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In the Cloud era APIs are an essential building block in connecting a company's cloud-based and on-premise systems. SAP API Management as an important part of the SAP Integration Suite offers a solution to centrally manage, integrate, monitor and standardize APIs. API standardization covers many aspects like applying shared access through one API Gateway, a common behavior (authorization, quotas, etc.) and also an alignment on naming and structure.

In a recent project, we at p36 supported a client in the rollout of SAP API Management as the central API platform. One aspect was to also align the integrated APIs with the internal API Guideline, which uses the SAP Enterprise API Best Practice document as its foundation.
One problem we faced was the handling of errors (faults) in SAP API Management: While there is a pretty fine grained set of error codes when something goes wrong, the default response structure and http status codes sadly did not match the API Guideline.

The default error response structure of SAP API Management looks like this:
"fault": {
"faultstring":"Failed to resolve API Key variable request.header.apikey",
"detail": {

The expected error response structure in alignment with the API Guideline should look like this:
"error": {
"code": "<some internal code or text like btp.apmgmt.auth.MissingApiKey>",
"message": "Missing APIKey header. Please provide an APIKey in the request header for authentication."

Sadly, there is no quick and easy way to modify the error response structure for all errors in SAP API Management. In the process of identifying the best solution, we looked at different approaches, but neither did we find a straight forward solution nor a best practice provided by SAP.
There are some great blog posts in the SAP community around the topic of error handling, but both describe a different solution:

The core of SAP API Management is based on Apigee, a former standalone API Management tool, which has been acquired by Google. In the community around Apigee, you can find various blog posts and best practices to handle errors:

While all the Apigee best practices share a similar approach using FaultRules and the DefaultFaultRule, it seems that SAP's vision to handle errors in SAP API Management is different, because FaultRules and the DefaultFaultRule are not easily maintainable in the API Portal and the best practice Policy Templates in the SAP API Business Hub are mainly using RaiseFault Policies.

In this blog post I am going to look into the various options of handling errors in SAP API Management and discuss pros & cons of the different approaches in more detail. In the second blog post, I will also give some insights into our approach to standardize the error handling.
So, if you are in the likely position to have the same requirements, here is your one-stop-shop documentation. 😁

Background: Fault handling in SAP API Management

SAP API Management (Apigee) at its core distinguishes between different types of errors, that can be classified in two major groups:

  • Automatic errors that are triggered by the platform

  • Custom errors manually triggered in a flow, that can be used for your own purposes

Automatic errors

Automatic errors are thrown by an API Proxy in SAP API Management in situations, where technical problems occur on the platform, but mainly when a Policy throws an error as part of the Policies behavior.

An example regarding the VerifyAPIKey Policy:

If the VerifyAPIKey Policy is part of an API Proxy's flow, it checks, if an APIKey is included in the incoming request (either as URL- or header parameter). During this check the Policy can raise several different errors. The following table is extracted from the official VerifyAPIKey Policy documentation:


Error Name

HTTP Status


DeveloperStatusNotActive 401 The developer who created the Developer App that has the API key you are using has an
inactive status. When an App Developer's status is set to inactive,
any Developer Apps created by that developer are
FailedToResolveAPIKey 401 The policy expects to find the API key in a variable that is
specified in the policy's <APIKey> element. This error arises
when the expected variable does not exist.
InvalidApiKey 401 An API key was received by API Management, but it is invalid. When API Management
looks up the key in its database, it must exactly match the one that
was sent in the request. If the API worked previously, make sure the
key was not regenerated. If the key was regenerated, you will see
this error if you try to use the old key.
InvalidApiKeyForGivenResource 401 An API key was received by API Management, and it is valid; however, it does not match
an approved key in the Developer App associated with your API proxy
through a Product.
invalid_client-app_not_approved 401 The Developer App associated with the API key is revoked.

If a Policy is throwing one of those errors, the message flow will immediately enter an error state and all subsequent steps in the flow will no more be executed.
By raising the error, a policy also sets some internal variables: The variable will be filled with the name of the Policy error (e.g. "FailedToResolveAPIKey") and the variable [policy_namespace].[policy_name].failed will be set to true (e.g. oauthV2.VK-VerifyAPIKey.failed = true). Again, the name and values of those variables are documented for each Policy in the SAP API Management documentation (e.g. VerifyApiKey).

