IBM, Oracle Lead Application Infrastructure Software Market

At the top of the market was perennial leader IBM, which retained the pole position, notching 1.6 percent growth in 2013.

The worldwide application infrastructure and middleware (AIM) software revenue market totaled $21.5 billion in 2013, a 5.6 percent increase from 2012, according to a report from IT research firm Gartner.

At the top of the market was perennial leader IBM, which retained the pole position, notching 1.6 percent growth in 2013. The company controls nearly one-third (30 percent) of the market.

Second-place Oracle, with 15.3 percent market share, grew just 0.4 percent in 2013, while third place competitor Microsoft, while owning just 5 percent of the market, grew 6 percent in 2013.

While the rankings of the top five vendors have not changed over the last three years, the report indicated they are showing mixed performance under pressure from specialized vendors, in particular platform as a service (PaaS) providers and open source software suppliers.

Gartner defines the overall market as being comprised of several specialized segments, such as integration and platform middleware, business-to-business and multiple-enterprise middleware products, general-purpose portal products, managed file transfer, software-oriented architecture governance technologies, technologies that enable business-process management, and AIM appliances.

"Organizations that take advantage of the digital era's opportunities are realizing that their established application infrastructure middleware strategies are no longer adequate," Massimo Pezzini, vice president and Gartner Fellow, said in a statement. "Enabling digital business transformation requires IT organizations to operate with much greater agility and 'on demand.' They must provide much deeper business insights, Web scale systems and the ability to integrate myriad of endpoints, such as mobile apps, cloud-based applications, social networks, heterogeneous data sources and a growing number of 'things'."

The report noted emerging opportunities such as cloud computing, Internet of things, mobile enablement, intelligent business operations and in-memory computing are all areas in which AIM providers continue to play an active role as innovators.

"Application infrastructure and middleware projects are becoming the cornerstone of the digital business," Fabrizio Biscotti, research director at Gartner, said in a statement. "While spending in traditional AIM products continues and remains sizeable, we are seeing a growing interest toward newer offerings, such as PaaS, low-latency messaging, complex event processing and in-memory data grids. These technologies are essential to developing a digital business strategy, for example, connecting digital marketing and channels, or empowering staff with social networks."

North America and Western Europe are the largest regional markets (44.3 percent and 24.9 percent), followed by mature Asia/Pacific countries (14.0 percent). The Middle East and Africa region and Asia/Pacific and North America regions have grown the fastest at 13.5 percent, 9.2 percent and 8 percent.

The figures indicate that the need for Web scale and operational intelligence is paving the way for the adoption of in-memory computing technology and is boosting the rapid growth of in-memory computing vendors.

However, Gartner cautioned that adoption of these new technologies poses formidable new challenges to IT departments, but also warned that those who do not have the nerve to tackle them and become change agents will risk being marginalized as more IT budgets move toward lines of business and departments within the organization.