4 Tactics for Optimizing Middleware for Business Success

September 21, 2020
4 Tactics for Optimizing Middleware for Business Success

In my role at OSI Digital leading application integration projects in a wide range of markets, I’ve seen the key role that middleware plays when businesses transform themselves for success.

Want to migrate to the cloud? Middleware provides the connections you need to transport your data and build a new cloud-centric architecture. Keeping your legacy applications in place but modernizing their business logic for improved efficiency and agility? Again, middleware provides the platform you need for making these improvements in a fast, orderly way.

Choosing the right middleware platform and using it well are key requirements for success regardless of whether your company is undertaking a bold digital transformation — replacing legacy applications with new cloud applications — or taking a more financially conservative approach, optimizing connections and business logic.

In earlier Boomi blog posts, I wrote about questions that IT organizations should ask in a shifting economy, and I offered five tips for making the most of middleware platforms to achieve the highest possible ROI. Now I’d like to get tactical, offering tips about how to optimize your middleware to achieve the best possible business results.

Want help making the most of your middleware platform? Contact the experts at OSI Digital and Boomi today.

1. To get integration right, start by focusing on data objects.

This might seem counterintuitive. If you have financial data, and you want to share it with your ERP application, your HR application, and your sales CRM system, you might naturally begin by looking at each of those applications and their interfaces. That will help you figure out how to transfer data between them, and build point-to-point integrations and data transformations.

The problem with that approach is that it’s not future-proof. Applications change. New technologies come along. Even if you’re not migrating to new applications now, you’d like to have the freedom to migrate to new applications in the future. You don’t want to miss out on new platforms and technologies, because you have dozens of point-to-point integrations to maintain. With each performing a custom transformation to connect one application to another, changing that tangle of integrations would be cost-prohibitive.

A better approach is to start by analyzing your business and developing a data model that meets your current and near-term business needs. So, for example, if you have a data object representing the financial transaction for a sale, consider what that data object could be across all the applications handling that data, then use it everywhere, consistently.

This simplifies integration and migration work significantly. The same data object is entering and leaving every application. Want to swap out one application for another, say, a legacy on-premises application for a new SaaS app? No problem. You’ve already figured out what data object the new application will use, regardless of which other applications it’s integrating with.

2. Adopt a hub-and-spoke model for integration.

The other part of this strategy is adopting a hub-and-spoke architecture. In this model each application connects to a central middleware platform, using a standard data object across connections. This design makes it easier to migrate from one application to another. Switching from Oracle Financials, say, to NetSuite, requires changing a single endpoint, rather than countless point-to-point integrations.

Another benefit of this model is the ability to easily change business logic as needed, as it is conveniently located in one place: the integration platform serving as the hub for all the spokes. Developers don’t have to spend days or weeks updating and testing dozens of integrations to support new business rules. They simply update the logic in the hub and all spoke applications benefit from the update.

Implementing these first two tips requires some work upfront, but the benefits are substantial. Whether a company is embarking on a major digital transformation project or simply wanting to make the most of the applications it already has, it has established a rational, consistent, and efficient way of handling business logic and integrations. Future changes and optimizations become fast and easy, and business agility increases overall.

To adapt to fast-changing markets, companies need to transform IT operations quickly and efficiently. Here are some tips to help guide your strategy: "4 Questions to Help Guide IT Teams in a Shifting Business Landscape."

3. Don’t just migrate business processes: optimize them.

Digital transformation doesn’t just mean replacing an old on-premises platform with a cloud platform and running all the same processes you did before. When you move to a modern, cloud-native integration platform like Boomi's integration platform as a service (iPaaS), you have the opportunity to accelerate and streamline processes and to automate steps that used to be manual. In a successful middleware migration, you're not just changing integration endpoints. You're re-engineering business processes for efficiency and agility.

For example, we had a customer who had been using Oracle middleware to implement their order-input process. Oracle would periodically kick off a batch process that read orders and sent files one at a time to the finance system.

