In the Gartner report, VP and research director Joanne Correia said that IBM had 37% of the J2EE application server market, with BEA dropping to second at 29%. A year earlier, Gartner reported that BEA had 34% of market share, with IBM at 31%.
"The tight horse race that started in 2000 between IBM and BEA was won in 2002 by IBM as they continued to gain market share in all categories of AIM (application integration middleware)," Correia said.
However, an analyst from the Giga subsidiary of competing firm Forrester Research said it's nearly impossible to track application server license sales accurately because aside from BEA, companies such as IBM and Oracle don't break out application server sales from their larger software numbers.
John Rymer, a research VP at Giga, told CRN this week that he didn't break out application server market share in his April report on the market because "the numbers are opaque."
"As part of financial reporting, IBM reports on WebSphere, but the brand now includes over 300 products," Rymer said. "How are you supposed to determine application-server sales? There's no way to know. You have to guess based on information the companies provide to you."
It's also difficult to gauge license sales versus actual use of the product because some companies, including IBM, Oracle, and Sun Microsystems, bundle their application server for free with other software or hardware products, Rymer said.
Rymer did concede, however, that "IBM is doing a lot of business" in the Java software market, adding that the company's latest version of its WebSphere application server is "the best one they've done."
Gartner's research on license sales for other components of the Java enterprise application platform, which includes the application server along with integration and portal software, reflects IBM's thriving software business.
In the new Gartner report, IBM landed the No. 1 position in the portal space with 30.8% of the market, with BEA a distant second with 8% and Oracle third with 3.7%.
IBM also led in message-oriented middleware with a whopping 80.8% of the market, according to Correia's report. Sun's Sun One and Tibco middleware came in at nearly a tie for second, with Sun taking 4.9% and Tibco taking 4.8%.
Solution providers said BEA WebLogic and IBM WebSphere are the two products customers use most for developing enterprise Java applications, and that it's not clearly evident which company has the lead.
BEA remains a favorite in the application server market and continues to do a solid business among customers, said Adam Farrell, a regional sales director for San Francisco-based solution provider Semaphore Partners. "From what I understand, they're rocking on sales and closing a lot of deals," Farrell recently told CRN.
Giga's Rymer said BEA continues to meet its numbers on Wall Street, and shows no signs of flagging.
This story appears courtesy of CRN, the newspaper for builders of technology solutions.