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Sector Outlook, Fourth Quarter, 2003

In the infrastructure market, one sees vendors of databases, application integration, portals, application servers, and data warehouses all vying for attention.

Since B2B Analysts, Inc., focuses on the value of business applications, we do not put a lot of effort into tracking the capabilities of all these different kinds of software. What we are interested in is innovative applications or applications that have clear and direct business value. When an infrastructure package is an enabler, we care. Otherwise, we leave it to the many people who have real expertise in this area. You can't do everything.

In the fourth quarter of 2003, infrastructure is important to the business applications market for several reasons:

  • Extract more value from existing apps. If only to save their jobs, people are now engaged in a last-ditch effort to make the applications that they bought and installed over the past few years do what they were expected to do. This has benefited suppliers of analytics applications, like Business Objects and Cognos, of course, but also vendors of reporting tools. The fact that few people know when they should get an OLAP tool and when they should buy a report writer is one reason for the recent consolidation in the space.
  • Integrate, integrate, integrate.
  • Let's face it. Applications are still silo'ed. Any amount of information locked up in one application is needed in another. People are solving this problem mostly with brute force, but aided by integration tools, ranging from Websphere to Web Methods. Why buy a replacement app, the reasoning runs, when you can give the old legacy app a tuneup instead.
  • e-commerce. People are spending a lot of time and effort trying to share information and coordinate business processes using the (supposedly) real-time commuication that the Internet provides. Alas, there never seems to be a breakthrough, but occasionally there are small advances.

The intense interest in making all this stuff has actually spawned some innovations. We've been interested for some time in e-conferencing technology and have reviewed most of the players that provide it. We also have been talking to companies like Composite, which promises (we hope they deliver) what amounts to the holy grail--real-time OLAP. Lately, we've been trying to figure out SSL-based VPNs; are they really a step up?

If you're interested in innovation generally or want help understanding any of the specific areas of infrastructure where we do research, you may wish to contact us for more information.