IBM continued to lead the market for application deployment software in 2003, but the field will become far more competitive as customers migrate away from its mainframe and OS/400 systems, according to new figures from 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 licences and follow-up activity related to the previous year's sales, IDC said.
The overall market for such software grew 4.4% in 2003, to just over $7bn (£3.85bn), and will continue to grow at a similar rate until 2008, the report said.
IBM, BEA Systems and Oracle retained their top rankings from 2002, with market shares of 35.6%, 11.5% and 5.9%, 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 suppliers, 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.
The database supplier also announced that it has acquired Collaxa, which sells software for automating business processes, and is likely to add that functionality to its newer, 10g application server.
Open source provider JBoss 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 suppliers and will put pressure on the way they price their products, Byron said.
Sun is also a relative blip on the chart and 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.
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:
- 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 deployment functionality will grow. Some customers want products that are not "hard-wired" into packaged applications.
James Niccolai writes for IDG News Service