Middleware refers to a type of software that connects different programs and databases to ensure that they can communicate, manage data, and work together seamlessly. It is a program that allows an operating system (OS) to communicate with the various applications that run on it like a bridge.

You can compare a middleware to a translator that helps different individuals who speak various languages to communicate with and understand one another.

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Middleware allow processes to proceed even if the applications that run them operate outside the capabilities of the OS they are on. These processes include messaging, application programming interface (API) management, and authentication services. As such, middleware are crucial for developers who build applications for organizations.

How do Middleware Work?

In a digitally inclined world, organizations must address the many varied needs of users. As such, they need to acquire and use various software and hardware even if these came from a diverse set of developers and may not necessarily work with one another. Thankfully, middleware allow them to work with one another seamlessly.

Any digital device needs an OS and a program or application to do a specific task. The OS manages the device’s resources and controls its essential functions. The program or application, meanwhile, which runs on the OS, performs a specific task. Both of these are necessary to make the device useful. However, they may not always be interoperable or work with each other. That’s where middleware come in. It allows these programs to work by providing standard data exchange.

What are the Different Types of Middleware?

Some of the most widely used middleware include:

Message-Oriented Middleware

Message-oriented middleware (MOM) can come in the form of either software or hardware. It supports the transmission of messages from one application to another. All communications that occur between programs on a particular system pass through a MOM.

An example of MOM is Amazon’s Simple Notification Service (SNS). It allows publisher systems to send messages to a large number of subscriber endpoints or push notifications to end users using mobile push, Short Message Service (SMS), and email.

Object Middleware

Also known as “object request brokers,” object middleware are responsible for managing communication between objects. An object can be a variable (storage address), data structure (description of how information is organized), function (specific task), or method (procedure). It is a value in a computer’s memory represented by an identifier.

An example of object middleware is the Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA), which allows objects within a network to communicate with each other regardless of the platform and language used to develop them.

Remote Procedure Call Middleware

Remote procedure call (RPC) middleware request a service from a program located in another computer on the same network without having to understand the network’s details.

One concrete example of RPC middleware is the Distributed Computing Environment (DCE), which allows users to set up and manage data exchange among distributed computers usually housed in different locations.

Database-Oriented Middleware

Database-oriented middleware (DOM) permits direct communication between a database and a system. It often comes in the form of an API that lets users access remote databases to update or retrieve data.

An example of DOM is Open Database Connectivity (ODBC), a standard API for accessing database management systems (DBMSs). ODBC runs independently of database systems and OSs, so it works with pretty much any software.

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, organizations must keep up with the times. They need to use new applications but must make sure that these work seamlessly with legacy programs or OSs. That’s where middleware come in.