Middleware came to popularity in the 1980’s, when older computing systems needed to integrate with newer ones. It also helped with distributed processing, connecting multiple applications in order to create one larger one, which was usually done over a network. But what is middleware? Why is it good for a network? Let’s take a quick look.

What is It?

In a peer-to-peer relationship between computers, middleware is the “to.” Middleware allows communication to take place and data to be managed in a distributed computing system. Middleware can create this communication, regardless of whether different applications were written in different languages. Since this software is generally between the operating systems and the applications on the end of a distributed network, middleware includes services such as message oriented middleware, integration of data and the integration of enterprise applications.

Think of it this way: you (the client) need hot water in your shower. You have hot water in a tank (the server), but how does it get from the water heater to the shower? Through the plumbing.

Middleware can be thought of as being the plumbing of a distributed network. As long as middleware is in place, data can get from clients to servers and back again.

Why is it Good?

Middleware is good for your network, not just because it can get data from one place to another, but because it gives you a standard way of doing it. Open standards provide a single way of handling data in a distributed network that is the same everywhere. This makes it much easier to know exactly what you are getting and how middleware will work in your network.

Adding more clients or servers to your network is not an issue, since the standard will remain the same. It’s like adding plumbing to your existing pipes: you know it will work because the plumbing is made to a certain standard. This means that hardware can be added that was built at different times by different manufacturers. Even though that hardware may be different, middleware will ensure that it still works perfectly with your network.

Worry About Something Else

Although middleware is largely invisible on a network, it provides great peace of mind to the people responsible for the network. By putting middleware in place, they know that each part of the network will be able to run smoothly, and they don’t need to worry about that communication. Using middleware allows them to concentrate on other problems. After all, if the water flows properly, you can always get a new tap later.