Smals delivers API-driven services to public bodies across Belgium

In Belgium, many public sector institutions access digital services through the G-Cloud — a government initiative that combines public and private cloud services. Smals specializes in delivering ICT solutions for government, social, and healthcare organizations, both via its own platforms and through the G-Cloud.

More than 300 Belgian institutions rely upon ICT services from Smals, including the social security, employment and healthcare departments. The association provides an API management and service platform connected to the G-Cloud, supporting thousands of stakeholders with key digital capabilities.

Willem Salembier, Solution Architect at Smals, elaborates: “We partner with a wide range of government stakeholders. For example, we deliver an APIdriven healthcare exchange platform that doctors and pharmacists across the country use to share and retrieve health related information for providing patient care.”

The popularity of e-government services in Belgium is growing fast. To meet the rising demand, Smals projected that it would soon need to process thousands of additional API calls every second to serve its members during peak periods.

“Over the years, our approach to delivering digital services has evolved: from SOAP-based web services to service-oriented architectures to RESTful API services,” says Salembier. “We decided to look for an API management platform that would allow us to support the latest standards, technologies and security features, while offering the scalability to handle increased volumes of API calls cost-effectively.”

Seamless transition

To prepare for future growth, Smals selected Amplify API Management — a full-lifecycle approach to API management that incorporates discovery, security, curation, and continuous deployment capabilities. Because so many public sector organizations rely on Smals to deliver their services, it was essential to transition to a new API platform without impacting existing users.

“We process up to 120 million requests a day, so we wanted to avoid making any changes to existing API endpoints to minimize the risk for our clients and streamline the migration,” says Salembier. “Amplify API Management addresses that requirement perfectly. The Axway solution is extremely flexible, which means we can expose the same functionalities and interfaces while modernizing the way we manage and virtualize APIs internally.

Working with Axway, Smals deployed the new solution in a high-availability configuration across four data centers and gradually migrated its clients. The company completed more than 50 percent of the migration within just 10 months, and transferred its final client to the new platform one year later.

Salembier comments: “It was crucial to perform the migrations in a controlled way, because many of our clients rely on APIs to deliver mission-critical services — for example, dispensing prescription medication to patients. With support from Axway, we transparently migrated our legacy services to Amplify API Management with zero disruption for end users.”

Fostering e-government innovation

Today, Smals has an API solution that is designed to deliver performance, scalability, and security for the long term. On average, the company processes around 120 million requests per day on the platform, with peaks of over 5,000 requests per second.

“Scalability is key to empower our stakeholders to drive e-government innovation,” says Salembier. “For example, Belgian law requires employees working on large construction sites to sign in every time they start work — helping to ensure they have the proper permits. Each morning, thousands of workers arrive on site and scan their badges, which triggers thousands of API calls to the national social security office for validation. With Amplify API Management, we can support such massive peaks in API calls with ease."

Smals has decommissioned its legacy API management platform and integrated its new services with the G-Cloud. With Amplify API Management supporting its API services, the company is also exploring innovative capabilities such as micro services and service mesh architectures.

Salembier concludes: “Through our partnership with Axway, Smals is helping to deliver cost-effective API services to the Belgian government — contributing to higher-quality services and better value for citizens and enterprises.”

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