IT-Infrastruktur

Application Servers Report

27. Juni 2002
Application Server gehören zu den zentralen Elementen jeder IT-Infrastruktur. Durch den J2EE-Standard sind die Hersteller weitgehend gebunden, doch die Produkte werden zunehmend durch unterschiedliche Features differenziert, berichten die Analysten der Butler Group in ihrer Marktübersicht.

Butler Group believes that the success of the Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) standard has led to Application Servers becoming a commodity product. This in no way undermines the importance of the Application Server itself, which remains one of the key elements of any IT infrastructure, underpinning the quality of service that an organisation can deliver to its employees, customers, and business partners. It an is essential technology for both internal operations and external commerce, and whilst this will not change, the market for these products has evolved. Application Server vendors are now seeking to differentiate their products on the basis of extended features, such as integration technology, application development capabilities, Web services support, content management, and wireless application delivery. Butler Group believes that organisations run the risk of adopting the wrong product or platform, without a clear understanding of what is on offer, and careful evaluation of the competing products. Business Issues The Application Server market is dominated by the J2EE standard. The intent of J2EE, currently in 1.3 release, is to provide a comprehensive set of minimum expectations regarding the performance and capabilities of any Application Server completing the certification process, with the wider goal of ensuring application portability. In theory at least, any J2EE-compliant server should be able to execute applications that operate upon any other compliant server - this is a logical development upon the general promise of Java, which claims to provide `write once, run anywhere' functionality. J2EE has been whole-heartedly adopted by developers and vendors alike as a backdrop against which Application Server functionality can be defined and utilised, to such an extent that non-J2EE products are now very few and far between. This is in direct contrast to the earliest days of the Application Server market, when proprietary solutions were the norm, and Application Server functionality varied widely from vendor to vendor. However, the core functionality of compliant Application Servers is so clearly defined in J2EE that commoditisation has become more or less unavoidable. All J2EE Application Servers provide load balancing to some degree or another, for example, and all offer application management; differences between vendor products that comply to the J2EE specification are now only in degree, not in functionality itself. Based on these observations, Butler Group's conclusion is that the inevitable result of the success of J2EE is that vendors cannot compete effectively purely on the provision of functionality. This fact alone has created considerable pressure on vendors in this market to differentiate their products through the addition of value-added services, or the bundling of additional products, and examples of both these approaches can be found throughout this document. However, although this is the most serious obstacle that Application Server vendors must contend with, it is not the only one. The existence of successful and widely used open source Application Servers, such as Apache Tomcat, has severely undermined revenue opportunities at the lower end of the market. This, in turn, has intensified competition in the middle tiers, and with the high enterprise end of the market effectively owned by IBMIBM and BEA Systems, this competition is becoming increasingly cut-throat in nature. The Application Server market therefore possesses the following unique attributes: Vendors are locked-in to compliance with an open standard, having been driven there by customer demands for portability. VThe entry levels of the market offer poor opportunities for revenue generation or capture of new business, while the enterprise end is tightly captured by powerful industry players. In spite of these issues, Application Server products are essential elements of any corporate infrastructure. The latter point is the issue that will concern end-users the most; for all that it is, at the core, commodity functionality, the Application Server is an absolute necessity for any organisation faced by rising levels of data traffic, or with intentions of incorporating Internet technologies into its business operations. If an organisation has no server, it must choose one, or if the server it has is failing to scale to growing enterprise requirements, the company must select a replacement that can be implemented with a minimum of disruption to business activity. Technology Issues Butler Group believes that there are several key elements in properly evaluating the Application Server market as part of a selection process. The key findings of this Report are as follows: The majority of Application Servers offer higher levels of what should be core functionality, such as high availability, as value-added features or services. However, Butler Group believes that basic Application Server technologies do not reliably handle high levels of enterprise throughput, and that further development is required in many cases. Organisations must therefore be alert to vendors charging premium prices for an Application Server delivering what should be core functionality. An Application Server that features many value-added services consequently merits close examination to determine how well it performs without these `optional extras'. Measuring the performance of the Application Servers under examination will be vital, but the tools available to actually do this are still under development. One emerging process is use of the ECperf standard, examined later in the Report, but Butler Group believes that higher levels of development are required not only in this standard, but in the measurement of Application Server throughput as a whole. This lack of any reliable yardstick against which the practical performance of an Application Server can be measured renders statistics and metrics suspect at best. Butler Group's opinion is that the level and quality of support available for any Application Server must be thoroughly evaluated from the outset, using prototyping and observation. Vendors with commitments to supporting a particular platform or standard, such as the Windows Operating System (OS) or the J2EE specification, are naturally keen to promote the belief that a single operational/developmental environment is a necessity for any organisation. Butler Group disagrees with this proposition, which overlooks the point that any move to a single environment will require many existing investments in technology from multiple vendors to be discarded. The reality is that organisations possess mixed architectures already, and will continue to examine business models that enable them to extract