Understanding rate limits for APIs and Plans

In API Connect, you can configure rate limiting on APIs and Plans to manage network traffic and API usage.

What are rate limits and burst limits?

A rate limit is the maximum number of calls you want to allow in a particular time interval. Setting rate limits enables you to manage the network traffic for your APIs and for specific operations within your APIs. API Connect supports two types of rate limiting:

Rate limit

A specified number of calls to be accepted within a defined time period; for example, 100 calls per minute. In API Connect, rate limits can be defined as unlimited, or with a specified number of calls per second, minute, hour, day, or week.

Rate limits can be "hard" (enforced) or "soft". If the rate limit is hard and a call exceeds the limit, then the call is aborted and an error is returned. A soft rate limit allows the call to complete but logs a warning message. When a hard rate limit is reached, no more calls are accepted from that customer until the beginning of the next time period. For example, you might want to permit a total of 1000 calls per hour (rate limit). If a customer makes 1000 calls in the first 10 minutes, they cannot complete any more calls until the hour has expired.

Burst limit
A rate limit that is applied to a very small time period. In API Connect, burst limits are defined for multiples of seconds or minutes. Burst limits are always hard. When a burst limit is reached, calls are not accepted until the time period has expired. Once that pause is over, calls continue to be accepted until a hard rate limit is reached. Configuring a burst limit prevents usage spikes and ensures that the rate limit is evenly spread across its overall time period. For example, you might want to permit a total of 1000 calls per hour (rate limit) and a maximum spike of 50 calls per second (burst limit).

Where can you apply rate limits?

You can configure rate limiting at several levels of an API and the Plan containing it. Each of the rate limits is tracked separately and when a hard limit is exceeded, calls at that point are no longer accepted until the start of the next time period.

The following list explains where you can configure rate limits:

Plan: all APIs
You can define a general rate limit at the Plan level, and it affects all of the consumer orgs that use that Plan. When a rate limit is enforced for a Plan, the limit is checked before every call that involves any API contained in that Plan. If the rate limit is exceeded, APIs are not even called. For information on setting a rate limit for a Plan, see Editing a draft Product.
Note: If the subscriber changes to a different Plan, only the Plan-level rates limit are reset. If there is a hard rate limit specified in the API's definition or assembly, that rate limit is still enforced under the new Plan.
Plan: API path and operation
You can define a rate limit for a specific path and operation of an API within a Plan; for example, you might allow unlimited calls to a GET operation but enforce a limit on PUT operations for the same API. You can even define multiple rate limits on the same path and operation. If the rate limit is enforced, then the limit is checked before every call that involves the API's path and operation. For more information on configuring rate limits on API paths and operations within a plan, see the following topics:
API definition
You can define a rate limit on an API in the API definition (the Design page in the user interface). This rate limit applies to all calls involving the API, from all consumer orgs. If the containing Plan allows the call but the API definition has a hard limit set, the call is aborted. For more information on setting a rate limit on an API definition, see Changing an API rate limit.
API assembly
When you apply a rate limit to an API assembly, the limit only affects calls at that point in the assembly. This allows you to define a more granular rate limit than if you set it on the API definition. If the Plan and the API definition allow a call to proceed but a hard limit that is set on the assembly is exceeded, the call is aborted at the point in the process flow where the rate limit is set. Any actions that appear in the assembly's process flow before the rate limit policy are executed. Only the actions that appear in the flow after the rate limit policy are aborted. For more information on configuring assembly-level rate limits, see the following topics:

How can you test rate limits?

When you're ready to test rate limits on an API or Plan, make sure you deploy it in a test Catalog where automatic subscriptions are not enabled. Execute a larger number of calls than specified by your rate limit, within a shorter period of time. If you set soft rate limits, check for warning messages that indicate when each limit is exceeded. If you set hard limits, you can tell it was enforced when the API call fails. You can also check the error messages to verify which calls exceeded the limits.

The built-in test application that is used by the API Manager and API Designer Test tool is not subject to rate limits if you enabled automatic subscriptions for the Catalog where you are testing. To ensure that your rate limits are applied as intended, create a new test Catalog that requires manual subscriptions and test your API and Plan there. For more information on creating and configuring Catalogs, see Working with Catalogs.