Middleware is defined as a software solution that sits between the application layer and operating system (OS) layer of your infrastructure stack to enable a channel of communication and data flow between these two components. This article explains the concept of middleware in detail, along with recommendations for the best software platforms in this segment and their key features.
Key Must-Have Features for Middleware Software
Middleware is a software solution that sits between the application layer and operating system (OS) layer of your infrastructure stack to enable a channel of communication and data flow between these two components.
Middleware is an essential part of any computing environment. In a consumer-facing environment, middleware comes built into the operating system so that users can easily install and run compatible applications on their devices. However, enterprises are slightly more complex – there are diverse operating systems and different hosting environments to factor in, including the cloud, on-premise servers, and virtual machines. Enterprises also have dynamic application needs and must be able to build, deploy, and adapt their applications to achieve optimal performance. A robust and flexible middleware is what makes this possible.
As digital transformation accelerates, demand for middleware software is growing in tandem. Between 2020 and 2027, the global application infrastructure middleware market is expected to grow so rapidly that it will cross $3.58 billion by the end of the forecast period, according to Industry Research.
If you’re looking to deploy or modernize your middleware systems in 2021, here are the five key features to look for:
1. Interoperability support
The middleware software must connect with the widest possible variety of applications and enable a degree of interoperability between them. It should enable data flow between disparate systems so that you can gain from automation and analytics. Ideally, the middleware should include pre-built integrations and ready-to-use application programming interfaces (APIs) that make it easier to build a connected enterprise.
2. On-premise and cloud compatible
This is a must-have feature for modern middleware offerings, which are deployed in cloud-based or hybrid environments. Traditionally, middleware was meant for on-premise devices and servers so that you would be able to open your enterprise landscape to a variety of applications, including third-party ones. However, on-premise only environments are becoming rarer as investments in the cloud increase. According to IDG’s 2020 cloud computing survey, 59% of organizations said that they plan to be mostly or entirely in the cloud over the next few months. Your middleware must be able to support cloud-based applications and processes.
3. Developer readiness
Technical users should be able to leverage the middleware software to build out your application landscape. Middleware solutions may include software development kits (SDKs) in addition to APIs for custom configurations and development. It should also support frameworks for enterprise app delivery like Jakarta so that developers can create applications in the language of their choice. You could even look for open architectures that make it easier to tweak the middleware as per your precise requirement.
4. IT effort reduction
A good middleware software should be able to connect the OS with multiple applications and simplify how you manage this entire connected environment. For example, it can provide you with unified visibility into applications and processes through a centralized dashboard. Some software solutions may include security features, while others may include workflow automation to reduce IT efforts. This will play an important role in helping you choose the best middleware software for your organization.
5. Middleware community support
Finally, companies need an active community to support and make the most of their middleware implementation. Middleware software is almost like the digital backbone of your enterprise, connecting the central nervous system or OS to the operating limbs or your applications. A community of experts, users, and developers can help you optimize middleware capabilities and drive innovation. You may also be able to utilize open-source tools that help maximize the potential of the middleware technology.
With these features in mind, let us now look at the leading middleware software solutions available in the market today.
Top 8 Middleware Software Platforms in 2021
Middleware is a crucial cog in your IT infrastructure as it enables interoperability, application development, and, eventually, digital transformation. Here are the top ten software platforms you need to consider in this segment, arranged alphabetically.
Disclaimer: This list is based on publicly available information and includes vendor websites that sell to mid-to-large enterprises. Readers are advised to conduct their final research to ensure the best fit for their unique organizational needs
1. Flow Middleware Platform
Overview: Flow is a New Zealand-based software company that provides middleware software for application integration, electronic data interchange (EDI), and application programming interface (API) management. Enterprises can use Flow Middleware to set up connected processes with data interoperability.
Key features: The key features of the Flow Middleware Platform include:
- Interoperability support: Flow enables interoperability between all your enterprise systems, including legacy tools, industry-specific software, web services, and databases. You can also connect with external systems and partner technologies.
- On-premise and cloud compatibility: Flow is compatible with cloud-based systems and legacy environments, which allows you to synchronize and automate processes.
- Developer readiness: Flow is primarily meant for business users and offers robust technical capabilities like customizable process automation and API layer.
- IT effort reduction: It reduces IT efforts by consolidating web, data, and integration management from a single platform, with real-time data flows.
- Middleware community support: The company has a modest size middleware community and mostly provides support through its professional services.
USP: The USP of Flow Middleware is that it is easy to set up and use. Further, it can support the needs of every industry, and the company will help you tailor the middleware for your existing device and data environment.
Editorial comments: Flow is an ideal middleware software solution for mid-sized organizations. You can achieve an integrated IT landscape with optimized efforts and timelines.
2. IBM WebSphere Application Server
Overview: Enterprise technology giant, IBM, is among the leading middleware companies in the world. It has several products to drive integration and interoperability like IBM API Connect, IBM MQ (a messaging middleware), and WebSphere Application Server, which is its flagship suite of middleware solutions.
Key features: The key features of IBM WebSphere Application Server include:
- Interoperability support: It connects workloads in multi-cloud environments to provide you with unified visibility and application awareness.
- On-premise and cloud compatibility: There are multiple WebSphere editions designed for containers, cloud runtime environments, hybrid environments, and environment-agnostic deployment.
- Developer readiness: Your technical team can closely work with IBM and leverage the full IBM Cloud Pak solution to build new applications and modernize old ones.
- IT effort reduction: It includes an administrative console to analyze app performance, generate reports, and monitor logs in real-time.
- Middleware community support: IBM has a vast community of middleware professionals, users, and thought leaders, including clients like Amway and Canon.
USP: IBM allows you to deploy a purpose-built edition of WebSphere for your environment. You can also gain from IBM’s full range of application development and management products.
Editorial comments: Global enterprises and large-scale organizations (including governments) can rely on IBM WebSphere and the entire range of IBM cloud solutions for application infrastructure management.
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