11 predictions for enterprise software in 2013

We take a look into what the future holds for enterprise software vendors and users

The end of each year sparks an occasion for rumination on the past, as well as a longing gaze into the future. We shined up our crystal ball, rubbed our chin for a while, and sought opinions from industry analysts on what the future holds for the enterprise software market.

All cloudy in the ERP forecast: The options for, and customers' comfort with, cloud-based ERP could grow significantly next year.

Market watchers will be eyeing whether Workday has the same success winning mega-deals with its newer financials module as it did with HCM (human capital management). Microsoft's Dynamics ERP product lines should get additional cloud deployment options, as should customers of Infor and Epicor. Expect more attention to be paid to the likes of Plex and Kenandy, which specialize in cloud-based ERP for manufacturers. Meanwhile, Oracle and SAP will hope to fend off the competition overall with their own cloud modules.

With no shortage of choices now and upcoming for cloud ERP, the real question seems to be whether customers will vote en masse with their wallets.

Salesforce.com will move further into ERP: Even as it reformed its image from a cloud CRM (customer relationship management) software vendor into a full-blown platform player and moved into new application categories, Salesforce.com has yet to make an aggressive push into ERP (enterprise resource planning) software on its own, preferring instead to work with partners such as Workday and Infor.

Salesforce.com has taken one small step in the direction of ERP with the introduction of Work.com, a human resources application for managing employee performance. But Work.com can easily be added to the edges of a customer's software landscape, versus supplanting a rival product.

While it's not clear Salesforce.com will either develop a robust ERP suite on its own or acquire a vendor who already has one, in 2013 expect to see the company make some type of move, even if it's just a strengthening of partner relations. ERP simply takes up too much of the IT budget pie, and Salesforce.com will want a bigger slice.

Oracle and others will invest heavily in mobility and mobile middleware: Mobile application deployment options and design became the name of the game in enterprise software this year. SAP has made much of its mobile middleware and device management software, which it acquired through the US$5.8 billion acquisition of Sybase in 2010.

Oracle is hardly lacking in mobile development tools, but it seems likely that it will scoop up a specialized company or three, perhaps next year, in order to strengthen its position. Don't be surprised if the likes of Hewlett-Packard and IBM do the same.

Oracle will get out of some part of the hardware business: It's no secret that Oracle has struggled with Sun's hardware business following the 2010 acquisition of Sun. Oracle executives have sent a consistent message, however, that the vendor is focused on higher-margin systems like the Exadata database machine and has little interest in competing with Hewlett-Packard or IBM in the commodity server market.

But Exadata's real profitability lies in the large amount of Oracle database and other software it runs, which delivers Oracle steady streams of lucrative maintenance revenue. This speaks to the real issue: Oracle has always been a software company at heart, so expect some type of retreat from hardware in 2013.

SAP boosts HANA with big data buy and nomenclature shift: Expect SAP to purchase an up-and-coming "big data" product or vendor, and perhaps several, including at least one that specializes in integration with the Hadoop framework for large-scale data processing, said Jon Reed, an independent analyst who closely tracks the company. Such a move would surely be taken with an eye on building out the capabilities of SAP's HANA in-memory database.

SAP will also seek to disassociate the NetWeaver brand name from its cloud products, Reed said. "For 2012, HANA will be the new term du jour."

Hadoop's momentum will continue: Expect plenty of additional adoption for Hadoop, according to analyst Curt Monash of Monash Research. "Everybody has the 'big bit bucket' use case, largely because of machine-generated data," Monash said via email. "Even today's technology is plenty good enough for that purpose, and hence justifies initial Hadoop adoption." Development of further Hadoop technology will be rapid as well, Monash said.

MySQL gets some more competition: Usually when the topic of alternative databases comes up, the incumbent is often Oracle or IBM DB2. But in 2013, MySQL could be playing the latter role. "NoSQL and NewSQL products often are developed as MySQL alternatives," Monash said. "Oracle has actually done a good job on MySQL technology, but now its business practices are scaring companies away from MySQL commitments, and newer short-request SQL DBMS are ready for use. Also, look for PostgreSQL to regain visibility as part of the mix."

Software all around: "[2013] will be the year everyone wants to be a software company," said analyst Ray Wang, CEO of Constellation Research. "Large hardware vendors and systems integrators will take advantage of [the consumerization of IT trend] and the cloud to consider delivering software-based solutions and IP to their market and competitors."

HP will make another big software buy: As most people have heard by now, Hewlett-Packard's $10.3 billion acquisition of infrastructure software vendor Autonomy hasn't gone terribly well, particularly in the public relations department.

Although HP shareholders may shudder at the thought of the company shelling out yet more billions, CEO Meg Whitman may push for another big acquisition as part of her turnaround plan.

Along with the search and data management software from Autonomy, HP also has a powerful database in the form of Vertica. Missing components in its lineup seem to be middleware and business applications, so if a deal does occur, watch those spaces.

Economic turmoil on tap: There's likely to be an economic recession in the U.S. in 2013, resulting in a significant pullback in IT spending, particularly on new purchases and investments, according to analyst Frank Scavo, president of the IT research firm Computer Economics.

This will "impact the traditional enterprise software vendors in a greater way than they realize," Scavo said. "Upgrade projects for traditional on-premises enterprise systems will be cancelled or delayed. The third-party maintenance business will prosper as customers look for ways to cut support costs. This will put pressure on traditional vendors to cut maintenance rates, which they have been resisting. This in turn will pressure their operating margins."

While cloud-based vendors will suffer less, they'll still see some deals take longer to close, Scavo said.

Don't believe anything you've just read: "Very few people see really new trends before they start," Scavo said. "I agree with Bill Gates, who said, 'We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next 10.'"

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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Chris Kanaracus

IDG News Service
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