Beware the Middleware – A ticking time bomb

Charles Eberhardt, Director of Support

Software implementations can be long, expensive journeys. Taking a shortcut or two can seem like the right choice when you are short on time to get the system live or looking to stay within budget. One such shortcut in the ETRM space that we see often is proprietary middleware. 

Middleware is a software package of compiled code that third-party companies sell to “speed up” your implementation. They do this by injecting themselves into the middle of the interactions between your ETRM system and external data sources. Middleware providers sell the promise of a faster, cheaper, and standardized implementation of customized interfaces necessary to deliver data into and out of your ETRM system. Often, they’ll tell you it makes writing interfaces so easy your team can do it. But what they don’t tell you is the potential downsides of taking this shortcut. 

Why do organizations sell middleware?

While middleware companies sell you on the idea that they want to help you save money, speed up your implementations, and make producing interfaces easier, the reality is they produce middleware to make themselves money and more importantly make you dependent upon them. They force your hand to utilize them into the future even if their services are subpar. Simply stated, they deliver custom interfaces to you, and within the block of code for these interfaces, there is a dependency on something they own. 

At first, you’re excited to cut costs and speed up your implementation, and the process seems like a no brainer. However, the source code to the middleware components that you are now dependent on is a ticking time bomb - you cannot escape the proprietary middleware component unless you pay to have the entire interface rebuilt by a different provider. 

What are the risks?

Middleware solutions sound too good to be true. And frankly, they are. Below are the risks of using middleware for interfacing with your ETRM solution.

1. You do not have access to or control over the source code between your ETRM system and external data sources.

The middleware provider is going to deliver compiled code to you, which means your organization has no control to resolve any bugs within the middleware itself. It makes you dependent upon the third-party organization providing the middleware to support their own code in a timely, responsible, and affordable manner. 

2. You have no visibility into how your data is handled.

Data safety is paramount in today’s world. With breaches occurring weekly, having full visibility into source code where your data is altered, manipulated, or stored is an important piece to a secure system. With the middleware in place, you are delivering sensitive data into a black box for processing. You have no visibility into how or what the third-party vendor is doing with your data. 

3. You are assuming the long-term risk of the middleware provider discontinuing support or organization failure if their own business is mismanaged.

If having no access to fix or maintain the code isn’t enough of a problem, the risk of the middleware provider going out of business or discontinuing support for the solution you’re utilizing is a real issue. Consulting firms are the typical providers of these middleware solutions, and it is no secret they operate on a services model which lives or dies by the number of services they can sell. Your organization and ETRM system are at risk utilizing a middleware provider and being dependent upon this external party. 

What’s the alternative?

The better path is to construct direct-to-data interfaces with no man (or middleware) in the middle. This path solves the main risks of middleware by giving your organization control over the code, visibility into how your data is handled, and security knowing the assets are yours to maintain. These interfaces are not rocket science, and they don’t require a middleware solution to make them obtainable. It is true they may cost a bit more to write direct-to-data, but the risk of failure far outweighs the nominal cost difference to building these without the middleware. Middleware is just not a shortcut you want to take.

Triarc Can Help

Triarc understands software implementations are expensive and time consuming, but cutting corners with a middleware provider is not the place to save money. We recommend building direct-to-data interfaces between your ETRM systems and your external systems to ensure your organization is equipped for success in the future. 

Managing the priorities of the project can be tough, but there are better mechanisms to trim the costs and timeline of your project than introducing dependencies on a third-party provider. Triarc is skilled at designing, building, and delivering these interfaces along with the management of projects to meet customer needs.

Contact us today for a consultation so you can love RightAngle again! 

Share this post with your friends!