A conversations with Tyk Image credit Pixabay/GeraltMartin Buhr is the founder and CEO of Tyk, an open-source API management platform. Tyk is written in Go, a language developed by Google a few years ago. It was designed for use in enterprises to help them scale, manage and orchestrate both their internal and external web services. According to Buhr, it also helps them better monetize and organise their services for their stakeholders.

Enterprise Times asked Buhr to explain where the company is on its growth path.

“We are currently on about 130 employees. We have three primarily sales offices, our headquarters in London, one in Singapore, and one in Atlanta, Georgia. By default, we are a remote-first company. Our 130 employees are distributed across 26 different countries.

“We do everything asynchronously or remotely, and we don’t have an in-office requirement at all for our staff. We tend to keep the offices mainly for clients and for staff that prefer it or need an office space to act as a base of operations.”

The remote CEO

Martin Buhr, Founder and CEO of Tyk.io
Martin Buhr, Founder and CEO of Tyk.io

Buhr himself is based in New Zealand. It’s a long way in terms of distance and time zones from the headquarters in London. How did that come about?

“I was the first remote worker. As a company, we bootstrapped the whole thing. The company came from a side project that I started. I wrote the original software, and it snowballed from my spare time into what it is now.

“The first thing I did when I brought my co-founder on board was I told him, “Oh, my wife’s a Kiwi, and if she gets pregnant, I’m heading off from London to New Zealand because we want to raise our kids there. Our first work was how we were going to run the company then. That’s how we became a remote-first business.”

By the time Buhr had moved to New Zealand, the company was already remote working ready. In the end, he wasn’t the first remote worker, as he continued.

By that point, we had our first remote employee in Paraguay. From there, it snowballed. We had our first couple of employees in London. Our head of engineering and our head of QA are in Russia and Serbia. It’s great. We have a real hodgepodge of people as a company. It’s a real melting pot.”

Where does Tyk fit in the API management market

What is your target market?

“We are an enterprise B2B IT business. Our target market is usually engineering teams, developer teams within organisations that either have small fledgling projects or are moving away from one of our competitors. They need something to manage their API services. We have a couple of startups, but our main bread and butter tend to be small to medium-sized enterprises.

“Then we have the occasional super large client that comes in. We have the Royal Bank of Scotland, NatWest and  Société Générale. We are quite big in the banking sector. Some of the super large clients we’re not even allowed to mention.

“In Singapore, we’ve got Lottie. In the States, we’re running a couple of universities. We have about 250- 260 customers in all. The ticket size for our product starts around the 30 to 40,000-pound mark and can go up to half a million. It’s not cheap.”

On AP Management

Tyk is an API Management platform, but what does that mean? Buhr explained the technology and business requirements it needs to deliver. Any API management platform must offer smooth and secure lifecycle management, including design, development, testing, and production.

While in production, they must ensure they stay up, are rate-limited ensure back-end services are protected from attacks. Buhr noted, “Those are the DevOps requirements around just making sure your systems keep running and your infrastructure doesn’t burn.“

Buhr added, “Most B2B transactions these days are done via some kind of web service. When you have those transactions, you want to manage the stakeholders well. Those stakeholders consume their services at different rates, times, and pricing levels. You need to mitigate and manage that access to upsell them or make sure that those API’s that you build are producing value.“

“An API management platform, from a business perspective, will enable you to do that as a business owner. To look at your service capability as a business capability and then turn it into a product and sell that product.“ Effectively it will enable companies to combine APIs to deliver a product that has value to customers.

Buhr continued noting, “In reality, they might be strapped together with glue, bubblegum, and sellotape. They are probably built in COBOL, JavaScript, Python, and god knows what else, ripped out of the annals of history. But you can use an API management platform to create a facade of professionalism and an enterprise-ready product that your stakeholders can consume. We find that every business needs something, regardless of how modern they are.”

On the future

What is next on the product roadmap for Tyk?

“We talk about the API security sector and defining business goals, but there’s a larger piece that is slowly coming out. It’s called a data mesh. Some companies have tens of thousands of web services things running.

“The whole compute layer has been exploded into web services. As that happens, you then have this new problem because all of those services have their databases. You have all of this data floating around your organisation. It’s always been a problem within organisations. There’s always loads of data flow flying around from your CRM system, transactional, and email to your provisioning systems.

