It’s Only Open Source (But I Like It)
Perhaps the biggest change in the app server space as a whole is the arrival and acceptance of open source. Red Hat, for example, recently came out with the Red Hat Application Server, which interoperates with J2EE. It incorporates some of the popular open source Java elements, such as JOnAS for EJB, Tomcat for JSP and Servlets, and Web services through Apache’s Axis.
“The application server was a natural next step for open source,” said Paul Cormier, executive vice president of engineering at Red Hat. “Customers have been asking for an open source application server that is fully interoperable with existing 2J2EE vendors, so they can leverage open source where possible while protecting legacy investments.”
Interestingly, all of the established players are buying in to open source. BEA is in bed with Red Hat on a project to integrate Beehive (based on BEA WebLogic Workshop) into its app server. BEA already owns a 25 percent share of the Linux app server space, while IBM is up to 11.5 percent, and Oracle has 10.3 percent. Other organizations, such as the JBoss Group, offer free open source app server software and live off the maintenance revenue. That’s enough to give JBoss a 5 percent share.
“Like it did in the Unix market before it, open source is depressing app server prices and forcing vendors to find extra ways to add value,” said IDC’s Byron. “An open source app server from the likes of JBoss is probably only going to be profitable in the long run if you use it for three or less applications and have an astute IT department.”
Although it’s hard to determine the exact numbers, IDC estimates open source has captured as much as 8 percent of the total app server market. That’s up from zero two years ago. By 2006, IDC expects it will exceed 10 percent.
Tumbling Dice in the SMB Market
In addition to product bundling and arranged Linux marriages, the upsurge of open source is forcing the established vendors to take a closer look at the SMB market. BEA is engaged in a big push to that sector with its WebLogic Application Server, and IBM has offered a WebSphere Express package for some time now.
Oracle has slashed the price of its Oracle Application Server Standard One Edition to make it more palatable for smaller businesses. While the enterprise edition comes in at $20,000 per CPU, the SMB version breaks out to about $5,000 per CPU. But bundling, again, is still a core strategy. This product consists of a J2EE app server, a portal, a business intelligence module, and identity management features.
“The application server marketplace has been muddied up with bundling and packaging,” said Byron. “As everybody is into the bundling game, you have to look beyond the app server element to locate the combination of elements and features that make the most sense in your environment.”