WHEN WE TACKLED application servers last year, we cited a half-dozen or so companies working to help CIOs provide easy access through the web to databases and other legacy information. Now there are over two dozen. With the browser as the user interface, the application development challenge is eased because your ""IT department doesn't have to worry about the interface on the desktop. The burden has shifted though. As most CIOs now know, it's become an integration challenge.

According to Ovum Inc., the worldwide market for application servers and services will be $17 billion in 2004 (compared with $251 million last year).

There's a website that tracks all these vendors in a handy matrix. Visit www. flashline.com/ components/ appservermatrix.jsp for a comparison of products, platforms and price. The latter shows a wide range, from Bullsoft's free open-source software to $35,000 per CPU for IBM WebSphere's Enterprise Edition and iPlanet (the Sun-Netscape alliance). Inexplicably, Sun's own NetDynamics product, which runs on twice as many operating systems as iPlanet's, is only $25,000 per CPU. In addition, more than half of the vendors on the site let you either download their software or get a demo copy.

Flashline.com, an online marketer of software components, hosts the site, and is considering building more matrices. Though none have been scheduled, Flashline.com spokesperson Marti Bowman says Enterprise JavaBeans are at the top of the list.

A Flashline.com staff person works almost full-time to ensure that the application server matrix is up-to-date. While some vendors are happy to supply information, others-especially those whose information might not compare favorably-force the company to do some digging. According to Bowman, it's updated at least weekly.

This story, "Update" was originally published by CIO.

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