API Management 7 min

What is Middleware and How Does it Work?

Middleware. A term frequently used in the integration landscape. And there’s a lot to say about it. There are various types, functionalities, and of course solutions to choose from. But what is middleware?

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Ruben van der Zwan
CEO & Co-Founder
What is Middleware and How Does it Work?

The Middleware definition and why it’s essential for integrations

Moving towards digital transformation brings up various digital needs. Businesses are often made up of various hardware and software components. These are likely designed by different entities and weren’t necessarily made to connect together. However, with the rise of cloud-based and service-oriented organizations, there is an urgent need to have systems collaborating in a seamless way. That’s where middleware provides an outcome.

The Middleware definition: “software that acts as a bridge between an operating system or database and applications, especially on a network.”

In essence, middleware is any type of software that connects the operating system of a device with the application running on that OS – including all its unique functionalities and features.

Middleware can be viewed as a translator that bridges the communication between both sides. But it’s not just A to B connections: middleware platforms and software solutions are designed to connect multiple applications and systems at the same time.

Modern integration infrastructure – like API Management platforms or Enterprise Service Buses (ESB) – depend on middleware solutions to operate. When it comes to hybrid or cloud-based environments, iPaaS middleware can offer the most complete solution to your integration challenges.

So how does middleware work?

As we’ve seen in the definition: middleware steps in to provide a unified method for systems to communicate and interact with each other. It works through understanding and processing different operating languages. But apart from forming a communication bridge between applications, middleware also works in a number of other ways:

Uniting distributed parts within the application
An application is made up of lots of interconnected elements operating in distributed locations within your integration system. Middleware helps tie all these elements together so that the user can operate the service from a single entry point.

Bringing systems together
Your enterprise is composed of different hardware, operating systems and communication protocols. Middleware allows these different systems to work together while masking their differences.

Provides Uniform standards
Middleware helps developers with a high-level uniform standard – a solid guideline – that they can use to build applications with.

Providing a common framework
Middleware also cleans up any duplication of elements and empowers interoperability between applications by providing a common framework for general functionalities.

So with middleware, application development becomes easier. It truly is the glue in your technology stack and goes beyond enabling the communication between applications. Now that you have an understanding of what middleware is and how it works, it’s a good moment to take a look at the core functionalities of middleware.

Functionalities of Middleware

Being here on this Yenlo page, means it’s likely that your organization relies heavily on data and data exchange. Middleware platforms help you integrate and process data across various systems and software solutions. It takes away the manual processing. Giving your organization easier means to integrate applications and implement a better flow of data. The core functionalities of middleware include:

Rapid Innovation
Technology is advancing at a dizzying pace. For most businesses operating in the digital landscape it’s a daily aim to decrease the time on development cycles, and to have better interoperability to implement new services and solutions. Middleware technology helps you innovate more rapidly, precisely because it allows you to connect multiple systems and applications, even if they are not yours.

Cost Effective
Faster time to market means a significant reduction in development time and project costs. With the help of middleware you can implement standard procedures and develop applications with much less effort. Furthermore, the automation of processes and workflows also reduces your cost of operations.

Efficiency Increase
As shared above, automating business processes becomes much easier with middleware technology. For example ordering and product configuration can be automated. Creating space to assign your teams on other core tasks. Also worth mentioning: the user experience becomes better and simpler with middleware solutions, thereby increasing the possibilities for you to grow your business.

Improved Agility
Today, organizations need to be able to deliver services across various entry points. Whether they are situated on-premise, in the cloud, mobile, or through hybrid platforms. Delivering a consistent service regardless of the device used is a well-known integration challenge. It brings up the question of how an organization can remain agile and responsive. Middleware platforms, such as iPaaS middleware (integration-Platform-as-a-Service), provide an agile framework that help you deploy, implement, and deliver services regardless of the application or system used.

Information Management
Information management is a crucial aspect of any large organization. Middleware platforms can make information management much easier by providing a framework on which an information management system can be designed, built and deployed.

The various types of Middleware

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to middleware. There are many different types, solutions, and vendors out there that can make comparing middleware a full day task. To understand what technology you need, it’s best to know what you can choose from. These are the most common types of middleware solutions:

Application Programming Interface (API)
Yes, the much spoken about and revered API, is actually a middleware solution. In essence an API is a set of protocols, tools and definitions for building applications. It allows services and systems to ‘speak’ to each other without needing to know how each service or system is implemented.

Content-centric Middleware
When your developers need to extract pieces of content without needing to know how the source system obtains the content, that’s when content-centric middleware enters the stage. It is mostly used for content-focused web applications.

Database Middleware
When you need to directly access and interact with a database, it requires database middleware. It is the most common and widely used type of middleware. For instance SQL is an example of database middleware.

Integration Middleware
Integration middleware, such as iPaaS middleware, provides you with an integration framework that helps you control and monitor operations, executions, and runtime. Integration middleware is also useful for combining data from several different sources into one platform.

Message-Oriented Middleware (MOM)
MOM is a software infrastructure that allows messages to be sent and received over various different applications. It is one of the most widely used types of middleware. In addition to facilitating the sending and receiving of messages, message-oriented middleware also comes with a queuing mechanism. This component prevents messages from getting lost between the server and the client. Email systems are an example of message-oriented middleware.

Object Middleware
Also known as an object request broker, the function of object middleware is to control the communication between objects in distributed computing. Object middleware allows one computer to make program calls to another through a computer network.

Though not actually a type of middleware, enterprise portal servers are sometimes referred to as such because they enable a smooth front-end integration. Portals allow interaction between a client device and back end systems, for instance when users want to log into an intranet or a content management system.

Remote Procedure Call Middleware (RPC)
Remote Procedure Call (RPC) makes it possible for an application to be functional across multiple platforms. It can request a service from a program located on a remote computer without having particulars of network details. This type of middleware is mostly used to initiate and process data transfers, where both the client and the server are online at the time of the communication.

Robotic Middleware
Robotic middleware is your go-to solution when you need to build complex software systems for robotics. Robotic middleware helps to manage and control the complexity of the hardware and software systems that form part of a robot.

Transaction Processing Middleware (TP)
Especially in the world of finance and open banking, Transaction Processing middleware helps improve the function of digital transactions. It keeps an ‘overview’ and secures the information exchange between transactions apps, databases, and ensures compliance with business rules and logic.

Connecting the dots

There you have it. Middleware. It comes in different shapes and sizes and it has a crucial role in the interoperability between devices and systems. In summary; it improves your agility, your efficiency, helps you innovate rapidly, helps you adapt and reuse applications, reduces development time and cost, and at its core helps you manage information in the best way possible. At Yenlo we have a range of open-source Middleware solutions fit for on-premise, cloud, or any hybrid integration strategy. Take your digital journey to the next step and contact us for a consultation. Or take a look at the unique solutions we offer for your integration needs.

Yenlo is the leading, global, multi-technology integration specialist in the field of API-management, Integration technology and Identity Management. Known for our strong focus on best-of-breed hybrid and cloud-based iPaaS technologies.
Yenlo is the product leader and multi-award winner in WSO2, Boomi, MuleSoft and Microsoft Azure technologies and offers best-of-breed solutions from multiple leading integration vendors.

With over 240+ experts in the API, integration, and Identity Access Management domain and over $35 million in annual revenue, Yenlo is one of the largest and best API-first and Cloud-first integration specialists worldwide. 

Client case:
TRUMPF Group: WSO2 middleware solution

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