What Is Middleware?

9 min read

Once an organization scales to a certain point, in-house developers and IT leaders need to find a way to connect applications, tools, data, and databases. Connecting these tools allows for data to flow freely from siloed applications within departments, enabling things such as workflow automation and real-time business insights.

To connect these applications, tools, data, and databases, in-house developers and IT leaders use third-party software(s) called, “Middleware” The name Middleware being a contraction of the words ‘middle’ and ‘software’ — it is software in the middle.

Industry insiders go so far as to call Middleware, “software glue.”

In this article, we’ll cover the definition of middle, the origin of middleware, the difference between middleware and APIs, examples of middleware, as well as how it works.

Below is a list of all the topics we will cover in this middleware guide. Go ahead and click on any of these links, and you’ll be taken to that specific section.

What is Middleware?

Middleware is software that provides communication or connectivity to applications, tools, data, and databases outside the operating system. It makes it easier for data and apps that weren’t designed to work together to do so, speeding up and streamlining application development and data management.

Enterprises use middleware to integrate data and support interoperability across their cloud and on-premise environments. For example, a company might use middleware to connect its ERP system with its CRM, allowing the data from each platform to be leveraged by the other.

What is the History of Middleware?

First appearing in a report at a 1968 NATO Software Engineering conference in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany (a German ski resort in Bavaria), the term “middleware” had a pretty simple use case: to exchange data between monolithic applications. This middleware layer sat between Application programs and service routines. In other words, Middleware took the form of massive software components that collected data from one application and delivered it to another.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the rise of distributed computing and the increasing popularity of the internet led to the development of new middleware technologies that were specifically designed to support distributed systems. These technologies included distributed object systems, which allowed objects to be accessed and manipulated across a network, and remote procedure call systems, which allowed applications to call functions on remote systems as if they were local.

Today, middleware is an essential component of many computer systems, providing a wide range of services that are essential for building complex, distributed applications. These services include communication, security, data management, and transaction processing, among others. The continued development of new middleware technologies is driven by the need to support increasingly complex and distributed systems, as well as the growing demand for mobile and cloud-based applications.

Overall, the history of middleware is closely tied to the development of computing itself, and the need for software that can provide interoperability and support for complex, distributed systems. As computing continues to evolve, the role of middleware will continue to be an important one, providing the essential services that enable applications to communicate and share data across a wide range of platforms and devices.

How Big is the Middleware Market Size?

The global middleware market stood at US$ 66.68 billion at the end of 2021 and looks to reach over $71 billion by the end of 2022. In the next four years, the market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.5% to reach US$ 89.94.1 billion by 2026 (source). In comparison, the iPaaS market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 21.2% from 2021 to 2028.

What is the Difference Between API and Middleware?

APIs typically refer to callable services while middleware usually refers to the product that does the integration work.

An Application Programming Interface (API) is a series of commands and protocols that let two unrelated software programs communicate with each other. Many marketing technology integrations, order processing systems, and website platforms provide their own APIs so developers can easily integrate the software.

For example, the Google Maps API lets people easily integrate and customize Google Maps for their own use. For the user, integrating this feature is far less costly and time-consuming than building a map from scratch. For Google, providing the API gets more people using Google Maps.

While APIs and middleware perform similar functions, an API can only connect two pieces of software – it can’t be used to create a network. If a developer needs their application to process messages and perform work across multiple systems, they will likely need middleware.

Examples of Middleware

Web application servers. A web server is a subset of an application server. It delivers static web content in response to HTTP requests from a web browser. Application servers also do this, but their main job is interacting between end-user clients and server-side application code. Typically, web servers support business logic transactions, decisions, and real-time a

Message-oriented middleware (MOM). A MOM solution enables systems, applications, and services (like microservices) to communicate and exchange information by translating messages between formal messaging protocols. It enables communication regardless of programming language or platform. MOM helps software developers standardize the flow of data between an application’s components. Message queues and message brokers are MOMs.Database middleware. Database-oriented middleware provides access to databases, regardless of their model or platform (SQL, noSQL, graph, distributed, etc.). Access is typically created through a single common interface like ODBC or JDBC. Information stored in different databases can be accessed through a single interface and this allows integration to be far easier.

