Middleware | B2B Finance Glossary

Sep 5, 2023 by Zazil Martinez

What is Middleware?

Middleware is a type of computer software that makes it possible to bridge gaps from one application, platform, tool, or database to another. A good way to think about middleware is to think about it like glue: it quite literally connects different devices and types of software and makes it easier for software developers to implement communication among these different interfaces.

The term “middleware” has been in use since 1968, but middleware did not gain real traction until the 1980s, when it was used to link new applications to legacy systems. Today, middleware is used for web servers, content management systems, application servers, and more to help support the development of new applications while improving current applications.

Additionally, middleware has become especially important to SaaS businesses that build systems that allow for optimal management of enterprise data since these systems are continuously improved and updated; middleware helps make these improvements and updates happen more efficiently.


Why is Middleware Important?

Middleware makes it possible for applications to communicate with each other and increases the longevity of operating system architecture. This type of software is much more common than people realize, but it’s very hard for end users to tell when they are engaging with middleware since it works in the background of many different types of technological applications.

Additionally, whether engineers are working in cloud computing or other areas requiring distributed applications, middleware offers tools that allow developers to more easily create application servers and other necessary products essential to enterprise and consumer software needs.

Middleware is very important for enterprise software functionality: in this instance, it exists as the software layer between operating systems and applications on either side of a computer network. It works to connect enterprise software and applications and is commonly used to support complex distributed business software applications.


How Does Middleware Work?

Understanding how middleware works requires a breakdown of deeply technical processes; it’s important to remember that every type of middleware works differently when examined at this technical level. That’s why it’s much simpler to discuss how middleware works from a more general perspective: remember, middleware is transitional software that is used to connect different systems, communication protocols, databases, platforms, and tools.

At its most basic level, here’s how middleware works:

  • Middleware offers general-purpose services that enable applications to work with each other.
  • It also offers these general-purpose services to prevent systems from duplicating efforts.
  • Middleware can disguise disjointed and distributed networks.
  • It can also give developers a uniform interface for interoperability and application development.
  • Finally, middleware makes it possible to enable homogeneity when there is a heterogeneous collection of software applications.


What Are the Different Categories of Middleware?

There are many different types of middleware. Here are some examples:

  • Procedural. This type of middleware involves remote and local architectures to connect, pass, and retrieve software responses of asynchronous systems communications.
  • Message-oriented. This type of middleware involves message queue and message-passing architectures to support both asynchronous and synchronous types of communication.
  • Object-oriented. This type of middleware is similar to procedural middleware; however, it differs in that it incorporates object-oriented programming design principles. Its software component includes exceptions, object references, and inheritance of properties via distributed object requests.
  • Transactional. This type of middleware allows for the processing of many synchronous and asynchronous transactions. This is a cluster of associated requests from distributed systems such as bank transactions or credit card payments.


What Is the Difference Between an API and Middleware?

API stands for application programming interface, making it possible for two software components to communicate. An API is a way to give access to the functionality offered by any piece of software and makes it possible to extract and share data within and across enterprises. Plaid, for example, is an API that helps people connect their bank accounts to outside financial services.

Another example of an API use case is when businesses use different types of software for different operations, such as when they use accounting software to track invoices but use separate software to track product delivery. These businesses can use an API to connect these two software systems to see what invoices have been paid and then ship items to customers according to this information.

Middleware, on the other hand, is a more generalized term than “API.” It is a type of software that sits between two other software layers (or devices) and ensures communication can occur effectively. Remember, middleware can connect separate applications, databases, software, tools, and systems and functions as a bridge between any combination of these interfaces.