If you were to log in, you'd be able to get more information on your fellow community member.
You say down with middleware. However ODBC is quite useful middleware. We are using NetDynamics middleware. We are building Databases backed web sites with NetDynamics. It does all that you ask for in terms of caching database connections and not requiring a new process each hit. We do have some performance and bug issues, it chews up heaps of resources, is expensive, there is quite a learning curve and you have to understand quite a bit about how the web works to get the most from it. Many other competing application servers exist with these features (Sybase has one). The Java servlet protocol also helps here.