Database middleware. Database-oriented middleware provides access to databases, regardless of their model or platform (SQL, noSQL, graph, distributed, etc.). Access is typically created through a single common interface like ODBC or JDBC. Information stored in different databases can be accessed through a single interface and this allows integration to be far easier.

Enterprise service bus (ESB). An enterprise service bus (ESB) is an architecture that allows communication between environments, such as software applications. Different software components (known as services) run independently to integrate and communicate with each other. This happens as each application talks to the bus, which modulates the communication, ensuring it arrives in the right place and says the right thing in the right way. An ESB is typically implemented using a specialized integration runtime and toolkit.

Integration platform as a service (iPaaS). An iPaaS is a platform that simplifies and automates the integration process, enabling technical and business users to create integration flows between data, SaaS, PaaS, or on-premise applications. It standardizes the integration process and provides API (application programming interface) management to make enterprise application integrations and data integrations easy and fast across the organization and its ecosystems.

How Middleware Works

Middleware lets developers build apps without having to create custom integrations every time they need them. This speeds up the development process. By enabling different applications and services to communicate using JSON, REST, XML, SOAP, or web services, middleware provides a common way for components to talk to each other, regardless of whether they’re written in PHP, Java, C++, or Python.

Middleware enables interoperability and empowers developers to:

  • Easily configure and manage connections and integrations
  • Enhance security with network security protocols and authentication during the process of connecting front-end applications to back-end data sources
  • Dynamically scale and manage traffic across distributed systems as needed

How Does Middleware Help with Business App Development?

In modern business apps, middleware is the key to assembling an application environment with unified capabilities. Within an application, middleware commonly handles things such as data management, messaging, API management, application services, and authentication.

As we already know, middleware is a software layer between two separate applications that allows them to interact with one another. It’s a powerful tool in the world of web development, but it’s not always easy to understand how and why middleware helps in the real world.

The best way to illustrate how middleware works is with an example. Let’s say you have a company that sells widgets online and has a great website where customers can browse products and place orders. You also have a warehouse where deliveries are made and inventory is stored.

In this scenario, you could create an interface between your website and your warehouse so that when a customer places an order on your website, it automatically gets sent to the warehouse for fulfillment. The interface would then notify your customer when their order has been fulfilled and shipped out from the warehouse.

Why is Middleware Important?

Middleware is important because it helps to facilitate communication and data exchange between different software applications. It acts as a bridge between different applications, allowing them to work together and share data and functionality. This can help to improve the overall efficiency of a system, as well as make it easier for developers to build complex software systems. Additionally, middleware can help to ensure that data is handled securely and reliably, which is important for maintaining the integrity and privacy of a system.

What Is Enterprise Application Integration Middleware?

Enterprise application integration middleware enables businesses to standardize integrations across the entire enterprise and ecosystem.

Until cloud computing and cloud-based middleware technology emerged, enterprise service bus (ESB) was the standard way to accomplish this task. Today, integration platform as a service (iPaaS) is the leading enterprise middleware for integrating apps, data, processes, services, and legacy systems – whether on-premise or in public, private, or hybrid clouds.

An iPaaS removes the work and cost of installing and maintaining integration middleware. It provides an API gateway and integration platform that is secure, reliable, and scalable. And the low-code/no-code software helps organizations build custom integrations across teams, enabling automation and digital transformation in the modern enterprise.

Learn more about the SnapLogic Intelligent Integration Platform.

Looking for Middleware Jobs?

Middleware Engineers are key members of the organization who are responsible for designing and configuring middleware technologies, software, and hardware. Their charter is to provide efficient ways to connect software components and applications, and typically sit within a larger IT or data team. Additionally, Middleware Engineers most commonly have some basic programming knowledge with an understanding of Java, Python, and scripting technologies.

While “Middleware Engineer” is more of a general job title, other common job titles who work in middleware might include:

  • Middleware Engineering Manager
  • Software Engineer (Middleware Tools)
  • Middleware Administrator (or Middleware Admin)
  • Middleware Programmer
  • Integration Lead
  • Software Developer
  • Software or Data Engineer

If you’re looking for a career in the middleware field, check out the open roles here at SnapLogic.

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