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Important Middleware Categories Worth Exploring

Joseph Gulla highlights five important categories where middleware is the function of the software, from transaction processing monitors to portals.

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This week, I am continuing this series on middleware. Last week, in the first post of the series, I focused on middleware categories including database, application server, message oriented and web. Of the categories that I discussed last week, none have had the impact of database middleware. It’s hard to imagine a contemporary system or application that doesn’t utilize an imbedded or external database. The 2021 global commercial database market sized at 22 billion USD helps explain its commercial impact as well. This week, I am going to add to the list by discussing some other important categories of middleware.

How Else to Explain Middleware?   

Last week, I wrote you should look behind the scenes to really see middleware. You should examine it, explore it and develop a better understanding of it. Here are five additional important categories where middleware is the function of the software, from transaction processing monitors to portals.
 
1. Transaction Processing Monitors
Transaction processing is a style of computing, typically performed on large servers that provide comprehensive support to interactive applications through transaction processor software. Writing that it’s a “style” implies that there is an “art” to it and there is. In transaction processing, work is divided into individual, indivisible operations called transactions. These transactions are often combined to make a unit of work understandable to a human like an “order to buy and ship filters” or “moving money from one account to another.” By contrast, batch processing is a style of computing in which one or more programs processes a collection of records (a batch) with little or no action from the user or operator.
 
The powerful reason for transaction processing systems is that they allow application programmers to concentrate on writing code that supports the business. Remember that middleware is mainly about supporting the programmer, amplifying their productivity. The middleware shields application programmers from the details of transaction management as the system manages the concurrent processing of transactions, enables the sharing of data, ensures the integrity of data and manages the prioritization of transaction execution.
 
2. Remote Procedure Call
Remote Procedure Call (RPC) is a client-server collaboration that makes it possible for the functionality of an application to be spread out across multiple platforms. With the RPC protocol, you can remote run subroutines across a TCP/IP network. RPC, together with the eXternal Data Representation (XDR) protocol, defines a standard for representing data that’s independent of internal protocols or formatting. RPCs can communicate between processes on the same or different hosts.
 
When you use RPCs, the client communicates with a server. The client invokes code to send a call message to the server. When the message arrives, the server calls a dispatch routine and performs the requested service. The server sends back a reply message, after which the original procedure call returns to the client program with a value derived from the reply message. These simple steps have powerful implications for scaling workloads.
 
3. API
APIs are a type of middleware that has grown enormously popular since 2005. ProgrammableWeb supplies information for over 22,800 APIs or API-based products on their website. Applications that utilize cloud computing while supporting mobile and Internet of Things devices, often make use of APIs. Organizations might externalize or make public their functionality for others to use and at the same time make use of supported public APIs. Using this approach, you can make money or monetize what you have to offer.
 
API middleware functions in a number of ways. Protocols like REST are building blocks for APIs whereas API Management Software is used to provide a comprehensive set of services in support of the applications themselves. API management software makes it possible for users to monitor, control, and monetize their APIs in a secure development environment. These tools help administrators monitor connection consistency, traffic, errors and security for their published APIs. This is the support you need to have a reliable operating environment for API-based applications.
 
4. Integration  
Middleware integration tools connect important internal and external systems. Integration capabilities like transformation, connectivity, composability and enterprise messaging make it easier for developers to extend capabilities across different applications.
 
Integration middleware can be classified based on domains, which are defined by the types of resources that are incorporated. Here are four important integration categories that include cloud, business to business (B2B), application and data:
  1. Cloud integration software connects with and between the cloud services, cloud-based applications, private clouds, trade hubs and other cloud resources through web services and standard B2B communication approaches
  2. B2B integration provides customer, provider and various alternative partner interfaces with a variety of data resources and company-managed applications
  3. Application integration helps interface different company-managed applications together, including cloud-based and remote systems
  4. Data integration handles business data resources, including databases and files over business and operational intelligence systems
5. Portals
There is some controversy about portals actually being a type of middleware as they’re not in the middle of the application and the OS in a conventional way. However, when portals refer to enterprise portal servers, they’re considered middleware because portals facilitate front-end integration. Portals are also used to create interactions between a user's computer or device and back-end systems and services. Portal-enabling middleware is a toolset for a portal that includes the platform middleware and the integration and context management tools.

Next Post

Next week, I’ll continue with the middleware topic and explore application use of specific middleware software. I’ll write about the most powerful examples.   
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