The Evolution of Middleware in a Supply Chain Operating Network

June 15, 2016 Jerry Turner

The Best Middleware is No Middleware

In a recent discussion with a client about rationalizing and standardizing the client’s middleware environment, one of the executives made the statement, “The best middleware is no middleware." I immediately wrote that statement down. It's so true!

And in fact, it’s the key reason that so many of our clients are abandoning their middleware platforms and moving their data transformation functions into the Elemica environment.  Elemica performs data transformations as a core competency; we are experts at it. Additionally, we can offer it to our clients on a Software-as-a-Service basis rather than the client being forced to host it themselves, pay for maintenance and go through periodic expensive and painful upgrades to the on-premise software.

What kinds of transformations are we talking about? Some of the easiest are format changes–taking a flat file (for example, an IDOC from SAP) and turning it into an XML file or into an EDI-format file. Other simple transformations include padding a field with zeros or removing blanks or adding a specific character to a certain field in a file each time (for example, adding a “Z” to the start of each Purchase Order number). 

More complex message processing can include the management of detailed message flows that are part of a critical business process. For instance, one client wanted to make sure that each incoming customer order was responded to within 5 business days. So their middleware was set up to create a table of incoming electronic customer POs and matching them with the outgoing Order Responses coming from the Customer Service team. If no Order Response was received for a given PO within 5 days, the middleware generated an email alert to the Customer Service Rep responsible for that customer (again, drawing that information out of a table maintained by the middleware).  

More and more of our clients are moving these critical activities into the Elemica network. They are recognizing that “we are in the chemicals business–not in the middleware business." They are happy to turn over these functions to us rather than running their own WebMethods, BizTalk, or Axway instance.

Elemica provides all of the functions described above and more. The client gains even more visibility into the message flows than they had previously–since the real-time Elemica Operations Dashboard shows them the complete life cycle of the message from the client to the trading partner–including each transformation that was performed on the message along the way.

Getting rid of your middleware can produce some real benefits. Talk with us about whether “the best middleware is no middleware” is true for your company as well.

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