BEA, IBM Shake Up APP Server Market

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The low-end Java application server market is in the midst of a price war, thanks to new entry-level pricing from BEA Systems.

BEA recently slashed the pricing of WebLogic Server Express, its lowest-price application server, making a version available for $495 per CPU,a drastic decrease from its previous price of $3,000 per CPU, said Eric Stahl, director of product marketing at BEA.

With WebLogic Express, BEA has undercut the pricing of rival IBM's WebSphere Express, which costs $2,000 per CPU, or $25 per user.

These low-cost application server versions have come at the expense of some core Java support,a feature some customers prefer in midmarket and department-level deployments, according to IBM and BEA.

WebSphere Express and WebLogic Express support Java Server Pages and servlet development but not Enterprise JavaBeans, Java Messaging Service or other higher-level facets of Java application development.

Application Server
Java Technologies Supported
Apache Tomcat
Apache Software Foundation
JSPs, Servlets
JSPs, Servlets, EJBs
Sun ONE Application Server, Platform Edition
Sun Micro-
JSPs, Servlets
BEA WebLogic Express
BEA Systems
JSPs, Servlets
$450 per CPU
JSPs, Servlets, EJBs
$500 per CPU
Macomedia JRun
JSPs, Servlets, EJBs, JMS
$899 per CPU
IBM WebSphere Express
JSPs, Servlets
$2,000 per CPU, $25 per user
Orcale 9IAS, Java Edition
JSPs, Servlets, ELBs, JMS
$5,000 per CPU
JSPs=Java Server Pages
EJBs=Enterprise JavaBeans
JMS=Java Messaging Service

Meanwhile, the concept of offering a low-level Java application server is nothing new. Sun Microsystems has offered its Sun ONE Application Server, Platform Edition,which has similar functionality,for free since last year. Also, the Apache Software Foundation has offered Apache Tomcat,a free, open-source Java application server with comparable capabilities,for some time.

But the availability of free application servers hasn't affected the dominance of BEA and IBM, which have secured nearly 50 percent market share between them, according to a June 2002 report from research firm IDC.

Shawn Willett, principal analyst at Current Analysis, said making their products available for lower licensing costs will strengthen the positions of BEA and IBM, especially because they have the brand and technical support to back those products.

IBM and BEA cite different reasons for their forays into this low-end space.

IBM executives have said the company is launching a midmarket campaign against Microsoft. BEA, on the other hand, is challenging Microsoft by recrafting WebLogic for use in the departments of large enterprises, said Frazier Miller, director of product strategy at BEA.

BEA also hopes to reach the volume server market through deals with Dell Computer, Hewlett-Packard and Intel to optimize WebLogic on servers running Intel chips, solution providers said.

"Obviously, BEA is trying to get into accounts that wouldn't otherwise buy BEA," said Robert Kelley, director of marketing and alliances at Los Gatos, Calif.-based InfoGain. "I think it's a smart move."

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