value from these, such as the Web services concept. Butler Group therefore believes that there will not be the expected `war' between .NET and J2EE, and that end-users should instead adopt technologies that support high levels of interoperability. Although Butler Group does not believe that organisations will face an `either/or' choice regarding .NET and J2EE environments, the MicrosoftMicrosoft initiative does raise some interesting possibilities, and is regarded as a serious threat by many vendors, not just in the Application Server space. Butler Group believes that the .NET Platform is presently the most effective foundation for the creation and exposure of eXtensible Markup Language (XML) Web services, an area of crucial importance to Application Server vendors, and this will inevitably affect the market. Interoperability is an obvious factor due to the central positioning of the Application Server as a co-ordinator and manager of enterprise application traffic. Although the promise of the J2EE standard is that applications can be freely exchanged across compliant systems, Butler Group believes that this element is frequently overstated. In reality, Java-based applications often require additional coding when being moved from one platform or product to another, and any dependence on additional services/features (which may not be compliant at all) will result in portability issues becoming an even greater issue. Butler Group's research indicates that end-users are becoming much more likely to choose solutions that they can disengage from their systems with minimal problems, for example, where a process is selected for outsourcing the organisation will be keen to cut all ties with the original vendor as quickly as possible. The commodity nature of the market places considerable pressure on the vendors operating in this space to keep pace with each other, and, coupled with the fact that the lower end of the market has all but ceased to exist, this ensures that competition is particularly intense. A competitor will quickly counter a move by any one vendor, and this point is well illustrated by the fact that every vendor with serious intentions in the Application Server space now possesses a Web services strategy. Web services will become a key element in the Application Server space in the near future, but possessing a Web services strategy does not guarantee that the vendor is doing more than accommodating either XML or SOAP. Butler Group believes that the Web service potential of any Application Server will become crucial over the next five to ten years, making it important to assess capabilities now, with a view to prototyping rather than implementing. Market Analysis A theme that will be noticed throughout this Report is that the Application Server market has been strongly affected by the commodity nature of the core product itself. Coupled with the fact that smaller businesses can make reliable use of open source offerings, commoditisation has resulted in the bottom of the market falling out to a considerable extent, and forcing vendors to set their sights higher. In addition, because the Application Server itself is so closely associated with e-business initiatives, the use of such products has become tightly associated with the fortunes of that market as well. The e-business aspect of the Application Server will continue to be an essential element of this market for many years to come, although two additional factors will assume prominence in the immediate future: Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) and Web services. There is considerable overlap between these topics, and the majority of vendors are promoting the functionality of their products in these areas. Two major vendors, both of which fully support the J2EE specification, dominate the highest levels of the Application Server market. BEA Systems, with its WebLogic e-business platform, and IBM, with the extensively deployed WebSphere platform, own approximately 30% each of the Application Server market, with their nearest competitors possessing less than 10% each. Butler Group does not believe that this control will be significantly eroded in the near future. The e-business platforms provided by IBM and BEA are powerful and effective foundations for the enablement of Internet commerce and enterprise activity in a broad range of areas, and it will require a major market shift for these vendors to be undermined to any significant degree. The only real flaw in these e-business systems is the scale at which they are designed to operate, which effectively bars smaller operations from considering their use at all - they are simply too powerful, and certainly too expensive, to consider as entry-level offerings. Butler Group's research indicates that although BEA and IBM will remain locked in their struggle to control the Application Server market, and will not be seriously challenged by any other vendor, the middle tiers of the market are still ripe for expansion by other players, possessing more flexible and affordable offerings. Both Microsoft, with the .NET Platform, and OracleOracle, with the 9i Application Server, are well positioned to expand their market share in the middle tiers, although both need to overcome end-user expectations in order to succeed. Oracle is repositioning as a middleware provider supporting e-business, rather than purely as a database vendor, while Microsoft still lacks crucial enterprise credibility, but the technologies on offer from both companies must be taken very seriously indeed. In a similar vein, Hewlett-Packard's (HPHP's) aggressive pricing structure, in which the core Application Server is freely available for use, is likely to result in more widespread use of the HP-AS. Although this product is highly scalable and extremely cost-effective and low-risk in nature, these latter factors are not likely to seriously undermine the customer bases of more dominant vendors, although HP will succeed in winning high levels of new business. Butler Group's view is that the commodity nature of this market has not only driven some vendors to leave it altogether, but has greatly inhibited the ability of those still present to compete on an effective basis. Vendors products offering comparatively lower levels of functionality, or those adhering too closely to the expectations of the J2EE specification instead of exceeding them, are already struggling to hold on to their market share, much less expand on it. Vendors such as Sybase and Sun Microsystems did not score as highly as the market leaders in Butler Group's comparative study, and the main reason for this was a lack of definite differentiators from the expectations of J2EE.

Inhaltsverzeichnis der Studie: Management Summary Introduction Technology Features Architectures and Models Market Analysis Feature Tables Comparisons Technology Audits Der vollständige Bericht kann bei der Butler Group bestellt werden. Alles zu HP auf CIO.de Alles zu IBM auf CIO.de Alles zu Microsoft auf CIO.de Alles zu Oracle auf CIO.de

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