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The Middleware Market is Interesting and Growing

December 10, 2018

Last week, I revisited a topic that I find revitalizing: Middleware. In my previous post, I discussed the roots of middleware in what I referenced as the real history of middleware, with the real roots being in centralized enterprise systems. This week, I’ll continue with a discussion of the categories or taxonomy of middleware software and the size of the market.

How is Middleware Organized
The earliest reference to middleware was in a 1968 NATO Software Engineering Conference. Nick Gall writes about it in a post on the origin of the term “middleware.” In the original reference, it was used to refer to software employed to alter generic file system functionality to specific application purposes. Gall writes, “I guess you could call middleware software in the middle of application software and system software." That’s a broad description but one that is consistent with other views.
Wikipedia takes a similar view: “Anything between the kernel and user applications is considered middleware.” In their text, they have two categories of middleware. The first is middleware in support of distributed applications (like message oriented middleware and object request brokers). The second category is simply other examples of middleware (like game engine software and wireless networking).

I often turn to IDC to get the big picture on any type of software or category. They built and maintain IDC’s Worldwide Software Taxonomy. The 2018 document breaks all software into three categories:
  1. Applications
  2. Application development and deployment
  3. Systems infrastructure software
Middleware products fall into the application development and deployment category. Examples include business-to-business middleware, B2B gateway middleware, event-driven middleware and message-oriented middleware. However, there are plenty of other products without middleware in their names that are clearly middleware in their functionality, such as API management software,
integration platforms, connectivity adapters and plug-in software.

What about IBM? How do they explain their middleware? IBM lists and discusses middleware solutions, instances from their catalog of products and solutions, for example:
  1. Application platform
  2. Business process management
  3. Cloud integration
  4. DevOps
Think of these four as current state middleware solutions whereas other areas are listed as trending like API management, analytics, hybrid integration and process modeling. These are areas of middleware focus, not specific middleware products.
How Big is the Middleware Market?
One of the challenges with understanding the size and growth rate of middleware is understanding what’s included in a forecast when you examine it. Gartner made a press release in 2017 where it indicated that the worldwide application integration and middleware software market (called AIM in the industry) continues to grow faster than the overall infrastructure software market, anticipating $29 billion in revenue in 2018. The growth between 2016 and 2017 was approximately 7 percent. Some experts estimate the worldwide middleware market to increase at a compound annual growth rate of approximately 5 percent between 2017 and 2021. Reports like the one from Gartner explain what’s driving growth in emerging segments of middleware versus what’s keeping mature markets at a single digit rate of growth.

Next in the Series
Next week, I’ll continue with this exploration of middleware by looking at three specific interesting and powerful products.

Posted December 10, 2018| Permalink