Enterprises today are looking beyond the simple operating system to satisfy their IT infrastructure needs. In today’s increasingly complex business environment, enterprise customers need an infrastructure that is open, accessible and able to support complex integration, both inside and outside the organization. At the same time, this framework needs to provide optimum security and should allow IT departments to make the most out of previous technology investments. Even though, in theory, the operating system should provide all these functions; in reality, organizations are taking an alternative approach.
The Windows platform is pervasive on the desktop and many enterprise customers continue to select it as their platform of choice. However, rather than using the Windows operating system alone as the basis for their infrastructure, enterprises are instead combining it with a middleware layer that provides them with the added confidence of enhanced integration, security and support for high volume transactions. By opting to combine a proprietary platform with an open middleware layer, customers are also able to make sure that their systems can interoperate with others, provide a common basis for development, and link back to legacy systems, regardless of vendor.
All of this seems to be a logical sell for the enterprise that can’t afford to take a technology gamble. But what should organizations look for in a middleware layer in order to make all of these promises a reality and get the most out of their Windows operating system performance:
- Open standards: Combining the Windows platform with a Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE)–based middleware layer provides enterprises with far more extensive use of open standards within their IT infrastructure. This enables customers to set their own destiny by changing systems, vendors, and development strategies as needed to control scalability, reliability, security, connectivity, and all other critical aspects of core business software. J2EE enables web sites to run transactions across all kinds of systems and helps IT departments to separate the programming disciplines of application writing from those of managing the overall IT infrastructure. Through this separation of operating system from application programming interface, IT administrators are able to make changes to the network without rewriting all of their applications and vice versa. This also removes the need for customers to “rip–and–replace” by enabling them to reuse existing software that has been acquired over decades of investment, and bring those assets into the world of Web services. In addition, running Windows in conjunction with an open standards-based middleware layer means that customers can be sure that their Windows platform will interoperate with other operating systems, regardless of vendor. This allows customers to select their business partners based on business criteria rather than technology compatibility.
- Scalability: Enterprise customers need to be able to scale their Windows platform up and down at a moment’s notice as their business needs shift. The middleware layer should provide a critical piece of this, allowing the Windows platform to manage high volume transactions and customer data of all kinds as well as centrally automating the management of IT environments. Rather than relying on the basic application server function built into the Windows platform, many enterprise customers are demanding a more sophisticated application server to help scale and manage high volume transactions. By selecting a middleware layer that includes strong application server capabilities, customers can be sure that their infrastructure can scale as their application needs or transaction requirements change day–to–day or minute–to–minute.
- Security: Security continues to be a top concern for enterprise customers. Enterprises cannot afford to open themselves up to vulnerabilities and increasingly need to control and protect access to their systems. Many middleware layers provide for enhanced security through the standard J2EE specification for Servlets and EJBs which is, in turn, backed by an underlying security–manager architecture of the base J2EE platform, the Java Authentication and Authorization Service (JAAS) and the Java Cryptographic Engine (JCE). All of these features in J2EE–based middleware are optimized and fine–tuned to provide for an extra layer of security on the Windows platform. The Java-based middleware security model is independent of Windows and provides a consistent approach to security resources across all platforms used in an enterprise. It can be used to avoid some of the persistent flaws of other platforms.
- Integration: Integration is a critical component of the enterprise platform. Business integration provides the foundation upon which companies build or transform their business. It is not a quick fix or a ‘one size fits all’ solution. The option should be there to take integration as far as may be required, including business process modeling, integration, connection, monitoring, and management both within and outside the enterprise, as well as tailored, industry–specific options.
Through the adoption of the right middleware layer, enterprise customers are provided with the tools to best optimize the performance of their Windows operating system.
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Rob High is a Distinguished Engineer and the Chief Architect for the WebSphere Application Server product family at IBM.