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.
Oracle's database dominance at risk?: For some time, Oracle has been used to standing at the top of the database market, but could its lead diminish? Some indications say yes, but nothing seems set in stone.
"Oracle's relative position in database innovation is deteriorating," said analyst Curt Monash of Monash Research. "Hadoop and NoSQL have become more established. Microsoft is doing more interesting things. In-memory progress is slow. And the lack of true columnar capability is a real eye-opener."
Meanwhile, SAP is hoping sales of its HANA in-memory database continue to grow. It is also working on new capabilities for HANA that will enable customers using Oracle to run their SAP ERP (enterprise resource planning) software to make the switch.
Cloud integration market matures: During 2012, it became more common to hear of companies using not just a couple but many SaaS applications. Appropriately, the market for tools and services that help customers tie SaaS to other on-demand applications, as well as on-premises installations, showed signs of strength.
A robust set of choices for cloud application integration, single sign-on and other capabilities could result in companies running the bulk of their operations with a best-of-breed SaaS suite.