When entering the error state, the API Proxy checks for the presence of FaultRules, that have conditions to handle this kind of error.
The following example shows a more complex FaultRule, that is triggered, when the VerifyAPIKey Policy fails. The FaultRules` steps contain checks for the name of the fault and the flow is delegated to a defined Assign Message Policy.
<condition>(oauthV2.VK-VerifyAPIKey.failed = true)</condition>
<condition>( = "FailedToResolveAPIKey")</condition>
<condition>( = "InvalidApiKey")</condition>

An example Assign Message Policy (AM-FaultRuleInvalidAPIKey) can look like this and return a specific error back to the client:
<AssignMessage async="false" continueOnError="false" enabled="true" xmlns=''>
<Payload contentType="application/json" variablePrefix="@" variableSuffix="#">
"error": {
"code": "btp.apimgmt.auth.InvalidApiKey",
"message": "Invalid ApiKey specified. Please verify the correctness of the ApiKey in the request header."
<AssignTo createNew="false" transport="http" type="request"/>

If no FaultRule can be executed, then the DefaultFaultRule will be called. If the API Proxy contains neither FaultRules nor a DefaultFaultRule, the proxy sends the default error message in the default format back to the client.

Skipping automatic errors

It is possible to omit entering the error state in case of a Policy error by setting the continueOnError flag in the configuration of a Policy to true. In this case, the error information is still stored in the variables, but the flow continues as if nothing happed and the next step in the flow will be executed.

An example:
 <!-- Skip the default error behavior --> 
<VerifyAPIKey async='true' continueOnError='true' enabled='true'
<APIKey ref='request.header.APIKey'/>

In this case, no error will pop up and you either have to take care of raising an error by yourself or the error will stay unnoticed.

Custom errors

In situations where no automatic errors are triggered by the system or errors may be skipped, it is possible to throw a custom error by using the RaiseFault Policy. RaiseFault Policies include a FaultResponse, which consists of HTTP headers, query parameters and a message payload, that can send an arbitrary error message back to the client. RaiseFault Policies can be used in the API flow like any other Policy and if the RaiseFault policy is triggered and executed, it will immediately throw an error and set the flow in an error state and not call any subsequent steps.

The following example shows a more complex oAuth2 authentication flow based on the JWT Token Verification Policy template by SAP, which first reads an oAuth token from Cloud Foundry and then uses this token to authenticate the request.

The RaiseFault Policy has a condition, that checks if the token response was valid and returned a correct status code. If not, the RaiseFault Policy will be triggered.
lookupcache.LC-ReadCachedToken.cachehit = false and sapapim.tokenresponse.status.code != 200

The RaiseFault Policy itself will setup the payload (in this case using earlier set variables) and return the error back to the client.
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" standalone="yes"?>
<RaiseFault async="false" continueOnError="false" enabled="true" xmlns="">
<Payload contentType="application/json" variablePrefix="@" variableSuffix="#">sapapim.tokenresponse.content</Payload>

FaultRules vs. the RaiseFault Policy

While by the above definition FaultRules and the RaiseFault policy have different purposes, it can be confusing, when to use which. Especially when you look at the Policy Templates offered by SAP and the not existing support for FaultRules in the API Portal.

Pros & Cons for using RaiseFault Policies

Since RaiseFault Policies can be used as part of the flow modeling, they are a convenient and easy way to send errors back to the client. It's also possible to add them to Policy Templates and thus they can be easily adopted in the creation of an API Proxy. While the sharing via Template is primarily a good thing, it may also be dangerous:
The Policy Template Quota With 429 Status Code by SAP for example is providing three Policies in a pre flow: VerifyApiKey, Quota and RaiseFault.

The VerifyApiKey and Quota Policies are set to continueOnError=true, meaning, that even when a Policy error occurs, no error will be automatically returned. Instead in the last step, the RaiseFault Policy is triggered based on the condition, that the Quota Policy failed.
(ratelimit.setquota.failed = "true")

The RaiseFault Policy then sends an error message back to the client:
<RaiseFault async="true" continueOnError="false" enabled="true" xmlns="">
<!-- Defines the response message returned to the requesting client-->
<!-- Sets or overwrites HTTP headers in the respone message -->
<Header name="Retry-After">{ratelimit.setquota.expiry.time}</Header>
<Payload contentType="text/plain">Your quota exceeded </Payload> <StatusCode>429</StatusCode>
<!-- sets the reason phrase of the response -->
<ReasonPhrase>Too many Requests</ReasonPhrase>

With the Policy Template approach this is easily shareable and this approach kind of works for sending a customized error back to the client, but it does have some serious drawbacks:

  • All possible ApiKey related errors are completely skipped and will not show up for the client.

