What is Middleware? Technology’s Go-to Middleman

Customer expectations are dramatically rising—from competitive shipping rates, to instant text alerts, to 24/7 customer service access, and more—and meeting those demands requires detailed coordination of every system in an organization. But if your CSM software wasn’t designed to integrate with your big data platform or the tools being used for digital marketing campaigns, how do you keep it all organized and streamlined?

That’s where middleware comes in.

Below is a detailed look at what middleware is, how it works, and how it can specifically help your business.

Middleware - The enterprise-wide bridge

Middleware is software that bridges gaps between other applications, tools, and databases in order to provide unified services to users. It is commonly characterized as the glue that connects different software platforms and devices together.

Although the term has been referenced since 1968, middleware was officially introduced in the 1980s as a way of linking newer applications to older legacy systems. Middleware’s uses include web servers, application servers, content management systems, and other tools which support application development and delivery. Although a normal operating system offers an application programming interface (API) where programs utilize underlying hardware features, Middleware offers an API for underlying operating system features.

Use of network applications by tech-startups has placed onus on the significance of middleware. By leveraging middleware for the integration of self-sustaining applications with new software updates, SaaS businesses are creating enterprise-wide systems of information.

From enterprise to platform middleware

There are specifically two applications of middleware: enterprise and platform.

Enterprise middleware

Enterprise middleware connects software components or enterprise applications. It is the layer of software between the operating system and the applications on either side of a computer network, usually supporting complex, distributed business software applications.

Platform middleware

Platform middleware connects different application architectures. Some technology firms operate using multiple application structures. In the event in which firms merge or when there are third-party application acquisitions, a company may find that they are using multiple structures. Middleware supports these structures, and provides methods in three arenas of interconnection: development environments, production and test. In all of these arenas, middleware transfers the data from application to application, as well as between databases and files.

How middleware works

Serving as a transitional software that connects operating systems and communication protocols, middleware works to do the following:

  • Disguise a disjointed and distributed network
  • Create homogeneity from heterogeneous collection of software applications
  • Provide developers with a uniform interface to support application development, usability, and interoperability
  • Offer a set of general purpose services that enable applications to work together and prevent systems from duplicating efforts

Middleware also assists with the developing of applications by providing common programming abstractions, masking application heterogeneity and the distribution of the underlying hardware and operating systems, and by hiding low-level programming details.

Why use middleware?

The purpose of middleware is to foster interaction between different aspects of an application or even between applications themselves. By leveraging middleware, businesses can expect to experience:

  • Efficient connectivity
  • Innovative solutions
  • More concise transition periods
  • Easily accessible workplace tools

For example, the Android operating system utilizes middleware to run its software quickly, efficiently, and with a much better user experience. Android not only uses the Linux kernel at its core and offers an application architecture, it provides a middleware layer consisting of libraries that provide services such as:

  • Data storage
  • Screen display
  • Multimedia
  • Web browsing

Additionally, Android’s libraries are compiled to machine language and allow for specific functionality to vary across devices, which speeds up performance.

14 types of middleware

There are 14 specific types of middleware software that can be used to solve various problems for either enterprise or platform purposes, including:

  1. Application Programming Interface (API): A toolset for building applications such as an API for developing mobile apps on a particular operating system.
  2. Application Server: A software framework used to create and run enterprise applications.
  3. Application Integration: Enterprise application integration is an integration framework composed of a collection of technologies and services which form a middleware or "middleware framework" to enable integration of systems and applications across an enterprise.
  4. Content-Centric Middleware: Similar to publish/subscribe middleware, content-centric middleware utilizes provider-consumer abstraction to obtain specific content.
  5. Data Integration: Tools for data integration, such as an enterprise service bus.
  6. Device Middleware: A toolset for developing hardware environment-specific applications.
  7. Embedded Middleware: Serving as an intermediary, embedded middleware enables communication between and an integration interface for embedded applications, operating systems, and applications.
  8. Games Engines: A framework that enables graphics, physics, scripting, or networking.
  9. Message-Oriented Middleware (MOM): Infrastructure that supports the transaction of messages between distributed systems or elements.
  10. Object Request Broker (ORB): Object middleware enables the sending of objects and request services by way of an object oriented system
  11. Portals: In reference to enterprise portal servers, this piece of software facilitates front-end integration as well as interactions between a device and its back-end system.
  12. Remote Procedure Call (RPC): A Remote Procedure Call is used synchronously or asynchronously to call on services from remote systems.
  13. Robotic Middleware: Robotic middleware is used to manage the complexity involved when building a robot, such as robot control and simulation.
  14. Transaction Processing (TP): Transcation processing middleware is used in transaction processing monitors to provide an environment for developing and deploying disparate applications.

With the number of variations available, it’s more than likely that there is a middleware to make your life easier.

Middleware for big data

Any workplace that doesn’t have the ability to slow down or even temporarily disconnect knows just how important an efficient and creative software solution can be. But without the proper answers, this can be a very frustrating endeavor. That’s where middleware comes in: a versatile fix for modern problems.

Talend Data Fabric provides open source middleware used to efficiently and accurately solve a scope of data integration and application integration challenges. From providing more than 400 built-in data connectors to reliably serving your entire enterprise’s data integration needs, Talend offers the support you need to increase the speed of business.

Try Talend Fabric today to experience firsthand how your business and devices communicate better.

Ready to get started with Talend?