Our advice: Since middleware is becoming so layered and ubiquitous, in many IT organizations it's particularly ripe for reassessment, better management, or consolidation. (A typical middle tier is a jumble of expensive networks, hardware, and heterogeneous application servers running Common Object Request Broker Architecture, Java 2 Enterprise Edition, or Microsoft .Net, HTTP servers, Web caches, directory services, integration services, portals, gateways, wireless support, and so on.) To ensure that benefits are realized, however, it's imperative that an over-arching strategic business plan and an architecture infrastructure be in place. With this vision in mind, a reassessment project will proceed more smoothly, with more support, and with a greater return. Any changeover must be planned and implemented carefully, taking into account the application and business logic code that will be affected. The resulting "design pattern" will be a highly standardized software infrastructure that supports component and legacy applications and business logic, even with heterogeneous operating systems and databases. This streamlining is usually easier to accomplish for middleware than for operating systems and databases because of vendors' adherence to standards. And since more IT resources are spent on middleware than on database and operating systems, it often represents the most fruitful area on which to focus. That's why the top priorities for reassessment are often found in the middleware stack.
To conclude, the savings accrued from a streamlined infrastructure--resulting from stronger buying clout, simplified training and support, and the ability to more easily implement new projects such as grid computing, automation, portals, and service-oriented architecture--will exceed the investment for replacement infrastructure software.
Beth Cohen, TAC Thought Leader, has more than 20 years of experience building strong IT delivery organizations from both user and vendor perspectives. Having worked as a technologist for BBN, the company that literally invented the Internet, she not only knows where technology is today but where it's heading in the future.
Alan Guibord, TAC chairman, CEO, and founder, has more than 25 years of experience leading IT organizations as CIO with both Fortune 100 companies and small to midsize businesses. Guibord has served as VP and CIO of Fort James Corp., VP of information technology at R.R. Donnelley & Sons, CIO of PictureTel, and VP of MIS and administrative services at Timeplex.
Peter Taglia, TAC Expert, has more than 20 years of IT experience from the vendor perspective, focused on process automation for eBusiness, eCRM, contact centers, telecomm operations support systems, E911, wireless and wireline networks via n-tier applications, integration, middleware, and portals. His experience includes complex planning, project management, financial justification, ROI, metrics and strategies for growth via opportunity assessment, product management, value innovation, benchmarking, and industry structure research for alliances, mergers, and competitive analysis.