App Server Flurry Really a Death Knell

Everyone-except a couple of the vendors involved-predicted a washout in the application server space.

Everyone—except a couple of the vendors involved—predicted a washout in the application server space. Those predictions, which started more than two years ago, came at a time when it seemed that every vendor said it had an app server or was just about to release one. Thankfully, there just wasnt enough meat to make a market, lest wed have more servers than applications.

Yet early this month, there was a flurry of news announcements dealing with this heavily consolidated category, which I liken to a light bulb burning brighter just before it burns out.

First, ATG—an early app server vendor—announced that it was basically giving up on its own app server and would focus on its applications business. Although it will still develop its proprietary server, ATGs applications will also run on BEAs WebLogic and Hewlett-Packards NetAction platforms, with support for IBMs WebSphere coming later.

Then two market research reports showed that BEA led the application server space but that WebSphere was popping up as a close second. HP and Oracle were so distant that it really looked to be a two-horse race between IBM and BEA.

Then BEA purchased Crossgain, a troubled XML application vendor thats more famous for its ex-Microsoft founders bailing on Microsofts standards effort, and then bailing out of the company, than for anything it ever produced. BEA obviously purchased the company for its people.

Finally, BEA announced that its app server had crushed IBMs WebSphere using IBMs own performance test.

None of these things means a heck of a lot. Its tough to digest the BEA performance numbers because no one really trusts vendor-run performance numbers anyway. But these results are so dramatic that my guess is that BEAs app server actually is faster than WebSphere. Note, of course, that your mileage will vary.

As for the market research—its a bunch of hogwash. Everyone knows that IBM "counts" differently than other vendors. So does Oracle. Any time a vendor, such as IBM, has the ability to bundle products, all sorts of accounting magic can take place. The real question is who is using the application servers.

Then again, does it matter? The one thing that is clear is that J2EE is the winner. The Java 2 Enterprise Edition standard is dominating in the development space. Next week, Ill write about how Microsoft feels about all this.