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What Happens To Middleware When You’re Cloud-Native?

Posted by Neil Sheppard on March 14, 2024
What Happens To Middleware When You’re Cloud-Native?

Does cloud migration render traditional middleware obsolete or is there still value to co-ordinating software acting between your applications in the cloud? Let's explore what you need to do with middleware when you migrate to the cloud.

What do you do with your middleware when you move to the cloud? With the communication and collaboration enhancements that come with becoming cloud native, do you even need middleware?

While it's true that traditional middleware is largely regarded as redundant for cloud-native enterprise, a new generation of cloud-based middleware is starting to enter the market. Is this necessary for cloud-native enterprise, or is it more of the bloatware that you're trying to cut out of your tech stack?

Let's consider what middleware is, whether you need it in the cloud, and most importantly, how you can plan your cloud migration, including deciding whether to make use of cloud middleware. On the other hand, to jump straight to considering your cloud migration in greater depth, read Gartner's report:

GARTNER REPORT: How to Choose the Right Approach for Application Modernization and Cloud Migration

What Is Middleware?

Middleware is software that's designed to enable communication and collaboration between different elements of your IT landscape. It sits in the middle between your operating system and your applications, or between two applications.

Middleware could, for example, allow your Windows applications to run on Linux systems. On the other hand, it might help put Zoom call invitations into your Outlook calendar.

The first middleware was developed to allow legacy software to work with more-modern applications without recoding. Now that our IT landscapes have become more varied and diverse, however, middleware often has an essential role to play in getting it all working together.

Of course, middleware isn't essential as you can manually move information from application to application, but middleware turns that into an automated background task. It's the glue that binds your disparate platforms and applications together into a seamless, cohesive, user-friendly IT landscape.

What happens, however, when you move all or part of your IT landscape to a cloud container where it's connected to your whole landscape? Is middleware still necessary?

Moving To The Cloud

Cloud-native IT has largely rendered traditional middleware obsolete. Both interactivity and data translation are usually handled before you move to the cloud.

A large part of the work of cloud migration involves transitioning your siloed data into a universal-format data warehouse that can be accessed by all your applications. This makes the capabilities of middleware to translate and transfer data largely unnecessary.

Likewise, cloud containers now virtualize software to allow it to run or connect to anywhere in the cloud through application programming interfaces (APIs). This means you don't need additional middleware to act as a shared library or server-based middleware.

This is a large part of the reason why cloud-native landscapes are less bloated than on-premise setups. You can, therefore, keep your landscape flexible, agile, and able to cope with new technology innovations.

This, however, means redefining how your IT landscape functions. Before you can move your software to the cloud, you need to redesign and re-engineer your architecture as a portfolio of applications that are their own middleware.

Middleware Is Being Replaced By Architecture

Middleware was once the glue that fit your applications together to form an IT landscape. Now, however, your applications are more like Lego bricks.

With applications built to be cloud native, glue isn't needed. Any application can be leveraged by any other application in almost any configuration you need using application programming interfaces (APIs).

Since there are unlimited possibilities for fitting your applications together in the cloud, perfecting your IT landscape requires imagination. This makes enterprise architecture an essential part of cloud migration.

Enterprise architecture was once thought to be an 'ivory tower' exercise of designing a perfect IT landscape that would never be realized. Since the form of your IT landscape is now only limited by your imagination, enterprise architects are free to create an optimal tech stack for your organization.

Where your middleware landscape was once a puzzle that didn't take much imagination to put together, your enterprise architects are now your master builders putting together a creative IT framework to drive your organization forward. Without the limitations of middleware, enterprise architects are repositioned to empower your business.

More Than Lift-And-Shift

All of this applies when you're talking about cloud-native architecture, but what about a hybrid approach? Many organizations are finding that being 100% cloud-based isn't optimal for their landscape.

While the cloud is hugely beneficial for some applications and data, performance issues, regulatory scrutiny, and cost can make parts of your estate better off on-premise. This is where middleware can return to the picture.

Just as middleware once helped legacy software work with modern tools, it can now support traditional on-premise applications in accessing the cloud. Yet, rather than being the glue that sticks your whole landscape together, it then becomes just a tool to use on rare occasions when you need to stick something to your tech stack that doesn't fit automatically.

While your cloud-native applications don't need middleware, they may well need something to translate your on-premise data or co-ordinate with multiple parts of your on-site IT landscape. As such, middleware may not be as important as it once was, but it still has its place.

Cloud Middleware

This leads us to the emerging market for so-called 'cloud middleware'. Even though your cloud applications are more likely to be able to connect without middleware, cloud middleware manages your application programming interfaces (APIs) and controls the relationships between your cloud and on-premise estate in order to optimize it.

Cloud middleware is seen by some as just additional complexity in your simplified cloud landscape. Others, meanwhile, consider it worth the extra runtime for the value it offers in optimizing your cloud estate.

Regardless of your choice on whether to use cloud middleware, any migration, in whole or in part, involves much more than simply lifting and shifting your landscape into the cloud. You need to completely re-engineer your landscape and make new decisions regarding whether and where to use middleware.

Getting Your Landscape Ready For Migration

To help you decide how to re-engineer your landscape to ensure you're using middleware in the right place and way, as well as optimize your entire IT landscape for the cloud, you need to assess your software landscape. The LeanIX platform empowers you to build a map of your entire application portfolio, with detailed information about how each application fits into your IT landscape and where middleware is in use.

From there, you can build a road map for cloud migration, so you can see whether you need middleware. This allows you to go into your cloud migration with complete control and confidence.

For further support in planning your cloud migration with LeanIX, read Gartner's report on choosing the right approach:

GARTNER REPORT: How to Choose the Right Approach for Application Modernization and Cloud Migration

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