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J2EE Journal: Article

JDJ Exclusive: How Long Can BEA Survive Against IBM?

Gartner Report Due Out This Month

The annual Gartner Research Report analyzing the application server market share among leading vendors is expected to be out this month.

According to the Gartner Report published last May, in 2002 IBM pulled ahead of BEA Systems for the first time and gained leadership of the J2EE application server market by walking away with a 37% market share; BEA dropped to second place with 29% of the market. The year before, in 2001, Gartner reported that BEA had 34% of the market share, with IBM close behind at 31%.

Recently, application server vendors have been extending their products to offer an application platform suite: a modern end-to-end platform for business applications. On the way, they are leaving behind the old standards and technologies. BEA Systems has rewritten BEA WebLogic Integration to compete with leading integration specialists. Its key differentiating premise is the convergence of development and integration.


Having said that, when Gartner completes the tabulation of 2003 numbers and publishes their annual report, it may not be surprising to see IBM opening the gap further with WebSphere against BEA's WebLogic Application Server Platform in global market share.

This year's Gartner Report may show that roughly 25% of BEA's business depends on their partnership with HP, and roughly 12% on Sun-based installations.

Oracle has a very strong position with their database installations and should be taken seriously as a viable competitor, which should help them gain market share in the J2EE application server markets. Fujitsu Siemens Computers' (FSC) endorsement of Oracle Application Server 10g gives Oracle a strong partner for its application platform suite. Oracle will also benefit from FSC's mainframe integration technology. The latest version of Oracle's application platform suite (APS) has many new features beyond its much-advertised readiness for grid computing. "But enterprises should not rush any evaluation," according to Gartner.

JBoss uses its technical and business innovation in the J2EE application server market to take on the software industry giants. (see JDJ's April interview with David Skok).

Back to the two dominant players of the application server market: after currency calculations are worked into the 2003 market share estimates, IBM may further solidify its leadership position against BEA with a couple of additional points in gains. If BEA's 2003 numbers, published in their annual financials are normalized against the currency effect, their position could look even worse against IBM and may even look negative. Last year, BEA's $1 billion sales mark was greatly helped by the impact of the international currency translations of their financials. BEA Systems filed their annual report on April 15, 2004. IBM's market cap as of April 2004 was roughly $150 billion vs. BEA at around $5 billion.

Another caution that needs to be taken into consideration while analyzing market share is that this information is extracted from the companies' financial reports and determined as their actual application-server sales. There may not be a perfect way to know market share shifts other than what they provide.

Both IBM and BEA are doing a healthy amount of business in the Java space. In 2003 many solution provider partners bet on both companies by partnering with both until they saw signs of a clear leader arising.

In 2002, IBM also landed the No. 1 position in the portal space with 30.8% of the market, with BEA a distant second with 8% and Oracle third with 3.7% as well as dominating in message-oriented middleware with a whopping 80.8% of the market, according to Gartner. Sun's Sun ONE and TIBCO's middleware had 4.9% and 4.8% of market share.

The 2003 Gartner data is expected to be out by the time you read this article. Even if BEA closes the gap with IBM in the application server market share and gains back its leadership position, they will continue to be challenged by IBM, although in the short term this would eliminate any concerns to be flagged by Wall Street. On the other hand, if IBM continues to take market share from BEA, the survival odds may very well be against them in the long run, while competing with a Big Blue gorilla 30 times their size!

We will have an exclusive interview with Joanne Correia, vice president and research director at Gartner Group, analyzing this year's report, in our next issue. We will also interview others for their feedback on that.

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JDJ News Desk monitors the world of Java to present IT professionals with updates on technology advances, business trends, new products and standards in the Java and i-technology space.

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