Fleming notes that JBoss has "more momentum than either IBM or Oracle in bare-metal application servers." Tibco and Software AG also have momentum, she says. "There's a handful of companies that are doing really well."
Bob Moore, president of the Chicago WebSphere User Group, concurs that JBoss is having an impact with its open source application server. "JBoss is huge out there," says Moore, who is also president of the InfoTech Resources consulting firm.
A user of both IBM and Oracle middleware sees open source as providing a haven from commercial vendor dominance. "Having those open source options will keep Oracle and IBM from really raising their prices or putting a lock on the market because people can go to the open source community," says Michael Rulf, chairman of the OAUG's Fusion Council. "For application servers, you always have the open source," concurs InfoTech's Moore.
But JPL's Teter is not so sure open source is a viable check on the power of IBM and Oracle. "Oracle grabbed a whole lot of the good open source software when it picked up Sun," including the GlassFish application server and the MySQL database, he says. This eliminates GlassFish as a competitive counterbalance to the WebLogic application server Oracle acquired when it bought BEA, he notes.
"I'm a buyer, so I always think varied competition is good," Teter says. "And while Oracle has done well by us, we're concerned that we're seeing a consolidation of suppliers in the marketplace. ... The alternatives are drying up."
Still, although a lack of competition could let IBM and Oracle raise their maintenance fees (as SAP did in 2008, sparking a user revolt), where they make much of their income, Teter hasn't seen it happen yet. And Moore says he has not noticed his user group members airing fears of vendor lock-in in middleware because of IBM and Oracle moves: "I don't hear people talking about that."
Consolidation can boost integration
Having large vendors piece together technologies from acquired companies does present the advantage of an integrated suite, says Forrester Research analyst Randy Heffner. IBM and Oracle can compete on the depth of integration and internal cohesiveness of their platforms, he adds.