middleware definition

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: SaaS applications integration: Strategies and best practices for success
Contributor(s): George Lawton

Middleware is a general term for software that serves to "glue together" separate, often complex and already existing, programs. Some software components that are frequently connected with middleware include enterprise applications and Web services.

Middleware often sits between the operating system and applications on different servers and simplifies the development of applications that leverage services from other applications. This allows programmers to create business applications without having to custom craft integrations for each new application.

Typically, middleware programs provide messaging services so that different applications can communicate using messaging frameworks like Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), Web services, Representational State Transfer (REST) and JavaScript Object Notation (JSON). The systematic tying together of disparate applications, often through the use of middleware, is known as enterprise application integration (EAI).

At a basic level, middleware provides services required to connect applications together such as concurrency, transaction management, threading and messaging. More sophisticated implementations of middleware principles are baked into modern integration infrastructure such as enterprise service bus (ESB) and API management software to provide greater governance, risk management and accountability.

Some common types of middleware products include messaging middleware, database middleware and application server middleware.

This was first published in June 2015

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