Everything you should know about Middleware
In the business world that is increasingly dependent on IT infrastructure and applications, it is very common for those in the area to come across different terms and notions. In this article, we are going to talk about one of such things that can stay unclear for non-technical professionals but represent an effective solution to very widespread problems. As a result, it’s really worth knowing what it is. We are talking about middleware.
Although it was popularized in the 1980s, middleware — also known as Enterprise Application Integration (API) — is undoubtedly among the most “obscure” terms that every manager should pay attention to.
However, you may be asking yourself: “Could the company be losing a lot by not knowing this technology?”. Our answer is: “Yes, it is really so!”
In this article, we are going to explain the importance that Middleware has for the corporate IT environment and will offer for your consideration the concept itself and some advantages that your business can obtain with its adoption.
After all, what is middleware?
Middleware is software that enables one or more types of communication or connectivity between two or more applications and/or application components in a distributed network. By making it easier to connect applications that are not designed to connect to each other—and providing functionality to connect them in intelligent ways—middleware streamlines application development and accelerates time-to-market.
Middleware acts as a bridge between diverse technologies, tools, and databases and helps to integrate them seamlessly into a single system. As a result, a single system offers a unified service to its users.
How middleware works
At the most basic level, middleware allows developers to build applications without having to create a custom integration every time when they need to get connected to application components (services or microservices), data sources, computing resources, or devices.
The main functions of the middleware are communication of data, connection of applications, facilitation of the development, and elaboration of tasks.
Thus, large companies that choose containers or the cloud for the development and information storage can increase productivity and optimize resources through different intermediaries.
Thanks to these options, the communication of information is executed in a structured and systematic way so that patterns and sequence events can be repeated.
In security verification cases, for example, there is a pre-defined structure that is responsible for data verification and confirmation messages.
Despite this, there is also the possibility of monitoring and defining commands and actions in real-time through specific and differentiated processing.
What are the key benefits of middleware?
COMMUNICATION BETWEEN DIFFERENT TYPES OF APPLICATIONS
It is very common among large companies to use applications of different architectures, either by acquiring new technologies or by merging with another company that uses other applications. As a result, it is necessary to have a solution for working with multiple architectures.
Middleware was developed to support architectures through process-oriented methods, allowing data to be moved from one application to another.
ACCESS TO DIFFERENT TECHNOLOGIES
No matter how large the IT infrastructure in a company is, it will be possible to provide access to different technologies located in different physical environments (including cloud and mobile technologies) thanks to the integration that is made by Middleware.
The information captured by the readers, whose layer precedes the Middleware, can return null and irrelevant values, generating a huge waste of processing due to the volume.
With Middleware intermediating this information from different sources, the information is filtered. As a result, the volume of processed data is considerably reduced and the reader gets only high-level information.
All the mentioned benefits contribute to the optimization of business process management (BPM).
Common Middleware Types
There are many different types of middleware. Some of them focus on specific types of connectivity, others – on specific applications, app components, and devices; some others combine middleware features for a specific development task. Some of the best-known and most commonly used types of middleware software include:
Message-oriented middleware (MOM): It is responsible for communication through messages. This type of middleware can be queue-based or message-passing.
The required services are:
- Asynchronous Communication
- Message Prioritization
Messages are always sent to a queue, and there is no direct communication between the client and the server.
Transaction-oriented middleware: It includes a remote procedure call integrated with transactional control. The required services are:
- Synchronous/Asynchronous Communication
- Transactional control
This middleware is used in the cases when transactional control is required and performance must be prioritized.
Remote Procedure Call (RPC) Middleware: It is intended for calling remote procedures (located on another machine). The required service is:
- Synchronous communication
The client calls the procedure and the server sends the response. Connection is established between the client and the server
Object-Oriented Middleware: Its goal is to ensure communication through calls to remote objects.
The required services are:
- Synchronous/Asynchronous Communication
First of all, the client gets the reference to the remote object and then the call to the desired method is made.
ORB middleware: The ORB is located between the client and the realization of an object.
- It allows the client to invoke operations on the object
- It is responsible for such mechanisms as finding the realization of the object, handling the execution of the server code, etc.;
The role of the “Broker” is to identify a server that is capable to execute the desired service and forward the request to you. In this model, only the “Broker” knows the addresses of the client and the server. The client and the server can run on the same machine or on different machines.
Different networks are interconnected by a local area network or a WAN.
Asynchronous Data Flow Middleware: It replicates a flow of data to an intermediate store, allowing data to be shared between multiple applications. Apache Kafka is one of the best-known examples of the middleware for streaming data in real-time.
What are the main Middleware applications?
Modern enterprise applications are designed to run at scale, whether in on-premises or cloud environments. To create them, developers need an application environment with unified fundamental resources. Middleware is the key element used for building such an environment.
We can divide these features into four layers and separately mention a set of tools:
This middleware layer manages the delivery aspect of application lifecycles uniformly. It provides DevOps capabilities with CI/CD, container management, and service mesh.
Execution Environments Layer
This layer contains runtimes for custom code. Middleware can provide lightweight frameworks and runtimes for highly distributed cloud environments such as microservices, in-memory caching for fast data access, and messaging to accelerate data transfer.
Integration middleware provides services to connect purchased and custom applications, as well as SaaS assets, through messaging, integration, and APIs to form functional systems. In addition, it offers in-memory caching and database services, data/event streaming, and API management.
Process automation and decision management layer
This final layer of development middleware introduces critical intelligence, optimization, automation, and decision management functionality.
In addition to the four layers of middleware mentioned above, there is an application development toolset. These tools allow teams to build applications using predefined containers and templates and facilitate efficient code sharing and joint development. The toolset helps to make the delivery experience more coherent and consistent across on-premises and cloud environments.
How does middleware work after being integrated with BPM (Business Process Management) software?
Basically, a BPM is an adaptive management approach. Its function is to provide the company with relevant information regarding the execution of processes with a view to achieving three main goals:
- Assisting in decision making;
- Continuous optimization of business processes;
- Enabling processes to be managed efficiently.
Therefore, as middleware is capable of promoting interaction between different applications and technologies, in addition to filtering and refining raw information detected by readers, naturally this type of software, integrated with BPM tools, can optimize the entire information collection process.