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Integration and Portal Software Complete This Middleware Survey

Joseph Gulla focuses on newer middleware with a distributed computing focus and middleware made available by the open-source community.

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This week, I’m completing this series on middleware. With this post, I continue to fill out the details of the categories (see a list at the end of the article) by highlighting the interesting and useful examples of integration and portal middleware. In the previous articles, I have focused on long standing industry-making products like CICS®, IMS®, IBM Db2® and WAS. For this last article, I’m shifting focus to newer middleware with a distributed computing focus and middleware made available by the open-source community.

Integration 

Middleware integration tools are used to connect internal and external systems. Integration capabilities have abstract names like transformation, connectivity, composability and enterprise messaging. These functions are useful because they make it possible for developers to extend capabilities across different applications and platforms.
  
Integration middleware can be classified based on its focus or by the types of resources it incorporates. Consider these four integration categories that include cloud, business-to-business (B2B), application and data. They’re a sample of the integration categories that are the focus of integration middleware.
  1. Cloud integration software connects cloud services, cloud-based applications, private clouds, trade hubs and other cloud resources through web services and standard B2B communication approaches
  2. B2B integration provides interfaces with a variety of data resources and company-managed applications. The scope is usually customer, provider and various partners in different peer-to-peer associations.
  3. Application integration helps to bring different company-managed applications together, including cloud-based, distributed and other remote systems such as mainframes
  4. Data integration focuses on business data resources. This includes databases and files that are part of OSes of different types often running in disparate computing environments. 
These sample categories reveal the many challenges associated with integration. Red Hat® has integration products that include five packages that address many of these challenges. Red Hat Runtimes offers lightweight runtimes and frameworks for highly-distributed cloud architectures, such as those utilizing microservices. Red Hat Fuse enables users to utilize a range of design patterns and connectors, and choose their own programming language, containers and deployment preferences.
 
Red Hat 3scale API Management is a platform used to share, secure, distribute, control and monetize APIs. Red Hat AMQ is a messaging platform based on open-source technologies enabling reliable delivery and real-time integration. Lastly, change data capture (CDC) uses open-source technologies to stream changes from databases. CDC is a software design pattern for a system that monitors and captures the changes in data so that other software can respond to those changes.
 
Significant Characteristics
Here are some key characteristics of this integration middleware from Red Hat. These are general features found in the different integration products.
  • Designed with a patterns approach and pluggable connectors
  • Utilizes a lifecycle approach (e.g., create, deploy, monitor and control)  
  • Employs popular container standards 
  • Designed for self-service by business users
  • Uses automation and life cycle development tools 
Key Benefits
Overall, the Red Hat portfolio of middleware products helps clients create a unified environment for application development, delivery, integration and automation. It’s comprised of inclusive frameworks, integration solutions, process automation, runtimes and programming languages.  
 
New technology support from Red Hat integration is broad, including Quarkus, Spring Boot, Vert.x, Node.js, and Thorntail. Additionally, an in-memory distributed data management system is included. It’s designed for scalability and fast access to large volumes of data. Single sign-on is available based on industry standards for enterprise security. Also, a message broker that offers specialized queuing behaviors, message persistence and manageability is available. A launcher service creates application scaffolding so developers can focus on writing business logic and delivering value. The Red Hat build of OpenJDK is an open-source implementation of the Java® platform, Standard Edition (Java SE) supported and maintained by the OpenJDK community.
 
Integration middleware is perhaps the most challenging area because of the huge diversity of systems, networks and applications that could be the candidates of any integration project. The Red Hat products have a significant focus on open-source use, and the vitality of this community certainly contributes to the usefulness of their solutions.

Portal Middleware

Apache has a portals project that is a good example of portals from within the open-source community. I wrote previously that there is some controversy about portals actually being a type of middleware as they’re not in the middle of the application and the OS in a conventional way. However, when portals refer to enterprise portal servers, they’re considered middleware because portals facilitate front-end integration, which is the focus of the Apache projects.
 
