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Making the Most of Middleware

April 4, 2019

by

Rohit Nallapeta

Middleware can act as a bridge between the platform that serves as your commerce foundation and the ever-evolving world of customizations that you use to adapt your business for growth. However, finding just the right kind of bridge for your needs can be tricky. That’s why our expert architects developed a checklist to help our clients evaluate the different tools available. And now we’re sharing it with you.

The team at OE has worked closely with a variety of middleware products such as OIC, Mulesoft, Tibco Businessworks, and custom Middleware. The key to our customers’ success is finding the right middleware for their needs and goals. Over the years, we’ve developed the following list of criteria to help enterprise companies evaluate middleware products.

Top 10 Technical  Criteria (in no particular order)

  1. Ease of Software Use & Learning Curve

While middleware is critical, it’s important that we consider the ease of use of the software. All middleware software should be easily learnable and the curve to expertise should be as short as possible. While, this is not always guaranteed, ease of use also translates to better usage.

  1. Sandbox Availability

There are various offerings of middleware today with a combination of cloud only, on premise and hybrid models. The key however is to enable quick access to the software itself. We’ve seen a primary indicator of quick development and ease of use includes availability of sandbox. A sandbox is the first step for a developer to get acquainted with the software. And easy sandbox access is a great evaluation step including the ease with which development can progress. We would emphasize the point access and flexibility to develop on a sandbox is a great indicator of ease of use.

  1. Connectors

The world of middleware is the world of connectors. The main function is to be a hub of inter-operability. A connector or adapter is the common terminology used in the industry. Any middleware which offers an array of connectors will be of great advantage. Any middleware with pre-built connectors helps with time to market and development timeline advantage.

  1. Oracle Ecosystems Integrations (CPQ, OCC, Marketing cloud, engagement cloud)

In the world of OCC i.e. Oracle commerce cloud, middleware solutions also need to be evaluated on the connectivity with ecosystem software. Commerce today is surrounded by ecosystem that includes configuration, marketing, engagement with customers, serviceability and order management. Considering Oracle has software solutions in all these areas, considering a middleware with pre-built or at least easily buildable integration to these software is a huge advantage.

  1. Data formats

Middleware software like we talked before works with various facets and different systems. The ability to handle various data formats as a part of information exchange is the key to making this world work. The systems sometimes are modern and legacy. So, evaluation wise,  having the ability to deal with various file types, CSV, flat file, custom files, XML, JSON, API , legacy WSDL integrations all are key to success of this software.

  1. Data mapping & ETL

Data mapping is another important aspect of middleware work. A ready made data mapper, where various data mappings on a per field basis, visual mapper tools, ability to include some customer logic to enable transformation are some important aspects we’d like to consider for this topic. In addition, robust ETL tooling that helps us mine, stage and transform data is one other criteria that is important to this evaluation process.

  1. Routing & Orchestration

Routing and orchestration is also at the heart of middleware. Middleware has gone on to take a much more pronounced role in orchestration along with translation and transformation. The ability to have a visual workflow, clearly identify dependencies and software workflow connectivity, ease UI tools to create routing logic, ability to add custom business logic and rules for routing as well as orchestration are important evaluation criteria.

  1. API Lifecycle and Management & Maturity

API based interaction has become the lifeblood of software integrations in today’s world. Any middleware that has robust lifecycle management, discoverability of API, ease metering, ease usage enablement, quick monitoring, versioning and highest maturity is the most suitable platform. The mix and the need could be varying but betting on the middleware with full API lifecycle management and robust API capabilities should be top in evaluation criteria.

  1. Modeling Capability

Modeling is another criteria that’s critical to an ecosystem that is API centric. If you’re integrating on services and microservices world, we’d encourage you to explore the modeling capabilities. This includes the API descriptor language e.g. RAML, Swagger etc. Any modeling capability integration or inclusion makes the developers life a little more easier than searching again for external tools and streamlines all development tools.

  1. Ease of deployment, porting to and between environments

As important as it is to develop software, it’s even more important to deploy it in different environments. With cloud, hybrid and on premise systems all coexisting at the same time it’s important to deploy the same with ease. Deployment maturity which includes environment mapping, shipping and deployment is also an important criteria. Portability of code and data is key to time to market challenges. Middleware that can manage the modern enterprise challenges of environments will be a huge leg up in development and launch cycles.

Additional Criteria to Consider

And for companies that are wanting to go a little deeper in the evaluation process, we recommend adding the following considerations to your list. The considerations include non-functional aspects as well as deeper dive subjects.

Languages used

Talent training difficulty & availability

Scalability

License Costs

Community Support

Maturity

Monitoring

Audit

Hosting

Performance

Versioning

Security

Testing framework

Environment management

Documentation

Error scenarios & retries

SSE considerations

Middleware persistence capabilities

With all of these details to evaluate and consider, having the right partner can make all the difference to your project’s success. Contact us today!

About the Author

Rohit (Roy) Nallapeta heads pre-sales consulting for Object Edge. Previously he has held various positions as a product manager, delivery lead and business analyst at Object Edge. His experience spans retail, banking, healthcare, and eCommerce areas. He contributes to this blog on subjects of eCommerce, retail and technology trends.

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