Middleware: Definition, Uses & Example

Instructor: Lyna Griffin

Lyna has tutored undergraduate Information Management Systems and Database Development. She has a Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering and a Masters degree in Information Technology.

In this lesson, we will examine the concept of middleware. We will define the term, discuss some practical uses for middleware, and give some examples.

What Is Middleware?

If you expect the term middleware to mean some sort of intermediary function, you are absolutely right! We all know intermediaries serve as a link between two entities. Middleware is the general technical term used to describe a system or software that connects two different or otherwise separate or unrelated applications together. It allows the flow of communication or data.

Simple Illustration

Suppose you own an online store called Fruitjellies.com. The portal hosting your store offers sellers a free mobile app called FruitSellers App, to help sellers better monitor their transactions at all times. Your home security system also offers a mobile application, WeezSecure App to allow homeowners monitor the security of their homes on the go. Your favorite rugby team also offers a mobile app, GingerTouch App, so their fans can stay up to date with the activities and players on the team. If each of these apps demanded separate hardware, then we would need gigantic hands!

The mobile software and hardware that run your phone are completely independent of FruitSellers, WeezSecure, and GingerTouch but have stepped in to somehow communicate with these Apps to give you convenient access to all of them from a single device. Your phone (through software configurations) acts as middleware to achieve this. This middleware is software installed on your smartphone that enables connectivity and data transfer between the apps and your mobile device.

Uses of Middleware

Middleware is a software intermediary. Information and telecommunication technology is all about the transmission of data, information, and services. Middleware works with all these resources.

Enterprise Application Integration

Integration means bringing things together to make a unified whole. Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) is the bringing together of different applications operating in the environment of a particular enterprise in such a way that operate as a unit.

Everyone wants the best technology that is out there. As such, big corporations end up utilizing different applications, whether third party or built in-house, to service their different needs. A large company might have individual applications that serve their manufactured products, customer base, human resources, and business logic. These four different applications are completely unrelated and built on varying platforms. Such a modular system is very good for adapting to changes in the vision of the company was well as the technology but poses problems of its own.

There are difficulties in getting these different applications to work together, getting seamless data to flow between applications, and overall system stability. Enterprise application integration employs a form of middleware in which an EAI provider is configured using standardized methods to make connections between the various applications. EAI packages adapt together for connectivity and a transformation engine is configured to transform data into a usable format for the consumer.

Data Integration

A company that has multiple applications knows that each application generates its own data type. With data integration, a global standard is developed which enables data from the enterprises varying sources to be shared and distributed among its systems. In this system, it is required that all data and its location are identifiable and specified in order for the metadata necessary for this type of middleware configuration to be built.

Message Oriented Middleware (MOM)

This is another form of middleware in which the communication between the various distributed applications is made through the medium of messaging. MOM utilizes a message provider that enables the various applications to communicate and exchange data by sending and receiving messages. There are different architectures that are employed to achieve this. One method is the use of a central message server to which all applications forward their messages and from which the messages are then re-routed. Another method is the distribution of routing functions to each client to handle on its own routing.

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