3 min read

The cloud is now a ubiquitous term, in use from tasks such as storing photos to remotely using machines for complex AI tasks. But has it killed on premises middleware setups and changed the way businesses manage their services used by their employees? Is middleware dead?

Middleware is the bridge that connects an operating system to different applications in a distributed system. Essentially it is a transition layer of software that enables communication between OS and applications.

Middleware acts as a pipe for data to flow from one application to another. If the communication between applications in a network is taken care of by this software, developers can focus on the applications themselves, hence middleware came into picture. Middleware is used in enterprise networks.

Is middleware still relevant?

Middleware was a necessity for an IT business before cloud was a thing. But as cloud adoption has become mainstream, offering scalability and elasticity, middleware has become less important in modern software infrastructures. Middleware in on premises setups was used for different uses such as remote calls, communication with other devices in the network, transaction management and database interactions. All of this is taken care of by the cloud service provider behind scenes.

Middleware is largely in decline – with cloud being a key reason. Specifically, some of the reasons middleware has lost favor include:

  • Middleware maintenance can be expensive and quickly deplete resources, especially if you’re using middleware on a large scale.
  • Middleware can’t scale as fast as cloud.
  • If you need to scale, you’ll need new hardware – this makes elasticity difficult, with sunk costs in your hardware resources.
  • Sustaining large applications on the middleware can become challenging over time.

How cloud solves middleware challenges

The reason cloud is killing off middleware is because it can simply do things better than traditional middleware. In just about every regard, from availability to flexibility to monitoring, using a cloud service makes life much easier.

It makes life easier for developers and engineers, while potentially saving organizations time in terms of resource management. If you’re making decisions about software infrastructure, it probably doesn’t feel like a tough decision.

Even institutions like banks, that have traditionally resisted software innovation are embracing cloud. More than 80% of world’s largest banks and more than 85% of global banks opting for the cloud according to this Information Age article.

When is middleware the right option?

There might still be some life left in middleware yet. For smaller organizations, where an on premise server setup will be used for a significant period of time – with cloud merely a possibility on the horizon – middleware still makes sense.

Of course, no organization wants to think of itself as ‘small’ – even if you’re just starting out, you probably have plans to scale. In this case, cloud will give you the flexibility that middleware inhibits.

While you shouldn’t invest in cloud solutions if you don’t need them, it’s hard to think of a scenario where it wouldn’t provide an advantage over middleware. From tiny startups that need accessible and efficient hosting services, to huge organizations where scale is simply too big to handle alone, cloud is the best option in a massive range of use cases.

Is middleware dead really?

So yes, middleware is dead for most practical use case scenarios. Most companies go with the cloud given the advantages and flexibility. With upcoming options like multi-cloud which gives you the options to use different cloud services for different areas, there is even more flexibility in using the cloud.

Read next

Think Silicon open sources GLOVE: An OpenGL ES over Vulkan middleware

Real clouds take out Microsoft’s Azure Cloud; users, developers suffer indefinite Azure outage

MongoDB switches to Server Side Public License (SSPL) to prevent cloud providers from exploiting its open source code


Subscribe to the weekly Packt Hub newsletter. We'll send you the results of our AI Now Survey, featuring data and insights from across the tech landscape.

* indicates required