Mandated middleware shows Singapore’s IT maturity

If you want to find out what businesses really care about, just look at their Request For Proposals (RFPs) or tender documents – they’ll tell you. In years gone by, when large businesses went to tender for new technologies, it was common practice to stipulate prospective bidders build their proposals around the enterprise’s existing database or operating system.

At the time, this made sense. Large enterprises spent decades building their environments around legacy database technologies. Maybe it was SAP, or Oracle, or IBM – in any case, this was a non-negotiable reality as it was simply unfeasible to consider any implementations not built around their existing infrastructure.

In many countries around the world this is still the case – but not in Singapore. Over the past 12 months, an interesting trend has emerged in the RFPs from large Singaporean enterprises seeking to implement new technologies. Rather than highlight their existing databases or operating systems in tender documents, firms in Singapore are increasingly requiring respondents to build their proposals around mandated middleware.

Middleware is essentially the ‘glue’ that holds together an enterprise’s myriad applications, enabling data from the data base to be extracted and used to build new services. There are three key reasons fuelling this emerging trend.

Rapid App Deployment

According to a recent global survey, 62 per cent of Singaporean businesses were continuously deploying new cloud-based applications – more than any other nation. This not only highlights increasing cloud adoption, but also shows local enterprises are fed up with being held hostage by their legacy technologies and are hungry for best-of-breed SaaS applications.

While these new applications promise to deliver untold business benefits, they can also bring greater complexity if the business is unable to manage how new SaaS investments communicate with existing on-premises data sources. Legacy middleware solutions only compound this complexity as they’re extremely difficult to manage themselves and required specialist staff with elite coding skills. This has led organisations to cloud-native platforms, also known as integration platform as a service (iPaaS). 

Whereas each new application added to an environment with legacy middleware requires custom coding, iPaaS solutions greatly simplify deployments as almost no coding is required at all.

With the greatest barrier – integration – removed from app deployment, enterprises are free to pursue the best-of-breed services they need to address their unique challenges. And the benefits can be profound. Enterprises can rapidly respond to evolving customer needs, eliminate expensive manual integration processes, and simplify the digital transformation initiatives needed to future-proof their business.

Diminishing Skills

The second reason Singaporean businesses are building their IT environments around IPaaS is a lack of available skills in maintaining legacy middleware.

In the old world of enterprise IT, an environment was built around a data base vendor and that same vendor’s middleware was used to develop new applications. The problem with this model is that legacy middleware is extremely complicated to manage and maintain. In order to build a new application, a specialised developer had to write pages and pages of custom code in order to extract the data the application would rely on. This process could take weeks and had to be repeated for every single application.

Even if local enterprises were happy with this lethargic, complex, and cumbersome rate of deployment (which they’re clearly not), these specialised legacy middleware developers are in extremely short supply. The next generation of engineers simply aren’t interested in limiting themselves to one vendor’s archaic idiosyncrasies and are instead developing open-source skills.

That means those few specialised developers are expensive to hire. Next generation middleware and IPaaS solutions, on the other hand, give businesses the ability to deploy new applications rapidly with a simple, low-code, drag-and-drop functionality. The benefits to business from this low-code solution is enormous. Applications can be deployed within minutes and no specialised coding skills are required. 

Clear Consequences

The final reason enterprises are beginning to mandate middleware in their RFPs is they’re starting to experience the consequences of poor integration.

As businesses across South-East Asia increasingly turn to hybrid and multi-cloud strategies – with some research suggesting the region’s cloud market could exceed US$40 billion by 2025 – organisations need the ability to rapidly integrate data across applications, often hosted on disparate cloud platforms. The same report which found Singapore led the way in rapid app deployment also found 74 per cent of organisations in South-East Asia had missed opportunities due to poor integration – more than any other region. The three most commonly experienced drawbacks were “costing us money in lost efficiency”, “poor workflow efficiency”, and “delays in new product deployment”.   

Ultimately, as businesses in Singapore and across South-East Asia look to leverage more cloud services and integrate more applications into their environments, they’re seeing that middleware is the ‘centre of gravity’ that holds their enterprise together.

As we’ve seen in recent RFPs, forward-looking businesses are starting to mandate middleware. This is because middleware is where the magic happens – it’s where transformation is enabled, where agility is achieved, and where new applications can be rapidly deployed in response to changing needs. And in today’s digital world, needs are changing every day.