If recent history is any indication, 2014 will be a busy year for the enterprise applications industry as vendors jockey for position and customers ponder moves from legacy ERP (enterprise resource planning) and CRM (customer relationship management) implementations to cloud-based services. Here's a look at what some of the sector's main players are likely to do as the year unfolds.
Oracle: A big area of investment lately for Oracle has been in "customer experience" software, which spans sales automation, marketing, service and support. Most recently, it bought Responsys, a maker of business-to-consumer marketing software, and plans to pair it with technologies gained through the acquisitions of Eloqua and Compendium. Expect Oracle to fine-tune its customer experience messaging this year in order to differentiate its offerings from that of Salesforce.com, Adobe and SAP.
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Oracle is also girding for a fight against rivals in the database market with the recently released version 12c. The company is planning to release an in-memory option for 12c sometime next year that it says will provide dramatic performance improvement.
SAP: For a few years now, the most frequently heard word emanating from SAP's marketing department has been HANA, its in-memory database. If anything, customers should expect to hear even more about HANA this year as SAP continues to build out support platform services and development tools for it.
It will be telling to see whether SAP manages to come up with a significant number of public customer references who have begun using HANA underneath their SAP Business Suite installations instead of Oracle. This is a key goal for SAP, but it could face a challenge getting many customers to make such a switch given the timing of Oracle's database release, as well as the pending in-memory option. SAP will have to give customers confidence that a move to HANA won't be risky, and will reap major rewards.
This year, SAP will also return to a sole CEO model, with Bill McDermott taking the helm as co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe steps down. McDermott will be the first American to become sole CEO of the German vendor; customers and partners will be watching to see whether McDermott pushes for significant strategy changes as he makes his initial stamp on the job.
Salesforce.com: There are several reasons to keep close watch on Salesforce.com in 2014, according to independent enterprise applications analyst China Martens. One is Salesforce1, the new development platform Salesforce.com announced at the Dreamforce conference in November. "[Will] Salesforce1 resonate with customers, partners, and developers or is there another reworking to come?" Martens said via email.