5 Reasons To Avoid Middleware


james valentine

By James Valentine

Are you mad? Isn't every enterprise organisation investing in a middleware product or ESB to enable them to quickly deploy digital changes to their business? Why would I avoid middleware?

Middleware vendors claim they can offer real value where there are at least a few integration points, or at least three applications to integrate. They also promote middleware as well suited to scenarios where loose coupling, scalability and robustness are required.

In many cases we observe organisations investing in middleware products unnecessarily, when they would be better off investing in alternative integration methods or application consolidation to cloud platforms. The result is they lock technical debt into their business, stifle their ability to transform business applications and perpetuate the unnecessary complexity, cost and risk of middleware into their business.

Our experience is that before you purchase a middleware solution, you should consider these five points, as middleware is only one of many ways to integrate applications:

1.  Middleware increases technical debt:

Middleware locks legacy application complexity into place and can stifle your ability to transform business applications. Typically most middleware implementations involve Extraction, Transformation, and Loading (together known as ETL) which are the central processes of middleware data integration. ETL creates the same problem that Database stored procedures imposed on IT Organisations which were created to satisfy short term functionality, while unwittingly creating complexity and technology lock in. This co-dependency can increase the risk and cost of future application transformation initiatives as you have to unpick this complexity when making future changes.

2.  Middleware risks being a single point of failure for organisations

Even with highly resilient environments we all know that over 80% of outages today are change related. Having every application in your business dependent on a single middleware stack can create the opportunity for significant business impact if there are outages. 

3.  Middleware can make application migrations complex

Every time you want to make a change, you have to work with three systems instead of two. If you want to do a Datacenter or Cloud migration and need to move your middleware environment, it impacts every application and becomes a migration nightmare. All of this complexity translates into risk and cost for your business.

4.  The hidden costs of Middleware

In addition to middleware licensing, development and support costs, middleware skills are in high demand and organisations are struggling to attract and retain them. The result is organisations end up becoming dependent on middleware vendors and their consultants pushing up the TCO of middleware solutions and support. 

5.  Middleware is a tactical investment

Most organisations are moving to a world where applications and cloud platforms integrate seamlessly through APIs, so rather than investing in middleware, it makes a lot of sense to invest in a Digital Integration Roadmap, that takes you closer to this end goal.

As with all things, every organisation’s context will differ - and the judicious use of the right middleware product can be appropriate. However, we recommend that before investing in middleware as the panacea to your integration challenges you look before you leap. You may be pleasantly surprised at the options available to you that don't saddle you with a platform you come to regret.

By James Valentine, Fronde CTO.

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