Can middleware create a competitive advantage?
The answer boils down to latency and which industry you're in. If you happen to be working for an organization that needs real-time latency, the right middleware can make or break you, according to a recent Information Management article.
If that seems like hyperbole, consider this anecdote from the article:
Every little competitive advantage that can be achieved in speed does matter. (RTI CEO Stan) Schneider quotes an admiral who had been working on a self-defense system for aircraft carriers. "He said, 'I can't define 'real time' but I can define 'not real time.' 'Not real time' is when they fire 24 missiles at you and you shoot down 23."
The article focuses on how real-time middleware is being applied in the financial services sector, but there's actually a lot of good information for anyone interested in the strategic value of faster middleware, both in terms of freeing up development resources and helping end users.
I've written several times about the persistence of hand-coding, so one item that caught my attention was this quote from Tabb Group senior analyst Kevin McPartland, author of "U.S. Equity Technology 2010: The Sell Side Perspective":
"Third-party middleware products have reached a level of sophistication that the cost required to build a better, faster solution in-house are often hard to justify. However, legacy platforms that were born before the current crop of middleware products, and systems based on paradigms different than those used to create traditional messaging middleware do and will continue to exist."
Another interesting tidbit from the article: It seems middleware may be ready for a rebound. Apparently, companies have deferred buying middleware due to the economy, but now they're starting to invest in it again, according to the CTO from one middleware vendor.
Recent earning reports from IBM back up that theory. Sales grew during the last year's fourth quarter, with the biggest gains being in middleware-specifically, sales of Websphere rose 13 percent, Information Week reports.
Likewise, last month, Oracle reported its database and middleware sales rose almost 2 percent in the third quarter, suggesting an end to the middleware slump identified by Gartner last March.