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Middleware market booming

Worldwide middleware revenue will top $7 billion by 2002, according to a report by International Data Corporation.

Worldwide middleware revenue will top $7 billion by 2002, according to a recent report by International Data Corporation.

IDC's Middleware 1998 Worldwide Markets and Trends report states that in all, 1997 was an "outstanding year for the middleware markets." The combined middleware markets grew 28 percent to $1.716 billion, despite the worldwide sales drag put on middleware products by the Year 2000 bug, European currency conversion, and the Asia-Pacific economic downturn, according to the study.

"Overall there is a consistency to the extreme growth we're seeing in the markets. It is faster each year than we originally expect," said IDC analyst Ed Acly, one of the coauthors of the study.

Middleware software manages the communication between a client program and a database or older application. For example, a Web server connected to a database could be considered middleware--the Web server sits between the client program (a Web browser) and a database. The middleware allows the database to be changed without necessarily affecting the client, and vice versa.

Middleware functions as a central layer for distributed services to the distributed such as transaction management, load balancing, and Web-to-legacy computing. Use of the technology eases the application developer's burden to build distributed applications across underlying hardware, operating systems, networks, database management systems, and object models, Acly explained.

He said the market is growing due to customers' increasing interest in middleware because it simplifies the complexity of distributed processing in mixed environments.

The study also found that consumption is clearly the highest in multiuser UNIX operating environments, reaching $692.2 million, or 40.3 percent in 1997, compared to 33.4 percent in 1996.

BEA Systems knocked off Sybase for first place in worldwide revenue among U.S. independent software vendors (ISVs) with revenue growth of about 94 percent. And New Era of Networks (NEON) was the fastest growing among the top ten U.S. ISVs, posting a 366 percent increase in worldwide revenue over 1996.

With market growth at this level, researchers believe that emerging business products are likely to deliver a future that for the first time unites the diversity of applications that are present in today's companies.

In addition, Acly predicts enterprise Java Beans will become more useful for the application development community. In addition, message-oriented middleware, which currently includes the emerging business market, is slated to displace data-access middleware as the largest middleware market segment by 2000, followed by distributed transaction processing middleware.

The study also concluded that desktop access middleware continued to gain ground as a mainstream option in 1997, and IDC expects growth in this market to peak by 1999.