Case Studies

The Motley Fool Modernizes API Management with Kong

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Challenges

  • Custom development delays time to market for critical services
  • Lack of comprehensive solution for API management slows the adoption of microservices

Solution

  • Kong Enterprise as a service control platform, including enterprise plugins for OAuth, OIDC and more
  • Replaced legacy and homegrown API management solutions

Results

  • 5X accelerated time to market for authentication and other services
  • Increased adoption for hundreds of APIs across the platform

Founded in 1993, The Motley Fool, LLC helps millions of people attain financial freedom through its website, investing services and more. To achieve its mission “to make the world smarter, happier, and richer,”
The Motley Fool needed to increase market penetration in the financial information space. This required a breadth of content and the underlying technology to enable its consumption across digital channels.

The Motley Fool’s Site Operations Tech team supports a diverse set of front and backend development teams by providing tools, training and troubleshooting of code-level and infrastructure issues. Infrastructure under the team’s management includes CDN, WAF, DNS and the tools relevant to API management.

As The Motley Fool’s teams embraced microservices to reduce the time to market for adding or modifying services, the Site Ops Tech team knew they needed an API gateway to provide dynamic, synchronous experiences regardless of client channels.

“As an interim solution, we built a simple API gateway with OpenResty and NGINX,” said Tyler Reber, systems engineer and lead on Kong setup. “It was a strict solution to solve a particular problem we faced at the time, and it was not broad enough to include common requests we received from service teams around authentication and caching for services.”

While the interim solution could proxy traffic and apply basic management policies, the team was increasingly receiving requirements that demanded custom development. “One team wanted to implement an Alexa skill that required OAuth,” said Nick Travis, Site Ops Tech lead. “We did not have the bandwidth to code that in-house, so we needed to bring in a third-party partner, which delayed time to market for getting the service.”

The interim solution also did not help expose APIs that existed across The Motley Fool. “It took a lot of brute force for developers to find our APIs – searching their code and others’ code, guessing ‘-api’ in GitHub, scrolling through Slack channels,” Travis explained. “For the documentation that did exist, some used OpenAPI specifications, but others were just a JSON blob.”

With the number of requests continuing to accumulate, and no way to easily expose APIs and ensure their quality, The Motley Fool team began to explore new solutions.

The Motley Fool Chooses Kong for a Lightweight, Flexible and Extensible Solution

The team initially explored Kong due to its familiarity with Kong’s lightweight underlying architecture. “We saw that Kong could do everything we considered in our core feature set for next-generation API management – and all with a very small configuration file,” said Travis. “We wanted to aggregate where APIs flow, track their utilization, manipulate them in-flight, and understand how policies like authentication and caching could work within the solution.”

In evaluating Kong, the team quickly saw a path to reducing custom development and satisfying demand from its service teams. “Kong’s plugin architecture was especially appealing,” said Reber. “Rather than needing to custom code for commonly requested services like proxy caching, we could simply apply these policies out-of-the-box.” As a
product that evolved naturally as an open source solution for the cloud native world, the team valued Kong’s extensibility and active developer community.

The team also appreciated Kong’s deployment flexibility, performing well across cloud, on premise and hybrid scenarios. “In the past, we had tried a cloud-based API management solution. We sunsetted that because it was costly and not aligned with our requirements,” said Mike Shade, DevOps engineer. “Most of our environment is on premise, but due to the size of its configuration file, we saw a lot of latency when deploying changes.” After a short POC, the team moved into implementing Kong as its API management solution.

The Motley Fool Adopts Next-Generation API Management with Kong

With Kong, The Motley Fool has greatly improved the experience for developers across the organization. The team’s solution will live on The Motley Fool’s on premise environment, proxying hundreds of services and billions of API calls annually.

With the solution in place, the team can take advantage of out-of-the-box policies for common enterprise requirements, preventing the need for extensive custom development. “We are excited about Kong’s canary release plugin,” said Shade.

“Kong Enterprise’s out-of-the-box plugins for advanced routing, advanced proxy caching, OpenID Connect and several other types of authentication are also relevant for us.”

Beyond managing APIs, the team also found value in how APIs are documented with Kong.

“With Kong’s Dev Portal, we are aggregating the API experience so developers understand what is out there and being used,” said Travis. “This is a self-service solution, which will increase in value as we show more and more people the benefits of getting their APIs well-documented and into the portal.”

Kong Improves Developer Experience and Efficiency

Kong enabled The Motley Fool team to modernize its approach to API management. Rather than needing to rely on custom development, the team can apply policies out-of-the box. Traffic outside and within the platform’s cluster is unified under a single gateway, reducing latency and improving the experience for development teams across the organization.

“Kong’s enterprise support has been critical for us,” said Shade. “We rely on this support, and knowing there is a great team behind us that has been supporting products like this for a long time is key.” Kong’s support gives The Motley Fool team confidence in managing traffic for mission-critical services, even in periods of sometimes unpredictable peak demand.

“At the end of the day, Kong helps us deliver a better experience for the millions of people who consume our content,” said Travis. “Service teams will be able to reduce time to market significantly, while keeping quality high for end-users.” At a company all about making smart financial decisions, The Motley Fool team is glad Kong has proven itself a valuable investment.

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