management via the Kong Gateway, and last but not least, an organizational-wide rollout through a Platform Team enabled via Kong Konnect. 

With the incremental buy-in philosophy, we’re designing each of these products to be independently adoptable, based on the use case at hand, without the necessity to commit to the entire suite from the outset. This enables a truly incremental approach, allowing organizations to grow into our ecosystem as their needs dictate.

The value of incremental buy-in with a specific example

The benefits of the incremental buy-in philosophy are multifold:

  • Flexibility and customization: Organizations can tailor their API management solution to their specific needs without being locked into a monolithic platform such as many of the 2010s-era API management platforms still in use today. 
  • Cost efficiency: By adopting only the tools that are immediately necessary, companies can optimize their spending and expand their toolset in a cost-effective manner.
  • Reduced complexity: Starting with a focused set of tools reduces the complexity and learning curve associated with implementing an API management solution, enabling quicker adoption and value realization.
  • Future-proofing: As needs evolve, additional capabilities can be seamlessly integrated, ensuring that the API management solution remains aligned with business objectives and technological advancements.

A real-world application: Rabobank’s API platform

Kong's partnership with Rabobank, a premier international financial services provider, epitomizes the essence of our incremental buy-in philosophy. This collaboration highlights how our platform's adaptability and modularity enable organizations like Rabobank to customize their API management ecosystems to meet evolving needs.

During a recent fireside chat at Kong’s API Summit, the Rabobank API platform team shared their journey of adopting Kong's Konnect platform as a foundation for their API platform development. 

It began with the integration of Kong Gateway, laying a solid foundation for API traffic management and security. As their requirements grew, Rabobank further embraced Kong Konnect for its federated governance capabilities, empowering their platform team to construct a comprehensive API platform. This platform was enriched with Rabobank’s own ecosystem of capabilities around API Portals, API Analytics, and more as depicted by the diagram below.

Rabobank’s “constellation” of components forming their new API platform

Rabobank’s approach illustrates the incremental buy-in model's strength, enabling them to begin with core Kong offerings and progressively integrate more components and external tools. This strategy not only aligns with their specific operational needs but also exemplifies how organizations can fluidly adapt to the "great unbundling" of API management. 


The trend towards the unbundling of API management reflects the industry's move towards more agile, flexible, and customized solutions. At Kong, our incremental buy-in philosophy embodies this shift, providing a pathway for organizations to adopt and grow their API management capabilities in a way that aligns with their unique needs and pace. As we navigate the evolving API landscape, Kong remains committed to empowering our customers with the tools and flexibility they need to succeed in an increasingly interconnected world.

By embracing the principles of incremental buy-in, Kong not only acknowledges the trend of API management unbundling but also leads the way in providing adaptable, scalable, and efficient solutions for the modern enterprise. 

To get started with Kong's portfolio of products (using incremental buy-in, of course) try Kong Konnect for free.