A Guide to Choosing Your Middleware Software

The HPE NonStop space can be a confusing place: so many acronyms, two different operating systems, and all kinds of nuances. And what exactly is middleware? As a concept, it’s actually pretty simple. It's software that acts as a bridge between two computing platforms, allowing to send and receive messages, usually over a network. So it is essentially just software that allows you to integrate NonStop with other platforms.

If you have information on your NonStop servers you need to send to other platforms, or you need to be able to retrieve external information from within your NonStop applications, your probably need middleware to accomplish this.

Several common off-the-shelf (COTS) middleware products are available for NonStop systems, but despite this, some organizations have attempted to implement in-house solutions in order to save money. The problem with homegrown solutions is that when a complete accounting is made of the initial development costs, testing and ongoing maintenance, the “savings” are hard to find. On top of that, there’s the opportunity cost, because while your developers are reinventing the wheel, they could have been working on solutions that provide real value to your customers. Unfortunately, even after doing all the work to complete an in-house solution, some companies still end up purchasing a COTS product to have the increased functionality and support.

Thankfully, there are many NonStop middleware solutions that are already available. Not only are they more efficient in that your developers don’t have to spend a lot of time creating and troubleshooting, and more affordable than in-house development, but they also come with support in the event there is a technical issue.

How to Shop for Middleware

When you’re looking for a middleware product, you should know the answers to the following questions:

  • Do you need the server piece or the client piece?
  • Do you need SOAP or JSON technology?

The server piece allows you to expose your NonStop applications as Web services, so you can share data with other platforms and applications. The client piece allows your applications to consume Web services, so you can bring new data into your NonStop applications.

If you need a client-side solution, you just need to check the Web service that you want to access to see if it is a SOAP or JSON Web service. SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) allows programs that run on different operating systems (such as Windows and Linux, for example) to communicate using Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and its Extensible Markup Language (XML), which are both very basic messaging systems that nearly all applications can use regardless of their operating system. This makes SOAP a very popular protocol. JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) is an alternative to XML that some web applications use. It just depends on what service you need to use on whether they use SOAP or JSON.

If you need a server-side solution, you get to decide if you want to use SOAP or JSON Web services: generally, if you want your NonStop data to be accessible from a tablet or cell phone, you’ll want to use JSON technology, although this can be done with SOAP as well depending on the service.

Client-Side Middleware

Client-side solutions can access public and private Web services via the internet or an intranet to bring information into your NonStop applications. These Web services could come from within your own organization, from a business partner, or from a commercial Web service provider, like Amazon Web Services.

We can’t speak to how all client-side middleware works, but with NuWave SOAPam® Client, your NonStop application simply sends a formatted interprocess message (IPM) to SOAPam® Client, which converts that into a SOAP request, sends it to the Web service, and parses the SOAP response into the reply IPM.


Server-Side Middleware

Server-side middleware exposes NonStop applications as Web services, so they can be accessed from virtually any platform, including Linux-, Unix-, and Windows-based platforms, allowing your coworkers, customers, or business partners to retrieve information from your NonStop server.

NuWave SOAPam® Server works in a similar way to SOAPam® Client, except that the process goes in the opposite direction, so a Web service client on another platform sends a SOAP request to SOAPam® Server, which sends an IPM to your backend NonStop application. The NonStop data is returned in an IPM, which SOAPam® Server converts back into a SOAP message to send to the external application that made the request.

Similarly, NuWave LightWave ServerTM allows other platforms to request your NonStop data, but it uses JSON and REST technology, so you have a REST client, like a web or mobile application, sending a request to LightWave ServerTM on NonStop. The software then sends an IPM to your backend NonStop application or process. The process returns a response, and then LightWave ServerTM sends that response back to the client via a REST API.

Determining what kind of middeware you need for your NonStop servers doesn’t have to be a challenge, even for the most technically inexperienced. Arming yourself with the basic knowledge of your needs and knowing what your options are will not only help you get the most out of your servers, but also save money and increase security thanks to enhanced measures and support.