Serving Up Apps for Midsize Businesses

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2002-06-03 Print this article Print

As sales of high-end enterprise application servers remain flat, SilverStream Software Inc. and IBM are tailoring new products for the faster-growing midsize business.

As sales of high-end enterprise application servers remain flat, SilverStream Software Inc. and IBM are tailoring new products for the faster-growing midsize business.

SilverStream, of Billerica, Mass., this week will roll out Extend for RosettaNet, a low-cost version of its application server aimed at such customers, including those that focus on electronic supply chains and public and private trading networks.

IBM, meanwhile, is targeting midsize companies with a new configuration of its WebSphere application server called WebSphere Application Server Express. With a smaller footprint than WebSphere, the new configuration is due in the second half of the year.

The WebSphere rollout follows the Armonk, N.Y., companys announcement of support for Macromedia Inc.s ColdFusion tools. As part of IBMs agreement with Macromedia, customers can now deploy ColdFusion applications on WebSphere.

The moves by SilverStream and IBM follow a trend by other application server providers such as Pramati Technologies Inc., of San Jose, Calif., and San Francisco-based Macromedia that have focused solely on midsize companies, which typically dont require full-blown enterprise solutions.

"When you look at it closely, theres a lot [in the high-end solutions] you dont use," said Rich Marino, chief strategy officer at Innova Solutions, a Santa Clara, Calif., customer relationship management provider. "And when you look, you see that the midtier solutions can actually service your needs."

According to market researchers, the time for such products is right. Gartner Dataquest, also in San Jose, reported that IBM was the only application server vendor to show significant market share growth last year. The companys market share, based on new-license revenue, jumped from 22 to 31 percent. Meanwhile, industry leader BEA Systems Inc. grew one point, to 34 percent.

Lucia Ahnemann, vice president of channels for Adonix Inc., of Pittsburgh, said Adonix is considering incorporating IBMs WebSphere Express into its enterprise resource planning system for midsize companies. Ahnemann said the products brand recognition, tool set and scalability attracted Adonix to WebSphere Express.

Despite the rush of products, at least one analyst said he believes many midsize businesses will be left behind, even by such offerings as WebSphere Express. Jason Bloomberg, with ZapThink LLC, in Cambridge, Mass., said the problem is price.

"The price point of these [Java 2 Enterprise Edition] app server solutions is just too high," Bloomberg said. "I talked to some companies who had a real need for the solutions these products offered but simply didnt have the budget for it.

"IBM is talking about bringing WebSphere to the midmarket. However, IBM is the first to admit that when talking about the [small and midsize enterprise] space, they are really targeting the big M—or the top part of the midmarket. [But] the $20 million to $50 million companies we were talking to will still be left out in the cold."

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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