Middleware is software that facilitates communication and data sharing between two different applications or distributed components. Middleware provides many common functionalities such as authentication, data management, API management, message passing, etc. It is essentially the glue that keeps two different applications, such as the applications and the operating system communicating with each other. Middleware helps mitigate the complexities of software integration and streamlines the application development. Therefore, middleware enables faster and more cost-effective application development.
2 Ways to Apply Middleware
We can divide middleware into two types according to how they apply to different components. The first middleware type is the “enterprise application integration middleware,” which we will refer to as ‘enterprise middleware,’ and the second is the ‘platform middleware.’
Enterprise application integration middleware is the software that connects various applications, components, processes, and databases to create seamless communication with each other. Enterprise middleware creates an enterprise integration hub without creating custom integration solutions for each component of your overall system.
The enterprise service bus (ESB) has been the most popular enterprise middleware in the past years. Nowadays, several enterprise middlewares such as iPaaS or integration-platform-as-a-service enable connecting applications, services, data, etc., across cloud-based solutions. Such enterprise middleware takes out critical functions like management, maintenance, etc., letting you focus on application development.
If you have ever used java, the Java runtime environment is one of the platform middleware that provides a runtime hosting environment that specifies the hardware and software configuration and allows Java applications to become platform-independent. Platform middleware helps developers with application development, helping them share application resources. Some other platform middleware includes web servers, middleware for containerized applications, and content management systems like WordPress.
The 6 Types of Middleware
We discussed the two broad categories of middleware that can be divided based on their application. Nonetheless, middleware can be further categorized into six based on its functionalities.
1. New Application Development
A lightbulb app box that says new with text: New Application Development: The creation of new software to integrate multiple software applications for improved productivity and business processes.
Such middleware helps software development companies leverage them for essential services, reduce costs, development time, and labor, and increase portability. Developers can do this because software integration solutions supply ready-made common requirements. Ready-made common requirements are things like web servers and Single Sign-On (SSO) functions.
2. Existing Application Optimization
Technological advancements and increased user demand can outdate the application functionalities and reduce the performance and the ability to scale for a larger user load. Luckily, middleware helps fill such technical gaps and optimize the existing applications for better functionalities. This is particularly notable from today’s business trend of migrating to cloud-based applications for better infrastructure and resources.
Middleware helps you continue utilizing the existing applications instead of building new ones or subscribing to new systems. For example, you can leverage cloud-based lambda functions and queues to act as middleware and use them for message passing between those applications. It will help decouple the applications and allow different components to act independently. The software integration solution helps you because it can supply the cloud functions of some newer SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) applications.
3. Comprehensive Integration
Another middleware type helps connect internal and external systems allowing a wide range of communications between them. For example, suppose you want to integrate a third-party application into your system. Then, there should be a way to establish a secure connection and authenticate the external application. Such authentication mechanisms from integrating parties can be difficult and complex. For such cases, middleware for comprehensive integration can help lift that burden off both parties and simplify the integration. Through single Sing-On (SSO) functions, developers can ensure that various applications work together as a single system.
In addition, Middleware for comprehensive integrations helps businesses better perform their duties in various ways. For example, Software integration of this form can help link data collection applications like Excel spreadsheets into applications that offer better reporting features without human interaction. Such middleware helps companies expand their application functionalities and serve a wider customer base.
4. Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)
APIs are the software that allows applications to send and receive different types of data. APIs are often accessed via API middleware, making it a common link between the different programs using the API. API middleware is the tool that exposes and manages the APIs. For example, various API management platforms provide all required to integrate the APIs, from authentication to API monitoring and monetization tools that help market the APIs.
Especially by leveraging API monitoring tools from the API middleware, organizations can monitor the application usage and get the required insights to improve the system. Other API middleware includes API gateways which many organizations use. These API gateways handle common functionalities such as authentication, authorization, analytics, rate-limiting or limiting the number of API calls in a given period, etc., that are used across a system of API services, such as user authentication and rate-limiting.
Often many software-as-a-service applications offer APIs to allow for middleware development of newer tools to help businesses better receive and report on the data they are receiving from the SaaS application.
One example would be taking API data from an air travel company and using the Application Programming Interface within a new application that integrates travel data with your business’ expense reports.
5. Data Streaming
Today, most organizations try to leverage real-time data streaming capabilities, and Asynchronous data streaming middleware helps provide the common functionalities and make the streaming processing more efficient. Middleware such as Apache Kafka offers an alternative to APIs in the form of data streaming.
A data streaming middleware solution helps your applications process data streams efficiently by sending streaming data to a server-based intermediate data store. This enables your applications to access and download the data directly from the server. This ability will help your business do tasks more easily and save countless hours of labor. Saving labor hours will help improve your business’ operating costs.
6. Intelligent Business Automation
Another middleware type is known as Intelligent Business Automation middleware helps businesses to automate common functionalities. For example, for an online store, product ordering and configuration can be automated, eliminating manual intervention, saving valuable time, money, and increasing efficiency.