  • The RaiseFault response is very specific and telling the client, that too many requests have been sent. But since the Quota Policy may contain different kind of errors (it actually does!), this error may just be wrong.

Some of those problems can be fixed by either changing the condition (maybe check for the VerifyApiKey errors as well) and adjusting the error message to be more general or by adding multiple RaiseFault Policies in the flow with fine grained conditions. But this would lead to a much more complex flow.

To sum things up regarding RaiseFault Policies:

pro contra

  • Shareable via Policy Template

  • Very useful for custom errors based on conditions

  • Easily maintainable via API Portal

  • Are not meant to and are not well suited to handle Policy errors

  • Inside of the RaiseFault Policy the original error information is no more available, since the fault name will be overridden ( = "RaiseFault")

  • There are some more anti-patterns for the use of the RaiseFault Policy


A special RaiseFault Policy: defaultRaiseFaultPolicy

Whenever you create an API Proxy in SAP API Management and hit "save", you will automatically create an RaiseFault Policy in your proxy called defaultRaiseFaultPolicy, which is part of an Conditional Flow called DefaultFaultFlow. This flow checks if a request to a valid resource is being made and if not, the defaultRaiseFaultPolicy will be triggered.

While this is sadly not documented anywhere and there is no way to rename or remove both fragments later (at least via the API Portal), SAP API Management is using as a way to handle the specific custom error of accessing not existing resources. unresolved errors. The default implementation just sets the status code to 405 and returns a Method not Allowed error:
<RaiseFault async="false" continueOnError="false" enabled="true" xmlns="">
<ReasonPhrase>Method Not Allowed</ReasonPhrase>

Pros & Cons for using FaultRules and the DefaultFaultRule

Okay, that's how you handle custom errors. But what about the automatic ones? Why aren't those part of the SAP Quota Policy Template to possibly implement a correct error handling for VerifyApiKey and Quota errors? It's pretty simple, because:

  • FaultRules and the DefaultFaultRule are not shareable through Policy Templates

  • and FaultRules and the DefaultFaultRule are not directly maintainable through the API Portal User Interface.

I would assume that the first issue is leading to the second one: Since SAP may want to provide best practices though Policy Templates, FaultRules and the DefaultFaultRule are not a first class citizen in SAP API Management. They cannot easily be shared and thus there is also lacking support to edit them in the API Portal UI.
You can find references in the official documentation (scroll down to FaultRule) of SAP API Management and FaultRules are also part of the OData API, but there is no real documentation on how to use them in your API Proxy.

While there is not supporting User Interface, both can be maintained as described in the blog post by santhosh.kumarv:

  1. Export the API Proxy.

  2. Extract the zip file

  3. Modify the APITargetEndPoint/default.xml or APIProxyEndPoint/default.xml

  4. Create a zip file again

  5. Import the zip into SAP API Management

While this process is a little cumbersome, it does work and even after making changes to the API Proxy in the API Portal, the inserted rules will not be overridden.
Sadly, there is no way to share a set of rules between multiple API Proxies. The current version of Apigee has support for reusable shared flows that add some kind of inheritance to API proxies, but this feature currently does not exist in SAP API Management and also does not seem to be part of the roadmap.

To sum things up for FaultRules and the DefaultFaultRule:

pro contra

  • The correct way to handle automatic errors

  • Very flexible due to the possibility to call other Policies (see upcoming blog post)

  • Not maintainable via User Interface in SAP API Management

  • Not shareable via Policy Template

  • No support for reusable shared flows in SAP API Management


By closely looking at the best practices around Apigee, you can see that FaultRules and DefaultFaultRules are the preferred way to handle automatic errors and RaiseFault Policies should only be used in cases of a real custom error.

SAP seems to follow a different approach by including RaiseFault Policies in their best practices and by providing no User Interface to manage FaultRules and the DefaultFaultRule.
From my perspective, this leads to confusion and makes things more complex, then they should be, because you either have to work around the automatic error handling or things get more complicated, because you cannot maintain important stuff via UI.

In the second blog post I am sharing an approach, how we tackled the requirement of having a standardized error response handling and dealing with the choices and restrictions in SAP API Management.
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