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J2EE is emerging as the dominant environment for web-enabled application development.

Just less than half of the European retail financial services institutions surveyed by Datamonitor are using J2EE as their primary environment for web-enabled application development. Interestingly, even though IBM and BEA are neck-to-neck in the overall applications server market, IBM's WebSphere platform has a commanding lead among J2EE-using European FSIs.

As part of a survey of European retail banks and insurance companies, institutions were asked to name their strategic development environment for web-based application development. For 44% of interviewees, this was "primarily J2EE", while 17% answered "primarily .Net".

J2EE's position is particularly strong among UK, French and German institutions, where web-enabled application development is most advanced. In Spain and Italy, J2EE is somewhat less well established and this was reflected in a greater prevalence of .Net. However, a significant number of respondents preferred a 'wait and see' approach, either using both or remaining undecided and opting for neither.

These results don't really hold any surprises - J2EE has gained a lot of ground among the top tier European financial services institutions thanks to the level of flexibility that it offers. .Net, by contrast, has come somewhat later to the market and it is more likely to be favored by the smaller banks that have traditionally been wedded to Microsoft and are less likely to have large internal IT development capabilities.

Institutions favoring a J2EE-based strategy were then asked to name their primary application server platform. IBM's WebSphere was selected by 66% of respondents, followed by BEA's WebLogic in second place with 20% of responses. WebSphere had a strong presence across all the major European markets, whilst BEA's presence was primarily concentrated in the UK and German markets.

WebSphere was particularly dominant in the insurance sector, where 84% of companies cited it as their strategic application server platform. Meanwhile, competition in retail banking was more fierce, with 53% of respondents using WebSphere, 26% using WebLogic, 12% using Sun and 9% using Oracle.

This represents a significant departure from the overall application server market, where BEA and IBM are thought to have more or less equal strength. This difference may be due to BEA having less mindshare in Europe and the fact that IBM already has such as strong presence in European financial services at the infrastructure level.

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