Azure API Center (preview) - key concepts

This article explains key concepts of Azure API Center. API Center enables tracking APIs in a centralized location for discovery, reuse, and governance.


  • API Center is in preview. This preview version is provided without a service level agreement, and you can occasionally expect breaking changes while in preview. Changes to the API Center preview data model could lead to data loss. For more information, see Supplemental Terms of Use for Microsoft Azure Previews.
  • During preview, request features, report bugs, or provide other feedback in this GitHub repo.

Data model

The following diagram shows the main entities in API Center and how they relate to each other. See the following sections for more information about each entity.

Diagram that shows the data model in API Center.

Highlighted relationships

  1. Each API can have multiple versions and multiple real-world deployments.
  2. Each API version can have multiple API definitions.
  3. Each API deployment is associated with a specific environment and a specific API definition file.


A top-level logical entity in API Center, an API represents any real-world API that you want to track. API Center supports APIs of any type, including REST, GraphQL, gRPC, SOAP, WebSocket, and Webhook.

An API can be managed by any API management solution (such as Azure API Management or solutions from other providers), or unmanaged.


In API Center, an environment represents a location where an API runtime could be deployed, typically an API management platform, API gateway, or compute service. Each environment has a type (such as production or staging) and may include information about developer portal or management interfaces.

API version

An API can have multiple versions across lifecycle stages, each aligned with specific API changes. Some versions may introduce major or breaking changes, while others add minor improvements. An API version can be at any lifecycle stage – from design, to preview, production, or deprecated.

API definition

Each API version may be defined with one or more definition files, such as an OpenAPI definition for a REST API. API Center allows any API definition file formatted as text (YAML, JSON, Markdown, and so on). You can upload OpenAPI, gRPC, GraphQL, AsyncAPI, WSDL, and WADL definitions, among others. API Center also supports importing API definitions from a URL.


In API Center, a deployment identifies a specific environment used for an API runtime. An API could have multiple deployments, for example, one deployment in a staging Azure API Management service and a second deployment in a production Azure API Management service. Each deployment is associated with a specific API definition.

Metadata properties

In API Center, you organize your APIs, deployments, and other entities by setting values of metadata properties, which can be used for searching and filtering and to enforce governance standards. API Center provides several common built-in properties such as "API type" and "Version lifecycle". An API Center owner can augment the built-in properties by defining custom properties in a metadata schema to organize their APIs, deployments, and environments according to their organization's requirements. For example, create a Line of business property to identify the business unit that owns an API.

API Center supports properties of type array, boolean, number, object, predefined choices, and string.

API Center's metadata schema is compatible with JSON and YAML schema specifications, to allow for schema validation in developer tooling and automated pipelines.

Next steps