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IBM, BEA Systems and Oracle continue to dominate the application deployment software market, although the big three face the challenges of a maturing market.

Analyst IDC's annual survey of licensing and maintenance revenues found IBM top in 2004 with 37 per cent of the market (2003: 35.6 per cent), BEA second on 12 per cent ( 11.5 per cent) followed by Oracle with seven per cent (5.9 per cent).

According to IDC, Oracle experienced growth that was twice the market average while BEA continued to hold a "market share lead" in both Unix and Linux. Forty per cent of IBM’s income came from the CICS transaction monitor.

Overall, this market – defined by IDC as covering application, web and integration servers, message oriented and transaction server middleware, adaptors, connectors and gateways - grew 6.4 per cent to $7bn.

IDC believes this particular slice of the middleware market is showing signs of “maturity” as vendors increasingly push suites of products, spanning application server and integration, for example, rather than offerings customers just a single application server and selling other components of the stack separately as they once did.

Denis Byron, IDC business process automation and application deployment software analyst, noted the move towards suites was the biggest change in the market during the last 12 months. This is creating price pressure on vendors, he says.

"Packaging things together depresses prices... people expect to get a bargain when you package things together," Byron told The Register.

Looking ahead, IDC expects a compound annual growth rate of 4.7 per cent between 2005 and 2009.

However, only vendors which go a step further in their bundling plans and target developers will be able to fully tap this growth. As such, IDC thinks vendors should combine application deployment software with easy-to-use tools and frameworks to increase their appeal during the next five years.

As well as maturity and price pressure open source is a competitive consideration for the big three. JBoss and Red Hat, with the JOnAS application server, are "on the radar", according to Byron, although he did not provide market share figures for these companies. ®

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