“You need to rope all those things together. Traditionally, you do that with an integration suite. But that’s no longer the case because software developments have changed. We now no longer look at software development as independent silos of functionality that you buy in best class vendors for and then strap together using an enterprise service bus, like MuleSoft. Instead, people build these clean interfaces against all these services to integrate them dynamically in an agile way.

How does that work?

“We’re providing technology using something we’re calling the universal data graph. You use a technology that’s already gained traction. It’s big with Facebook and GitHub and all the larger players. It provides you with an SQL queryable way to talk to all of your web services. The problem is, you have to write all your web services to accept this thing. What we say, well, you don’t need to do that. You just plug them into Tyk, and Tyk will take care of that for you.

“Imagine it like this. I have Salesforce, Twilio, GitHub, and 120 other SaaS vendors that my company relies on. They all have API’s, and I can plug all of those external API’s into Tyk as well as all of my own API’s. I can then design this data graph, this schema for my entire company. I don’t have to do it all in one go and I can do it organically.

“It means that my developers, instead of having to learn the ins and outs of every single system with data, can create a single query in a standardised language. It is open-source, open standards and used all over the web. They suddenly become super-productive across my entire data stack.

“That is our new view of integration. It’s the Agile Software first integration standard, and we’re putting Graph QL right in the middle of it. We’re calling it the Universal Data Graph. It enables us to make almost any system communicate with any other system without the developer understanding what those interfaces look like. That speeds things up a great deal from the perspective of somebody building products.”

Is this generally available?

“The initial version of the universal data graph isn’t generally available. It currently only supports RESTful and SOAP-based API’s. We are now working hard on adding additional data sources.

“Those initial data sources will encompass databases and a marketplace for popular API vendors like Salesforce and Twilio. Things like that make it really simple for your technology and systems architects. People who run large teams can design data access patterns for the development teams to quickly make them much more effective.”

What makes Tyk different

How does Tyk differentiate itself?

“The UDG component. We’re the first people to bring that to the market. We are also excellent at Graph QL. There’s only one other company that does Graph QL very well, and they’re not an API management company.

“Within the API management space, we cemented ourselves as Graph QL experts. Our Universal Data Graph platform is unique. We’re also the first to bring the hybrid API management strategy to the market. That was a good couple of years ago, but we are still the market leader in it.”

Buhr also explained that it offers a truly global cloud-based solution delivering global API management from its SaaS platform. It is possible to deploy fully managed edge nodes for your API management within our managed SaaS worldwide. Customers can then hybridise that with other cloud vendors, bare metal data centres and build an entire global API ecosystem.

Buhr added, “We’re the only ones that do that well and transparently. We’re one of the fastest ones on the market if you benchmark us against all the others out there. We have very high-performance metrics.

“We’ve been battle-tested in ISO and PCI compliance systems and SOC II as an open-source vendor. We have the right ecosystem to tackle those tier-one challenges with large enterprises. Not a lot of our competitors can say they can do that.”

What does 2022 hold for API Management?

“For us, we’re very much going down this integration path. API Management started to get a bit weird recently. In the last couple of years, there’s been this increase in something called a service mesh, which is a really interesting concept.

“From a topology perspective, it’s a way to manage these enormous micro-service systems in a slightly more organised way. But they’re incredibly complicated. This new tech came out called the extended Berkeley Packet Framework, eBPF.

“It’s enabled people to build software-defined networking applications that work on the network interface layer—right down onto the actual network interface card, sitting on the server. That has a huge boost in speed and capability and removes a huge amount of complexity from these very large service mesh components that are out there like Istio.

“We’re going to see in the future, especially in 2022, something called sidecarless micro-services platforms getting more and more traction. That is because it makes that design pattern a little more palatable to your average engineer.”

What are your ambitions for Tyk in 2022?

“We’re going to open another three offices across Europe, the States and Australia. We’re going to double, if not more, our headcount and our revenue. As is demanded of a scale-up.”

The book question

What was the latest book you read?

“This is super nerdy. The latest Peter F. Hamilton. Peter F. Hamilton’s Salvation. (Amazon Aus, UK, US) I’ve also tried to start reading Dune. I really want to watch the movie.”


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