While configuration management (CM) may not have made many headlines in the past few years, it has quietly become a $1 billion market, says IT consultancy Ovum.
The analysts also predict that this could be just the beginning, as a new wave of CM tools for Web sites could double the size of the market.
"CM is a market that's grown dramatically since 1993," said Clive Burrows, senior consultant for Ovum and author of the report 'Ovum evaluates: configuration management'. "A lot of the major software companies are now trying to get into this market, having refused to invest in it when it was small."
Configuration management tools allow users to manage and control complex software development projects. While early versions were fairly simple, and were little more than change management tools, now tools are available that allow different users to work on the same component at the same time.
As other technologies for managing projects have been found wanting, CM has come into its own, the report says. As a result, the market has been growing at over 40 per cent for the past five years.
However, the real driver behind CM, Burrows believes, will be its use for managing the creation of Web pages. While a large IT project may involve several hundred people working full time, an Intranet site may have thousands of people working on it sporadically, perhaps each putting in a few hours each month.
Controlling the content of Web pages could become a larger market for CM tools than software management, Burrows says.
He cites a recent example of a newspaper organisation that decided to update its obituaries column following the death of Frank Sinatra. An updated version of the - still living - Pope was published on its Web site, before it was spotted and taken down.
A more serious case, Burrows said, concerns a Fortune 500 company having innacurate financial information published about it for two hours on a site, causing it to lose one-third of its value on the Dow Jones Index, and forcing it to print a full page advert in the 'Wall Street Journal'.
"It's only going to take one major lawsuit to make people aware of just how serious an issue this is," Burrows said.
The potential market for Web based configuration tools is still largely untested, however, as few suppliers offer any Web functionality in their products.
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