New research by International Data Corp. suggests IBM Corp. is boasting a significant lead in the application server market for the Asia-Pacific region, although the significance of the research to the Australian market had been put to question.
While most recent research indicates IBM sits slightly behind rival BEA Systems Inc. in the Web application server market, IDC's research painted a vastly different picture. For the Asia-Pacific region including Japan, IBM held 19.1 percent of the market, dwarfing BEA Systems on 8.7 percent. Even more surprising, BEA Systems was out-sold by both NEC Corp. and Hitachi Ltd., two companies not usually associated in such a space.
Vaughn Woods, regional manager for the WebSphere product at IBM, said much of the vendor's success was due to a dramatic increase in the support the vendor provides for channel partners.
"While I don't believe for a second that NEC and Hitachi have that kind of share in Australia, I think the fact IBM outstripped BEA is very proportional," he said.
But Dr Kevin McIsaac, program director for server infrastructure strategies at META Group Australia, said it is hard to make meaningful conclusions about such research.
"You can only compare apples to apples," he said. "I'm sure IDC's numbers are right -- but what is important to note is what they include or don't include in the sample."
Wilvin Chee, manager of cross-product research at IDC Asia Pacific, explained that the supply-side (vendor) study was based on licenses and maintenance revenue. Even he was prepared to say that the results were misleading when considering the Australian market. "It is important not to overplay IBM's overtaking of BEA," he said. "IBM has much better focus and resources in North Asia, it is not really applicable to all countries in Asia-Pacific."
McIsaac suspects the higher figures for NEC, Hitachi and to some extent IBM was due to the inclusion of Japan as well as maintenance revenue being included in the study, which would inflate the figures of older proprietary systems.
He believes it is more important from a channel and end-user point of view to watch who will win out in the accelerating J2EE (Java Enterprise Edition) application server market, where IBM and BEA share a wide lead over their competitors. The other important trend will be whether Microsoft can overcome the popularity of the J2EE server. Curiously, Microsoft was not even on the map in the IDC research. Chee said he did not consider Microsoft a legitimate player in the Web application server market.
McIsaac said the real issue for purchasing decisions, and therefore the real issue for channel partners, is how future-proof an application server is. "You need to pick a piece of technology that is not only adequate for your needs, but will also be around for the next five to seven years," he said. "The applications you are developing are going to be a five or seven year project. And although they talk about ease of migration, the reality is it can be quite a bit of work. You'd rather get it right the first time. "Thus he believes the growing J2EE and Microsoft-based application servers should draw the attention of research. The IDC figures reveal that IBM and BEA are growing at over 200 percent, while NEC and Hitachi are growing at around 80 percent.
McIsaac said the other main issue channel partners should consider is ease of install. In this area he said IBM is working hard to make much-needed improvements. Vaughn said Version 4 of the WebSphere products "jumps ahead in leaps and bounds" in addressing this issue.