Backcasting in the Fast Waters of Enterprise Software Research


In enterprise software market research, it's all about how you backcast. This has nothing to do with fly fishing in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison or along the Snake north of Yellowstone. It's all about how you account for Oracle acquiring BEA during 2008 when-as Gartner did on May 6-one of its annual market-share tables was released.


BEA played in, and Oracle plays in, what Gartner calls the Application Infrastructure and Middleware (AIM) enterprise software market. (Of course, Oracle participates in many other markets as well.) BEA was not backcast into Oracle in the Gartner press release. By Gartner's reckoning, BEA was a leader in the AIM market in 2008 simply based on the four months it was in business separately before the Oracle acquisition, which had been announced in January 2008.


The table in the Gartner press release does not necessarily say that BEA was sixth right behind the almost tied Software AG and TIBCO, along with leader IBM, second place Oracle and third place Microsoft. But BEA was certainly in the top 10 based on my quick read of some SEC material. Progress and/or Adobe might have snuck in ahead of BEA depending on how Gartner defines AIM (the press release includes some detail). Sterling Commerce, whose results are buried inside of AT&T (but which puts out a revenue-related press release periodically) might have squeezed in ahead of BEA too. (NOTE: I have the advantage of being able to do these tables in my sleep; until 2006, I prepared a similar table for IDC.)


Even more interesting, I would expect Sun was in the Gartner AIM top 10 also. So Sun's having the kind of year in 2009 that BEA had in 2008. That is, it will be an AIM market leader for some months of 2009 before the Gartner approach to measuring the market's results at this time next year shows Sun crashing and burning against the previous year the way BEA "dropped" 76 percent in 2008. Not that its former employees need any reminding, but this says 2008 was a bad year for BEA.


Of course that was not the case, as you know if you are an Aqualogic or Weblogic user. It's just that now you're sending the monthly maintenance check to Redwood Shores instead of San Jose. To really understand the market dynamics, backcast (that is, look at) BEA and Oracle as if they had always been one.