Middleware, far from being an enemy, enables interoperability and communication between the numerous software and applications present within the organization. In this article, we explain what middleware is and what its advantages are.
In the vocabulary that is used in the wind but that no one can explain simply, middleware occupies a prominent place. As the architecture of computer networks becomes more and more complex, middleware adds an extra layer to the maze of your applications and business software.
What is middleware?
A middleware is in the form of a software. It provides an additional technical layer between the operating system (OS) and applications to facilitate their interaction. Middleware also enables data communication between heterogeneous applications.
Thanks to middleware, developers can focus on their applications only. They no longer have to worry about creating links between users, applications or collected data. Many compare middleware to highways or pipes that allow data or databases to flow quickly between applications.
The consulting firm Gartner talks about glue between different programs and databases. Others prefer to talk about cement. In any case, middleware has no added aesthetic value and is therefore preferred to be used in the background, out of sight.
Middleware is particularly useful for applications in multi-cloud environments or when companies use hybrid infrastructures. It connects these different elements and provides the link. Thanks to middleware, applications are developed faster, and scalability is improved.
Some examples of middleware
This is a nice definition, but if you are not familiar with IT jargon, the concept of middleware may still seem difficult to grasp. Appearing in the late 1960s, it is a catch-all term in which a large number of software programs can be stored.
Different kinds of middleware exist. What they all have in common is that they operate behind the scenes and occupy functions that could be described as back-office or back-end.
Among the examples regularly cited, the following categories are worth mentioning:
- web servers ;
- single sign-on systems;
- database access systems (queries);
- messaging services between applications: the main function of middleware is often communication between applications. The middleware allows messages to be sent in different formats (e.g. XML). In some cases, it can even facilitate translation between different types of files.
The middleware offers a kind of common base for all applications. It also enables asynchronous communication between them. This means that if data needs to be communicated from one application to another, it can be stored temporarily by the middleware while the transmission is effective (for example, if one of the applications is not running at a given time).
However, the contours of the middleware category remain very blurred. The relevance of the concept can be questioned at present. We will come back to this later.
The advantages of middleware
Middleware is essential to enable communication. Here is a summary of their main properties:
- Creates uniformity at the interface level;
- Saves time because a set of services are common to the different applications;
- Hides application heterogeneity from users;
- Allows offline communication between applications.
Viewed in this way, middleware is an essential part of our digital world. You have an e-commerce site and a payment platform? It is the middleware that links the two elements. You set up a video chat with a colleague or a friend? The middleware connects the two computers. You introduce a query in a database? The middleware extracts the information and sends it back to you.
So, the middleware is the intermediary par excellence, the personal assistant of the applications that does the work in the background while the application takes all the credit. Undermining the role of middleware? Certainly, but it is also fundamental for the proper functioning of the entire system.
Middleware and big data
As you can see, the middleware comes in all shapes and sizes. In the context of data processing, middleware has taken a predominant place. They enable the analysis of data flows, the centralization and exchange of information and the provision of analytical tools.
Nowadays, most frameworks for data processing can be considered in one way or another as middleware. Some people do not hesitate to assimilate databases to middleware. Middleware is also gaining in importance as the Internet of Things develops, as M2M communications multiply (Machine to Machine).
At the risk of appearing counter-current, one may legitimately wonder how the middleware distinction remains relevant today. It could even be argued that there is more middleware than "traditional" software. Indeed, hyperconnectivity has created a fundamental need for communication between applications and systems.
Let's face it, ordinary people have absolutely no need to understand what middleware is. Middleware is a kind of backend or internal kitchen behind the computer screen, although some people like to distinguish middleware from the backend. In any case, this category is likely to fade in the future.
Nevertheless, this distinction is still relevant for professionals when it comes to schematically representing the way different computer systems and applications interact within the company.
Perspectives for middleware: all middleware in 2025?
Relevant or not, middleware often presents itself as a valuable ally in an increasingly connected world. Indeed, beyond enabling communication and interoperability within a company, middleware also makes sense for business-to-business communication.
The SaaS offered by Ryax is part of the middleware. Thanks to our software, companies can run and deploy their data processing models to ensure communication within hybrid infrastructures using different sources.
It is a fact that most data processing software will sooner or later fall into the middleware category or risk obsolescence. For most users, however, the distinction has little or no added value.
At Ryax, we work daily to develop software that is always more powerful and offers an intuitive experience to its users. Thanks to our unified framework, communication between the different data sources is ensured. If you want to know more about our product, do not hesitate to contact us or consult our description.
La Ryax Team.