Application integration middleware from suppliers such as Tibco, webMethods, SeeBeyond, Vitria and CommerceQuest integrates business processes with a wide range of applications.
However, delegates at Forrester's annual GigaWorld conference in Barcelona earlier this month complained that this type of middleware was becoming unaffordable because of the high cost of maintenance.
One delegate, from a UK utility company which uses SAP and SeeBeyond 4.0, said the cost of maintaining SeeBeyond was extremely high. "One of our challenges is that it has been difficult to maintain SeeBeyond, owing to the high cost of skills for this application and of integrating the middleware tools," he said.
Another delegate said he had deployed Tibco in a business unit but could not afford to redevelop the middleware across the whole company. "Because the costs of making the changes are so highÉ we cannot get business interested in rolling out proper integration," he said.
Forrester said users could buy the same middleware technology today significantly cheaper than three years ago. Forrester vice-president Mike Gilpin said users should be aggressively renegotiating contracts with suppliers.
He urged users to tell their suppliers that they could take what they were paying in terms of maintenance and buy a whole new middleware integration platform every year. "Price is still an issue; maintenance agreements are still too expensive," he said.
As platform middleware suppliers such as Microsoft, BEA and IBM provide comparable facilities to the dedicated integration middleware suppliers, Gilpin predicted prices would be forced down.
He said Microsoft Biztalk had been particularly competitive from a pricing perspective. "I have seen situations where webMethods, for example, came in to a competitive bidding situation with an initial price proposal of £386,000, then they found out they were competing with Microsoft and the price was £38, 600 for the exact same thing."
Responding to Gilpin's comments on competitive pricing, John Dillon, marketing director at webMethods, said, "There could be any number of reasons why revised pricing would be presented to a prospect. The requirements may have changed, the scope of the project reduced, even the length or phasing of the deal could influence short-term pricing."
Jay Huff, SeeBeyond's marketing manager, disputed the allegation of high maintenance fees and said middleware saved software development time. "[Version] 4.0 was considered excellent value for money," he said.
Alec Bruce, virtual industry director at middleware supplier Tibco, said he had seen a shift in attitude among users. A few years ago, people bought middleware without a clear strategy for how to use it most effectively. "Now they have a clear business process plan," he said.
Bruce said users were also being bolder with their use of the technology.