"Middleware" is evolving software that enables many forms of collaborative
computing required for research, education, clinical care and business
processes. It allows two or more otherwise separate applications to securely
access diverse resources across the Internet or local area networks via
a robust set of advanced network services. It enhances personal communication
and allows scientists, researchers, medical professionals and others to
effectively share instruments, computing resources, laboratories, and data.
It also greatly enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of business process
both internal and external to the university.
Middleware makes the sharing of resources transparent
to end user(s). It provides consistency, security, privacy and other integrative
The five core middleware services are
certificates and public-key infrastructure (e.g. digital IDs)
National Science Foundation (NSF) Middleware Initiative
In September 2001, the National Science Foundation (NSF) created the NSF
Middleware Initiative (NMI). This initiative consists of two
Middleware In Action at UTHSC-H
Here are some examples of how middleware facilitates activities in cyberspace.
Academic Technology -
Middleware services work seamlessly together to facilitate identity verification,
ensure identity reconciliation and assign electronic identity credentials
to students, faculty, staff and official guests. Identities and associated
digital credentials are automatically managed such that only individuals
officially affiliated with the university can be authenticated for possible
access to restricted resources. Such resources include desktops, e-mail,
Blackboard, Web servers, multiple secure databases, VPN access to the UTHSC-H
Each person affiliated with the university has a single, virtual entry
within the Integrated Directory Service. Associated with each entry are
various attributes which characterize that person's affiliation(s) with
UTHSC-H. These attributes are often dynamically defined and can be used
to determine if an individual is authorized to be a participant in certain
processes and/or is to be authorized to access specific restricted resources.
For example, all first year medical students are automatically designated
as being "memberof" the "MSI-Student" group. Members of this group receive
e-mail addressed to the group and are authorized to use resources restricted
to first year medical students.
Many restricted resources at the university currently require only
a person's UTHSC-H username/password or digital ID for access. The goal
is to have only these two mechanisms provide authentication for all digital
resource. This greatly increases security and reduces user frustration
since users no longer will need to remember multiple usernames and passwords.
Digital IDs enable the use of digital signatures to electronically sign
documents. This greatly reduces the costs associated with the handling
and storage of paper documents and increases the security and privacy of
business transactions conducted in cyberspace. A digital signature strongly
authenticates the identity of a person signing a document, ensures that
the document's content has not been changed and allows documents to be
viewed only by the intended recipient(s).
The Integrated Directory Service can provide software applications with
current information required to complete a task. For example, everyone
at UTHSC-H must take HIPAA training and a record of that training must
be retained. However, if an audit report is required at a particular instant
to determine who currently at the university has completed the required
training, the report should not include those individuals who have left
the university. The Compliance Database Reporting application can obtain
a list of all individuals currently affiliated with the university from
the directory service and report on the compliance status of only those
individuals. It can also retrieve the e-mail address of individuals who
have not completed training and send them e-mail reminding them to take
the required training.