The Application Server Market Is Dead; Long Live the Application Platform Market
July 11, 2003
A Complex Landscape
The application market can be carved up in a variety of ways.
The predominant theme in the application server market is the law of supply and demand. "The big factor in the market right now basically is over-supply," Giga's Rymer says. "There are too many products chasing too few apps and projects. It's a result of the IT recession. One of the biggest factors is that there is a high degree of discounting. The product quality is getting higher all the time. It's a very good situation if I'm a buyer."
The poor economy is driving enterprises to be more cautious about where they spend their IT dollars. "Customers are being a lot more careful now in their analysis of which features and functions they actual require," Schultz says. "A couple of years ago, they would just buy the high end and use what they needed."
The other issue driving the market is commoditization. Since the bigger players, with the exception of Microsoft, are standardized on J2EE there is an equality that shifts the battlefield to the applications that each develops. "There is a commoditization of the basic technology on J2EE," says Shawn Willett, principal analyst for Current Analysis. "It doesn't require an inordinate amount of expertise to build to those specs."
That combination -- a troubled economy and the commodization of the plain old app server -- was the driving force behind the expansion of app servers to app platforms. By broadening the tasks of the application server, the big players are attempting to differentiate themselves. Enterprises further benefit because the servers that supported formerly separate functions (e.g., intranets) can be subsumed into the app platform environment. This all dovetails nicely with the movement of more tasks onto the Internet and other IP-based networks.
"There is a fair amount of innovation going on in the market," Rymer says. "There are ideas out there such as the notion of an application server platform that includes the app server, an integration server, and a portal server all in a single unit."