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The year in enterprise software: Seven key takeaways

Larry Ellison embraces the cloud, mobility becomes a first-class citizen and SaaS reaches an inflection point

By Chris Kanaracus, IDG News Service
December 11, 2012 10:20 AM ET

IDG News Service - It's been a busy and transformative year for enterprise software. We dug through our story archives, talked to industry experts and put on our thinking caps to come up with this list of key events and emerging trends from 2012, all of which are set to have a lasting impact on the industry.

ROUNDUP: Top network and IT industry stories of 2012

Larry Ellison gets cloud religion: During an event in June, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison seemed like a much different person than the man who once openly mocked cloud computing as marketing fluff.

Ellison unveiled a wide array of new and planned cloud products under the Oracle banner, from Fusion Applications to the Oracle Social Network to a PaaS (platform as a service) offering.

The CEO even declared that Oracle would deliver "the most comprehensive cloud on the planet Earth."

"It'll be interesting to see how Oracle crafts its cloud strategy," said Forrester Research analyst China Martens. Veteran ERP vendors like Oracle face "an interesting balancing act" in comparing their legacy on-premises software to new cloud alternatives, she added.

SAP admits need for 'cloud DNA': Like Oracle, SAP had a serious change of heart about the cloud in 2012.

SAP's US$3.4 billion acquisition of SuccessFactors, which closed this year, was an acknowledgment that its own cloud development efforts weren't enough, said analyst Frank Scavo, president of consulting firm Strativa. This was even after SAP had already spent hundred of millions of dollars to develop its own Business ByDesign cloud suite and began rolling out a number of line-of-business cloud applications, he added. SAP later followed up the SuccessFactors deal with another expensive buy,scooping up Ariba for $4.3 billion.

SaaS moves into the back office: Workday has seemed to surpass Salesforce.com as the 'it' cloud software vendor of late, Salesforce.com's continued rapid growth notwithstanding. This is due to Workday's success in landing major enterprise accounts for its HCM (human capital management) software, with some deals constituting hundreds of thousands of seats. It also may be a sign of anticipation that Workday will achieve similar success with its financials software over time.

SAP is also investing heavily in SaaS (software as a service) HCM through its SuccessFactors acquisition, and recently launched an application called Financials OnDemand. Oracle is weighing in as well with its Fusion Applications HCM and financials software, which are available from the cloud if desired.

SaaS found much of its initial success with customer-facing "front office" applications such as the CRM (customer relationship management) software sold by Salesforce.com. The fact that so many customers seem comfortable now running back-office processes via SaaS is a telling indicator of the deployment model's maturity.

Mobile becomes a must-have: As the year draws to a close, it's difficult to find an application vendor press release that doesn't mention any options for mobile device delivery, whether via native applications or a cross-platform HTML5 client. SAP executives have even said the company considers "mobile first" in terms of new development.

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