In addition, automation middleware can be used to run certain tasks when specific conditions are met. For example, suppose there is a business inventory system that carries out stock re-purchasing when stocks run low. By leveraging that functionality to a middleware, businesses can ensure continous stock availability. It can also be used to quickly install default software onto products without the need for supervision by a technician.
How Middleware Works
Building a comprehensive middleware solution can be critical for organizations to achieve their business goals. Now you know what Middleware is, it is important to understand how exactly to implement middleware in a real environment. Following are the four steps that simplify the process that software development organizations should take when creating a custom software solution with middleware for your business.
Step 1. Identify Systems to Integrate
First and foremost, a clear understanding of which systems should be integrated to provide the required functionality for your applications. You should clearly identify your requirements. Ask yourself which systems and data are core to your business requirements? Most importantly, you should identify the need for middleware. What common functionalities do you need to provide to those systems to enable seamless communication with each other?
Step 2. Connect Systems to Network
Once you have identified the integrating systems, the next step is to connect them to a common network and start the initial communication between the two systems. This system or application connection allows your network-based middleware integration solution to link the integrating parties together. This is similar to setting up a standard network. However, after integrating the middleware, the communication between the connecting parties will change from what you’re used to.
Step 3. Create Middleware to Integrate
Once you have connected both the applications to a common network, the next step is to build the middleware that enables both parties to be linked. The middleware can be for doing the authentication using an external authentication solution, taking extra payload. from another application, enriching the current payload, connecting to external data sources, etc. Whatever the functionality, the middleware must support the critical requirements that enable both parties to connect and communicate successfully.
Once you have completed middleware implementation, it must be installed into the network. Usually, the middleware is designed and developed by another team of software professionals. The integrating parties must include all the required configurations to connect to it. When your middleware is installed into the network, it joins the different apps for increased information sharing.
Step 4. Use Systems Seamlessly
Once you have connected with the middleware, it will start to handle all the communications and data sharing between the applications. Therefore, you can now use your systems more efficiently and conveniently, and your software middleware solution will help make tasks easier to complete.
Middleware supports enterprises not only on a large scale but also helps us perform even smaller tasks efficiently. For example, you may have to enter data into a Microsoft Excel sheet to export and import it elsewhere. You can easily join the data with a software integration solution with middleware. In such cases, you don’t have to export data from one system into another. Your data will work with multiple systems or applications automatically. Everything was happening in the background.
5 Benefits of Middleware
Middleware brings several advantages for integrating applications and the organizations as a whole. Lets’ in this section find out the major benefits of integrating middleware for your applications.
1. Efficient Connectivity
For any integrating system, communication between the parties is the most critical and, most of the time, the most time-consuming part. Middleware allows various applications on your system to communicate and share data. It means your connecting applications do not need extra effort to transfer data between systems for certain functionalities.
Also, middleware realizes the real-time data flow between two different applications enabling seamless communication. By enabling such design solutions, middleware allows connecting applications to focus on their internal functionalities, which helps to improve their productivity.
2. Innovative Solutions
When integrating applications, they have time to spend on their internal functions; cutting down the development time significantly not only increases productivity but also allows them to focus on building more innovative solutions to better serve their customers. It means businesses have adequate time to get ahead of their competitors.
Also, middleware allows organizations to plug in new functionalities without developing them from scratch. For example, using API middleware, you can integrate intelligent monitoring and analytics capabilities to monitor your API usage and provide opportunities for enhancements.
3. Improved Transition Periods
As technologies advance, companies must transition from legacy systems to new ones. However, the transition does not happen overnight. There is a period called the transition period where both legacy and the new system should be used before the complete cut-over to the new system. During such transition periods, keeping both systems in sync and avoiding data gaps is essential. However, updating both systems simultaneously is not straightforward and can be complex based on the system architectures.
To mitigate the problems associated with such transitions, you can use middleware that helps do the transition without reentering data to legacy systems. This synchronization allows companies to do smooth transitions and eliminates the need for separate data entry steps. Re-entering old data can cost many hours of labor, which can be expensive. With middleware, the program does the job for you saving money on operating costs.
4. Workplace Tools Access
Middleware allows seamless integration with many different technologies. For example, there can be middleware that allows the integration of several project planning applications. Users can access those apps by using an SSO implementation without the hassle of entering login details multiple logins and multiple times. thereby improving their productivity
This SSO capability helps increase efficiency, save costs, and reduce development times with middleware. Because, instead of using a collection of various applications, the middleware helps seamlessly share data between applications. It will also centralize operations and automate repetitive tasks that have cost your business thousands in labor hours.
5. Improved Business Costs
There are many ways middleware allows you to save business costs. Since middleware helps to utilize existing applications without needing to develop or purchase new software, it cuts down unnecessary costs, including costs associated with human resources and additional infrastructure. It can be cheaper than many SaaS products that offer the same integration solutions using subscription pricing.
Another way middleware helps to cut costs is by cutting down middleware components’ operational and maintenance costs. With this solution, you can reduce operating costs far beyond the cost of creating your middleware technology.
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