IBM leads shifting apps deployment market, IDC says

Analyst firm says field will become more competitive as customers migrate away from mainframes and OS/400 systems

IBM Corp. continued to lead the market for application deployment software in 2003, but the field will become far more competitive as customers migrate away from IBM's mainframe and OS/400 systems, according to new figures released Tuesday by IDC.

"I'm predicting a wide-open opportunity for the first time in years because of the natural evolution away from the old mainframe-type middleware," said Dennis Byron, IDC's analyst for business process automation and deployment software.

IDC's figures include worldwide sales of application, Web and integration server software, as well as middleware products for messaging, transactions and integration. They account for both new licenses and follow-up activity related to the previous year's sales, IDC said.

The overall market for such software grew 4.4 percent in 2003, to just over US$7 billion, and will continue to grow at a similar clip through 2008, Byron said in his report.

IBM, BEA Systems Inc. and Oracle Corp. retained their top rankings from 2002, with market shares of 35.6 percent, 11.5 percent and 5.9 percent, respectively. But the mainframe and OS/400 systems that have given IBM its commanding lead will be displaced gradually, mostly by Unix, Linux and Windows systems, levelling the field for the other vendors, Byron said.

"IBM will be as strong as anyone in providing the more modern middleware, but the lock is off (when customers start to migrate away from its mainframe systems) and when this happens it becomes more of a level playing field," Byron said.

Looking only at Unix and Linux-based platforms, BEA led that portion of the market in 2003, just as it did in 2002, Byron said.

Oracle, meanwhile, made a particularly strong showing, growing at three times the market rate. This was driven largely by Release 2 of its Application Server 9i product, which bundles an application server, portal server, integration server and other products into a single offering.

"I believe Oracle rode the wave of demand for integration a lot more than any of the other really big name vendors," Byron said.

The database vendor announced separately on Tuesday that it has acquired privately-held Collaxa Inc., which sells software for automating business processes, and is likely to add that functionality to its newer, 10g application server.

Open source provider JBoss LLC remains a relative blip on the chart in terms of its 2003 revenue, but its model of providing software for free and charging for maintenance services disguises how many people are actually using its products. JBoss has made a dent in the sales of more established vendors and will put pressure on the way they price their products, Byron said.

Sun Microsystems Inc., which is hosting the JavaOne show in San Francisco this week, is also a relative blip on the chart and actually saw its share of the applications deployment software market decline from 2002, Byron said. The new, subscription-based pricing for its Java Enterprise System may have played a role, as did the continuing overall decline in Sun's server business, Byron said.

IDC's overall growth forecast is based on interviews with more than 1,200 IT managers in North America conducted last October and November. Other market drivers between now and 2008 will be as follows, the company predicted:

-- Customers will continue to move toward fully functional platforms that combine application, Web and integration servers along with message-oriented, transaction-server and access middleware with easy-to-use toolsets and frameworks.

-- Demand for business process automation (BPA) deployment functionality will grow. Some customers want BPA products that are not "hard-wired" into packaged applications.

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