The Increasingly Important Role of Commercial Middleware in ATCA
Today, whenever the talk is about ATCA architecture, middleware is increasingly part of the dialog. This is exciting because it means that equipment manufacturers are looking for, and finding, additional ways to deliver value beyond COTS hardware. For engineers, the incorporation of middleware into ATCA devices presents a way to not only accelerate next-generation platform deployment; it also frees up internal resources to focus on their value-added applications.
What to do – Buy commercial? Or go open source?
In the past, the ATCA community has had discussions around middleware standardization, primarily focused in the Service Availability Forum (SAF). However, over the past year, additional attention has been paid to SAF by actual users, rather than just contributors. As with any standard, SAF becomes a key discussion point for equipment manufacturers purchasing middleware.
From both a business and engineering perspective, the most efficient way to address the middleware segment - in a reliable manner that mitigates risk - is to acquire the software from an organization that has a funded, dedicated organization building to the SAF specs. In short, commercial software. There are three reasons for this:
First, a for-profit commercial software organization has a vested interest in keeping current with the specifications - that's the only way they will continue to attract new customers. What customer will be satisfied with software that is compliant to a standard more than two years old?
Second, because commercial software organizations have a vested interest in seeing customers succeed, they will provide customers with access to technical resources when questions arise. In high-profile ATCA communications equipment, the impact of industrial-grade tech support is crystal clear: If a major carrier experiences a service outage and it's traced to the middleware on your equipment, who's going to fix the problem?
This leads to the third reason to use commercially developed middleware: indemnification, a topic that is rarely discussed within the development community but which is extremely important to the suits in the Finance, Legal and Procurement departments. In an increasingly litigious business environment, customers at all levels are asking to be indemnified from any legal issues that may arise from software provided to them.
All together, these reasons make a compelling case for commercial middleware; they show that factors other than cost must be taken under consideration when making a middleware choice.
Sr. Product Line Manager