When I was an IT infrastructure director in a previous life, I thought that the term “middleware” was something of a dirty word. I viewed it as inelegant — something that gummed up the works of applications rather than streamlining them (not to mention giving me just one more thing I needed to manage).
I’m happy to report that I’ve since seen the light.
End users may never directly see middleware solutions, and even leaders in retail organizations might not appreciate the effort that goes into developing them. But modern middleware applications that incorporate containers and microservices are essential for tying disparate systems together — especially in a retail environment.
The Benefit of Small Steps
Even today, IT shops within some retail organizations resist developing multiple middleware tools, and instead try to create all-in-one applications that tie everything together in a single, unified solution. In my experience, this is a mistake — and potentially a costly one. There are two likely outcomes to this all-or-nothing approach. First, retailers may simply never finish building out their applications; by trying to achieve everything at once, they may instead achieve nothing, despite dedicating significant resources to their integration efforts. And even if retailers do finish building out these larger applications, the programs they create may quickly become obsolete. When every system is tied together without the aid of multiple middleware programs, it can be extraordinarily difficult to make changes. The application becomes like a Jenga tower, liable to collapse if any of its building blocks are moved around. This is especially concerning for retailers that want to maintain flexibility between vendors.