Apache Portals is a collaborative software development project dedicated to providing robust, full-featured, commercial-quality and freely available, portal-related software on a wide variety of platforms and programming languages. Four projects are active at this time:
  1. Jetspeed-2 is an open portal platform and enterprise information portal. It’s written entirely in open source under the Apache license in Java and XML and based on open standards. All access to the portal is managed through a robust portal security policy. Within a Jetspeed portal, individual portlets can be aggregated to create a page. Each portlet is an independent application with Jetspeed acting as the central hub, making information from multiple sources available in an easy-to-use manner.
  2. Pluto is the reference implementation of the Java Portlet Specification. Portlets are designed to run in the context of a portal. They are written to the Portlet API. Pluto implements the contract, the Portlet API, between portlets and portals. Pluto is a portlet container.
  3. Applications, specifically Apache Portals Applications (APA), is a collaborative software development project existing under the Apache Portals project. APA is dedicated to providing robust, full-featured, commercial-quality and freely available Portlet Applications under the Apache license developed at the Apache Software Foundation.
  4. The Portals-bridges subproject includes common code and demos for the use of common web frameworks via portlets. Currently, there is support for writing portlets using JSF, Struts, perl CGI scripts, php code and Velocity templates. Jetspeed-2 includes demos for those technologies.
Significant Characteristics
Here are a few key characteristics of portal middleware. You find these characteristics in the various Apache portal projects.
  • Provide a single point of entry for employees, partners and customers
  • Users can personalize their experience by adding new content with portlet customizers, styling their view with portal decorators and layouts
  • Users can access web services transparently from any device in virtually any location
  • Portals are highly flexible. They can exist in the form of business-to-employee intra-nets, business-to-business extra-nets, or business-to-consumer inter-nets.
  • Portals can be combined to form a portal network that can span a company’s entire enterprise system, allowing for access both inside and outside the firewall
Key Benefits
Modern software is complex and expensive, which has motivated companies to invest in enterprise portals as a mechanism by which they can manage information in a cohesive and structured fashion. Portals have many advantages, which is why they have become popular for web application delivery. Portals distinguish themselves from other software systems because they provide the ability to integrate disparate systems and leverage the functionality provided by those systems. Since portals can access any web services, they provide a unique opportunity to leverage the functionality of emerging technologies as well as mature, well-established software systems.

Latest Product Updates for portal SW

Here is a status of two of the key Apache portal projects. Additional details are available from the Apache portal website.

Apache Portals Jetspeed 2.3.1

Apache Jetspeed Version 2.3.1 introduces important security patches provided by the Apache security team. New features include a new search UI, improved session preferences, detached portlets, updates to the tutorial and improved responsive decorators. A demo and supporting information are also available on the applications dimension of the portal.

Portals Pluto 3.1.0

Pluto 3.1.0 is the third general availability release of Pluto conformant to the Java Portlet 3.0 Standard. The release contains the new MVCBean feature, which is an implementation of a large subset of the MVC 1.0 Specification. New demos are available that demonstrate the features and benefits of MVCBean portlet development. New Maven archetypes are available for MVCBean as well.
 
Portals are an interesting middleware category for many reasons. They provide an alternative to building commercial applications the old-fashioned way. However, they’re not a “one or the other” proposition, but rather they can coexist with custom-built applications. In this way, you can truly see their benefits because comparison and coexistence are useful undertakings.

Middleware Categories

Here’s the complete list of middleware categories that I came up with from my research, as well as the examples that I have discussed through the articles.
 
1. Database: IBM Db2 
2. Application server: IBM WebSphere® Application Server Db2 
3. Message: IBM MQ 
4. Web: IBM HTTP server 
5. Transaction Processing Monitors: CICS and IMS 
6. Remote Procedure Call: IBM z/OS® Communications Environment
7. API: IBM API Connect 
8. Integration: Red Hat Runtimes, Red Hat Fuse, Red Hat 3scale API Management and Red Hat AMQ  
9. Portals: Apache portal projects (Jetspeed-2, Pluto, Applications and Portals-bridges)

Next Post

Next week, I’ll move on to a new series. I hope that you enjoyed this seven-part exploration of enterprise middleware.     
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