Hurwitz: Application Server Market More Than Just BEA, IBM

Oracle's Application Server may be more open to competition

According to a recent study by analyst firm Hurwitz Group, Oracle Corp.’s application server technology has been deployed in more Global 2000 organizations than either BEA Systems Inc.’s WebLogic or IBM Corp.’s WebSphere, signaling the application server market may be more open to competition than is commonly believed.

The study, titled Application Server Market Share – A Different Angle, surveyed 150 senior level IT managers in North America in an effort to find the most widely deployed application server. Hurwitz did not make distinctions between server capabilities when asking its sample group about deployments. For example, servers with robust features for working with Enterprise JavaBeans, which Oracle’s application server technology did not have prior to the release of Oracle9iAS, were given equal weight to those without. As such, the study found of the surveyed companies currently using application servers, nearly 37 percent use Oracle, as compared to 27 percent for IBM's WebSphere and 17 percent for BEA's WebLogic.

Though not based on revenue either, the study shows Oracle has done an excellent job penetrating the application server market, says Evan Quinn, chief analyst for Hurwitz. However, he says, when looking at “critical applications, you’ll most definitely find more IBM and BEA deployments.”

Oracle is a proven power in the database industry, which Quinn says has made it an attractive vendor for customers in the application server segment. Oracle9i is the leading installed database technology among enterprise organizations. IBM’s DB2 database offering, while it too has a strong install base, is not as prominent as Oracle9i among enterprise customers. BEA is not a factor in the database market.

Furthermore, Quinn says prior to the release of Oracle9iAS, “Oracle was an inexpensive, convenient way to get your feet wet.” Oracle, he says, used attractive terms and conditions to get organizations to try its application server technology.

Still, Quinn says the study’s findings must be considered in perspective. He says most enterprises have deployed all of the leading application servers in one capacity or another. What the study does indicate, he says, is that the application server market is more than just BEA and IBM.

“Do we think this has come down to just IBM and BEA, the answer to that is most certainly no,” says Quinn. “We think that the market, instead of consolidating down to just two, is going to become more balanced.”

Quinn says BEA, IBM and Oracle are obviously the top three vendors in the application server space at this point. But, he says, other vendors, namely Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard Company and Sybase, aren’t going to disappear.

As competition heats up on the application server front, Quinn expects market-leader BEA to be hit the hardest. In terms of revenue, Quinn says the most recent data compiled by Hurwitz shows IBM has already pulled ahead of BEA.

Quinn says BEA is in a difficult position because the application server market is evolving to encompass more than just server technology. Much of the ancillary offerings that are now coming into play in the application server space, says Quinn, BEA will need to either acquire or build, while other vendors like IBM and Oracle already have these pieces in place.

"As this becomes less an application server market and more of an application infrastructure market, your historical market leader, BEA, is under the most pressure."

About the Author

Matt Migliore is regular contributor to He focuses particularly on Microsoft .NET and other Web services technologies. Matt was the editor of several technology-related Web publications and electronic newsletters, including Web Services Report, ASP insights and MIDRANGE Systems.