HOW CIOS CAN MAKE THE CASE FOR MIDDLEWARE AS A STRATEGIC ASSET
Middleware has historically been the province of IT. Business executives, when they
thought about it at all, defined middleware
as internal IT plumbing that connected
systems. Not exactly gripping stuff, from the
view of business units.
Having said that, businesses are chang-
ing faster than ever, and there are a number of factors that
will make middleware one of the most strategic assets within
an IT infrastructure, with a direct impact on business success.
Increasingly, business agility is linked to how quickly people
are able to access reliable, comprehensive information and
use it to make informed decisions—while making sure that
the company is still in compliance with the myriad of regulatory requirements that have sprouted up throughout the
This linkage has highlighted the disparate array of software
that every company uses and the challenges involved in creating an integrated whole from the various pieces. Throwing it
all out and starting over is not an option, because companies
are not going to scrap their enormous existing IT investments.
But this is what, in large part, is driving the interest in service-oriented architecture (SOA). The idea is to leave the applications alone but build modular business services that extract
the necessary information and can be easily integrated and
reused, creating a much more adaptable IT infrastructure. And
middleware is a key ingredient. It supplies core services, such
as development and information management and analytics,
to support an SOA strategy. Also, its Web-based nature means
that Web 2.0 tools such as wikis, blogs, and RSS feeds should
be fairly easy to implement.
But while middleware is becoming more important from a
strategic standpoint, its linchpin quality hasn’t yet penetrated
into the business side of the house. This means that IT leaders
are faced with two issues: finding a way to illustrate the
business value of middleware and finding solutions that can
deliver that value quickly and easily.
The CXOs will grasp the big-picture advantages quickly if
you can find a way to convey the business value of middleware’s capability to access one united source of accurate data
and leverage it to feed other sources. Couch the proposal in
terms of saving time and money, whether it be through productivity savings, the ability to redeploy employees, or simply
doing business more efficiently.
At a functional level, you need to look more at the trees
than the forest. Find the particular areas for each function that
will work better with the advent of SOA and middleware, and
present the project in terms of the specific benefits those two
things will bring.
As far as solutions go, middleware has five important pillars
to consider: SOA, performance management, Web 2.0 tools,
security/identity management, and grid computing. These
areas all share the common need to access reliable data from a
multitude of sources. It also makes sense to look for solutions
that allow you to implement the pillars in concert rather than
as separate strategies—but still in a modular fashion. Rome
wasn’t built in a day, and CIOs can expect the same as they
migrate to this computing framework.
There are some things that you can do to speed the middleware implementation effort. For example, applications that
contain preintegrated middleware pieces, or solutions that are
all built to the same industry standards, will help you put each
piece into place with a minimum of fuss. Built-in integration
packs in middleware components can save time and money in
development costs; using business intelligence tools that simplify how you get to the data can yield an early return on your
investment. Middleware such as Oracle Fusion Middleware
makes it easy for companies to fundamentally transform the
way they do business. <>
JOHN MATELSKI is chairman of the International Oracle Users Group Community
(IOUC) and a member of the board of directors of Quest International Users
Group. He has been chief security officer and deputy CIO for the City of Orlando,
Florida, for the past 10 years.