When we replaced Oracle middleware with Boomi, we could have simply recreated this process, using Boomi instead of Oracle to read the orders and transfer the files. But we recognized that Boomi can process data payloads in parallel. Instead of inputting orders one at a time, it could handle multiple orders simultaneously. So we modified the process to take advantage of Boomi’s parallel processing capabilities, and we ended up accelerating the business process more than 100X. An order-input operation that had taken several minutes on Oracle now takes just milliseconds on Boomi.

When you’re migrating from an older middleware platform to Boomi, you’ll likely find lots of opportunities for this type of optimization. Seize those opportunities, and you’ll get even more value from your digital transformation.

4. For further efficiencies, choose an integration platform that also supports EDI and workflow automation.

We have customers with separate platforms for integration and for B2B translators and EDI processing. Of course, all the data flowing through these platforms is related. When a company places or receives an order through its partner network, that order doesn’t just stay on the EDI platform. It interacts with other applications and other IT resources throughout the organization.

For example, if a trading partner orders a product, the company’s finance system is going to issue an invoice, the ERP system will probably be involved in ordering and tracking parts for manufacturing, the service organization might receive a notification that a service contract has been opened, and so on. All these interactions are supporting the operations of a single, unified business, but because the integration platform connecting applications and the EDI platform are separate, that business has to maintain two platforms and keep employees up-to-date with two skillsets in order to process orders.

By migrating its EDI operations to Boomi, the business gains the advantage of a single unified platform for both EDI transactions and data integrations. Combining platforms saves it  money, but it also provides a 360-degree view of the entire business process from end-to-end. In a single pane of glass, staff can see how internal workflows lead to EDI orders and how EDI orders lead to internal workflows. For example, they can see an EDI document come into the system; get translated into XML, JSON, or some other format; then get transformed into their enterprise business object; and finally be entered in their ERP system as a purchase order.

Gaining this broader visibility is tremendously helpful. For one thing, it helps with troubleshooting and performing root-cause analysis. If the company discovers that an order didn’t arrive, it can explore all the data and transactions associated with that order. Staff can confirm that documents were properly formatted and that data was transmitted correctly. Having this comprehensive visibility is especially important as more processes become automated. You want to make sure that the automation is working correctly every time, and that nothing is falling through the cracks.

EDI continues to be a critical technology for ecommerce. Because the Boomi Platform offers traditional integration along with EDI and B2B partner management, the IT organization's work is greatly streamlined. Boomi has certainly provided our customers with a better, more comprehensive solution for managing their data.

For more insights on middleware optimization check out "5 Tips for Achieving Maximum ROI from Your Middleware."

Middleware Tactics Lead to Strategic Success

Whether your company is undertaking bold digital transformation projects or simply fine-tuning operations with the applications you already have, choosing the right middleware platform and using it well can make a critical difference in benefits you’ll receive from your work.

The tactics I’ve described here all lead to improved efficiency, scalability, and productivity. By adopting a hub-and-spoke architecture with common data models, you make integration work much more efficient, scalable, and predictable.

By adopting a modern integration platform like the Boomi Platform and taking advantage of its parallel processing features, you accelerate business processes and increase your organization’s agility. And by adopting an integration platform that also supports EDI transactions, you reduce the number of systems and skillsets the IT organization needs to maintain, and give your organization a comprehensive end-to-end view of business transactions.

Middleware is at the heart of all these tactics. As you develop your plans for thriving in today’s fast-changing economy, don’t overlook the strategic importance of middleware and the benefits it can deliver for all your IT operations.

Want help making the most of your middleware platform? Contact the experts at OSI Digital and Boomi today.

About the Author

Hilal Khan is the global director, application integration at OSI Digital. OSI Digital provides purpose-built business and technology solutions that optimize performance to enable data-driven outcomes for our customers. With extensive experience in data modeling, developing data warehouses and SOA-based enterprise integrations, Hilal is responsible for the architecture and delivery of robust and scalable solutions for OSI Digital's customers. His expertise also includes ERP technology and implementation, with specialization in human resources, payroll, finance, inventory, insurance, and other office automation systems.