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Diverse Middleware Offerings Empower Enterprise Computing


Client-server (CS) computing evolved to highly distributed computing with flexible N-way and server-cluster models. As mainframe computing continued to mature, it also developed distributed computing instances like CICS on AIX. IMS embraced important interfaces, including SOAP and JAVA APIs, opening up IMS database data to new development paradigms.

Both CICS and IMS have a history of more than four decades of embracing IT technology change. IMS has implemented recent enhancements like providing access to IMS transactions and data from any Web connection, interoperation with Microsoft .NET and SAP clients, and the ability to store and retrieve XML content directly in IMS without intermediate steps.

Out of the convergence of all these, and many other related developments, the notion of enterprise computing emerged as an important thread in IT thought and discussion.

Enterprise Computing

Enterprise computing (EC) is an umbrella term that involves a full range of models, methodologies and engineering technologies that contribute to intra- and inter-enterprise application systems. It typically involves people like computer scientists, IT decision-makers, enterprise architects, solution designers, programmers and other practitioners. EC embraces enterprise applications engineering and management, as well as the need for integrated approaches that address and relate business processes, people and technology.

Distributed systems, mainframes and cloud computing are fundamental elements of EC as they enable collaborations within an enterprise and across enterprise borders. It is important that not all distributed computing has an enterprise scope but EC clearly applies to those enterprises facing the challenges of integrating diverse computer-based systems.

EC and Technology

EC is about a lot more than technology—it includes hardware, software, people, procedures and data—all dimensions of an IT system as shown in Figure 1.

However, some technologies can be singled out for focus including enterprise architecture (EA), private and public cloud computing, service oriented architectures (SOA), enterprise service architectures (ESA), business process management (BPM), networking involving interoperability and mobility, Enterprise 2.0, and Web 2.0 are a few key examples. These technologies are singled out because they foster integration, new delivery models, useful and scalable architectures, focus on business processes, utilizing advanced networking, and making best use of the ubiquitous Web.

Changing Role of Middleware

As distributing computing evolved an EC focus for many companies and organizations, the job of middleware expanded from programmer productivity to other roles and uses. How is middleware categorized today?

You might think that the industry has a common view of middleware but it does not. Like so many aspects of IT, many sources of information, including IT suppliers, consultants, academics and researchers, offer different views. Standards help to create uniformity but they can be characterized as islands in the river of middleware.

The most useful view of middleware comes from IT suppliers because it reflects the diversity of products being utilized by architects, designers and programmers. According to Gartner, IBM had about 32 percent of the middleware market share in 2011 so it’s an interesting supplier to examine.

IBM—The IT Supplier View

IBM WebSphere products are organized into 12 areas of capability:

  1. Application infrastructure
  2. Application lifecycle management
  3. BPM
  4. Cloud and IT optimization
  5. Commerce
  6. Connectivity, integration and SOA
  7. Enterprise modernization
  8. Mobile development and connectivity
  9. Mobile management and security
  10. Operating systems
  11. Social collaboration
  12. Web experience

The product diversity shown in WebSphere, summarized in Figure 2, is much broader than a middleware roadmap of a few years ago that would list transaction processing monitors, remote procedure call, message-oriented middleware and object request brokers as the core components. The marketplace has broadened significantly since client-server and early distributed computing.

Joseph Gulla is the IT leader of Alazar Press, an imprint of Royal Swan Enterprises. Previously, he was an executive IT specialist at IBM ending his 28-year career with the company in August 2012.


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