Business is changing—with various effects on the tech industries that are driving much of the revolution. And one result of today’s enterprises living in an era of pervasive digital transformation is that middleware is experiencing its long overdue time in the spotlight.
Middleware? What is it exactly? And what significance does the booming middleware market hold for today’s businesses?
What is middleware?
Middleware is an IT item—an element already existent in the technology of most companies. Think of it as the vital link between a business’s data systems. A computer system runs the business, and all the devices arrived with an operating system (OS). And for any one particular company, a number of applications utilize the enterprise data created by the OS.
Now enter middleware—the software bridge between the OS and the applications. This interactive in-between layer—working as a data trader—eliminates the repetition you’d experience if every application separately accessed and stored the data provided via the OS. Middleware extends the capabilities of what any OS could do alone, and simultaneously streamlines what every specific business application needs. Its connectivity provides an invaluable simplifying service in business technology.
For a modern enterprise, middleware provides a data center, a place where the mess of data and the systems using that data can find some order.
“Middleware technologies can integrate these systems and share the data that is spread across multiple applications and processes,” Adelle Geronimo of UAE-based Tahawultech explains. “They also empower users with automated business processes and rules that help an organization respond rapidly to changing conditions. By tidying up the back end, as well as providing a platform to build applications on, integration middleware can help accelerate the delivery of new services to employees and customers.”
Sandwiched between databases and programs is the communication provided by middleware. Basic integration of devices, the data, and the applications using the data is essential for company IT, and therefore—middleware as a service (MWaaS) is a vital part of digital business.
New Needs: Connecting Every Single Dot
But while middleware’s original purpose is still its essential goal—networking between an OS and either once-useful legacy applications or modernized, new applications—today’s businesses need many more additional bridging services to carry them through the challenges of digital transformation.
No longer is middleware just a helpful software-based resource linking OS, data, and application. With the ushering in of cloud computing, in-memory computing, and the creation of many more new enterprise-specific applications, middleware’s demand is skyrocketing.
Business IT departments need it all—middleware that connects every dot—every program, every piece of data—external and internal, and every device. The goal for enterprises today is whole-scale integration.
And on top of this ultimate comprehensive connectivity is the requirement of simplicity. Companies want user-friendly, uncomplicated, lightweight infrastructure.
Add on the shift from on-premise to global business via cloud-based technology. An enterprise involved in creating digital value through transformation cannot delay adoption of cloud data systems and storage solutions. Services which provide application security, manage traffic, generate analytics, and create a user experience based on real-time data—these are the priorities of an enterprise working towards digital business. And middleware is perfectly poised to meet these needs.
Moving It All to the Cloud
If one of the largest causes for middleware growth and demand is mainstream adoption of cloud environments, then middleware is not going away as a service anytime soon. Professional public cloud services, able to manage big data, span quite a competitive landscape of work solutions for today’s enterprises.
Middleware is just one element of the larger picture of enterprise data storage and management. And the shift to place digital business entirely in a cloud-native environment is accelerating. The key for middleware developers will continue to be its efficiency and ease of use.
Eric Sheppard, research vice president of Server and Storage Infrastructure at IDC, explains the context of continued middleware growth within the backdrop of digital transformation: "Demand for public cloud resources and a global enterprise infrastructure refresh were two important drivers of new enterprise storage investments around the world. Solutions most commonly sought after in today's enterprise storage systems are those that help drive new levels of datacenter efficiency, operational simplicity, and comprehensive support for next generation workloads."
If You Make It, They Will Buy
Aligning enterprise data in a system that is simple, fully digital, cloud-based, and complete requires the best available in synchrony. Today’s businesses face the challenge of finding MWaaS that will manage those needs effectively. But since businesses vary in priority, process and technology, market studies reveal just as much variety in the types of middleware tools created for business use.
Shopping at the middleware market reveals three levels of middleware vendors: providers creating and implementing the middleware; integrators—the middlemen of middleware who market the providers’ products; and consultants who can help a business select and manage middleware best suited for their size and needs.
Key players in the global MWaaS market presently include Dell, HPE/New H3C Group, NetApp, Hitachi, and IBM, as ranked recently by IDC. All middleware makers, including these big producers, understand the primetime opportunity in front of them: As long as businesses depend on middleware to accelerate their shift to real-time data, analytics-producing, cloud-based systems, it will continue to grow demand. IT trend analysts predict this MWaaS market will continue to expand—particularly in the next five years—giving ample space for middleware vendors of all shapes and sizes to capitalize on the present digitization opportunity.