Littlepay is a transit-focused payments platform that enables transit providers to offer contactless passenger payments using smart devices and EMV credit cards, a.k.a. chip cards. The Littlepay APIs interface with transit devices to process passenger payments on over 17,000 buses, trains, and trams in the UK and Ireland. Littlepay also offers web applications that give the transit authorities insight into their transactions and other related user-facing web services. We spoke to Brendan Buckley, Head of Engineering, to learn how Uptrends supports their APIs.
To be clear, Littlepay is not a hardware supplier; they provide APIs used by ticket machine vendors to manage the electronic payments as riders use the contactless payment systems. So, imagine if you will, millions of passengers hopping on and off buses and trains tapping their devices (EMV cards, mobile phones, smart watches). Each tap generates an API call to Littlepay’s application. If those APIs fail for any reason, it could bring entire cities to a halt—literally.
To make sure operations run smoothly, Littlepay looked for an API monitoring system. Littlepay needed a monitoring system that not only checked to make sure that an endpoint is alive but could use authentication and complete entire transactions to verify the availability and function of their APIs. That’s where Uptrends gets on board.
Full support for client certificates
To fully test the API, Littlepay needed to simulate an actual device sending requests to their system. Each ticket machine has a unique TLS client certificate that the device passes to Littlepay’s API for authentication. Uptrends Vault allows Littlepay to securely store their client certificates and use them to authenticate the requests coming from Uptrends checkpoints.
I looked at some other monitoring tools, and support for client certificates wasn’t a capability they had. But with Uptrends, it was really simple to do.
“The APIs we have that involve physical devices talking to us are mutually authenticated TLS. Each ticket machine will have its own client cert that it presents to us, and we need to trust that. You guys actually support that. We were able to generate a custom client certificate that is only used for Uptrends monitors and actually submit a synthetic transaction to our API. So the monitor behaves exactly as a real device.”
Using Uptrends’ Vault, you control who can see sensitive vault items, and Uptrends never shows the values in your monitor settings or check detail reports.
Dependable SLA tracking
When you offer SLAs, you need a way to verify them and have quick access to reports you can share. Uptrends SLA monitoring allows you to quickly identify SLA problems and customize and generate reports.
“We have a responsibility to our customers to provide them with reports that say we are meeting their SLAs. Previously, a lot of our monitoring was based on log filtering on the server side and monitoring the number of taps and that sort of thing. It was SLA compliance, that really drove me to look for a tool that would allow us to track SLAs without a lot of work.
“One of the reasons we chose Uptrends was that I didn’t want to be the one to build SLA reports. It’s very nice to be able to say, ‘Look here is a report that shows what the availability and uptime were for that month, and we have met the agreed upon SLA.’ Uptrends is very useful to us for SLA reporting.”
True API availability monitoring from your users' locations
You can use a simple HTTP/HTTPS monitor to check if an API is alive, but that doesn’t mean the API is working. Littlepay needs to know that their APIs are available and working 24/7. Uptrends’ Multi-Step API is the perfect tool for Littlepay to simulate full API interactions.
“You know this is not a case where you can just send a CURL request to figure out if the API is working. The monitors that simulate access to our portals use HTTP JWT authorizations. We can generate a unique credential to identify the Uptrends monitor. Uptrends allows us to add in the required authorizations into the steps themselves and then just let them go off and run. It is very simple to use.”
One of the things I like about Uptrends is that I can use an Uptrends checkpoint to see if users in that location could hit us or is there an issue.
Littlepay doesn’t just look for general availability; Littlepay uses Uptrends' global network of 226 checkpoints to verify availability from specific customer locations.
“One of the things I like about Uptrends is, I can use an Uptrends checkpoint to see if users in that location could hit us or is there an issue. Uptrends lets us know if there are any issues. Are we having an outage or anything like that? In terms of the SLAs we have internally and with our customers, they are very much around availability.”
You don’t have to watch your step with the API step editor
We designed our Multi-step API Monitoring to make setup as painless and straightforward as possible. You set up each request, and you make assertions on the responses for validation. You can extract values and save them to variables allowing you to use the value again later. Littlepay found Uptrends simple and intuitive.
“The step editor is easy to use. I was able to give the monitor to someone that had never used it before, and it is intuitive. It doesn’t require any training or expertise; it’s just going to work. It’s easy to use. It’s simple. It doesn’t require an explanation.”
Flexibility in alerting
Uptrends supports multiple channels for you to receive alerts: SMS, phone/voice, email, push notification from the Uptrends app, and easy to set up integrations to StatusHub, Slack, and PagerDuty. If none of those are to your liking, Uptrends supports the use of webhooks. Webhooks allow you to integrate Uptrends alerting with other notification systems you may already use or prefer.
“We use the automated alerting from Uptrends. When there is an error the alert is routed through Opsgenie. Previously alerts were going to Slack and email as well, but now we route them through Opsgenie. With Uptrends, you can define teams and escalations, but because we have other alerts coming from our own internal monitoring, we needed to feed alerts into a centralized location, so we used a custom integration in Uptrends to send our alerting to Opsgenie instead of using Slack.”
The features you need now and in the future
At Uptrends, we actively improve and expand the capabilities and features offered based on changing technology and customer input and requests. A feature added to Multi-step API late in 2019 is the ability to capture, log, and generate reports and custom dashboards with numeric data extracted from your API responses.
“Custom Metrics is something I’m looking at using for a particular use case where we hit an endpoint that gives us a green or yellow light as to whether things are working. Custom metrics would be a final layer of granularity that would be useful to report on.”
“We are very happy. It is obvious that you guys continue to develop the platform. When I look at new features you’re putting out like the custom metrics, I think, “How can we use this? How is this going to be useful to us?” Then we put it into place.”
Get your ticket to better API availability
Multi-step API Monitoring is just one solution offered by Uptrends. Uptrends has a complete suite of website and server availability and performance monitoring. Uptrends offers solutions for your public-facing websites, web services, and servers, but you can take Uptrends and Uptrends Infra behind your firewall too. Take a test ride with Uptrends. Use Uptrends no-commitment 30-day free trial to see how Uptrends can monitor your digital assets.Try Uptrends today!