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Middleware

MIDDLEWARE

In the corporate world, companies often operate using a patchwork of different computer systems across various departments or divisions, in which they have invested considerable resources over the years. Many of these systems and software applications weren't designed for use on the World Wide Web. However, in order to engage in e-commerce companies must find a way to enable them for this purpose, and to integrate them so they function together seamlessly.

One solution is middlewarea kind of software that resides between applications on one computer system, such as a Web server (computers used to host Web sites) and many different client applications (including Web browsers like Microsoft's Internet Explorer), functioning as a translation layer. Middleware comes in several forms, each with a different focus. Some forms deal specifically with databases, while others connect applications or deliver messages across different networks between programs and systems.

Middleware, especially the application-server and database varieties, is critical to e-commerce because of the many different company databases and applications involved. For example, when middle-ware is used on a company's Web site it can take customer data entered on a single Web page formlike credit card numbers or shipping addressesand distribute it to the appropriate databases within the company. It also can allow someone to query or search for information found in different company databaseslike price and inventoryfrom one easy-to-use interface like a Web page. On the front end these processes are hidden from the customer's view, but on the back end data may get transferred across several networks, among many different databases in the accounting, shipping, marketing and customer service departments.

Middleware can be created on a custom basis for a company's unique needs or purchased pre-packaged from software companies like IBM. Even if a company buys an off-the-shelf form of middleware, adjustments, analysis, and fine-tuning are almost always needed before it will work correctly. In the early 2000s, software companies were taking steps to make it easier for end-users without backgrounds in computer programming to purchase pre-packaged programs and tailor them to their company's needs.

Middleware also is useful for delivering Web site content to people who use wireless Internet devices like personal digital assistants (PDAs). Because such devices don't always use the same wireless language, a company that delivers content in one language and not another could limit the number of people who are able to access its site. Middleware enables Web sites to adjust content so it can be read by both regular desktop computers and many different kinds of wireless devices.

FURTHER READING:

Baum, David. "Middleware." InfoWorld, November 30, 1992.

. "Middleware to the Rescue." Computerworld, May 10, 1993.

Meehan, Michael. "Vendors Try to Make Middleware More User-friendly." Computerworld, May 15, 2000.

"Middleware." Tech Encyclopedia, February 23, 2001. Available from www.techweb.com.

Pappo, Nicky. "Middleware Bridges Internet, Wireless." Telecommunications, May 2000.

Rosencrance, Linda. "Middleware." Computerworld, October 9, 2000.

Sliwa, Carol. "Plot your B2B Integration." Computerworld, January 1, 2001.

SEE ALSO: Software

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middleware

middleware
1. (firmware) Products that in some sense occupy a position between hardware and software. It is usually system software held in ROM. In particular where microcoded systems are used, the actual microcode is sometimes spoken of as middleware.

2. Software that occupies a position between the operating system and applications programs, particularly in a distributed system.

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message queueing

message queueing The process of storing a message in a node of a message switching network until sufficient resources are available for the message to be forwarded to the next node along the path to its destination.

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