As 2013 begins, the SaaS (software as a service) market is set to heat up even more, as well as potentially undergo a number of key shifts. Here's a look at a series of key SaaS vendors and trends to watch as the year unfolds.
Salesforce.com: No discussion of the SaaS market is complete without covering Salesforce.com, the largest independent player. While the company should generate plenty of news for its social collaboration, CRM (customer relationship management), customer service and application development software, it's also possible that Salesforce.com will come up with a brand-new application that touches on an area it hasn't directly been involved with until now.
Such was the case with Work.com, an employee performance management application launched last year. Salesforce.com application development executive John Wookey, a veteran of Oracle and SAP, oversaw the Work.com project and probably has something else up his sleeve for 2013.
Oracle: Some, but not all of Oracle's family of SaaS offerings are generally available now, but most if not all may reach that stage sometime this year, perhaps before the OpenWorld conference in September. Two-thirds of Fusion Applications customers so far are choosing the SaaS model, according to Oracle. While Oracle hasn't showcased a huge number of specific customer stories reflecting that trend, expect to see the number of public references and case studies mount over this year.
SAP: The German software giant bought its way into SaaS big-time over the past year or so, scooping up HCM (human capital management) vendor SuccessFactors as well as Ariba, which offers a cloud-based supplier network. It also has the homegrown Business ByDesign ERP (enterprise resource planning) suite as well as a number of more specialized SaaS applications meant to work in conjunction with its on-premises Business Suite for large enterprises. SAP officials may decide this year to lay out a longer-term SaaS road map for the Business Suite itself.
Microsoft: Expect more moves into SaaS from Microsoft for its Dynamics ERP software lines. It's also possible that Microsoft's marketing message for SaaS will attempt to show customers that it can be a virtual one-stop shop for SaaS, covering everything from Office to CRM and ERP. "Microsoft shows progress but needs to get different parts of the company talking to one another," said analyst Michael Krigsman, CEO of consulting firm Asuret. "They're working on that."
Workday: This SaaS financials and HCM vendor has received a great deal of attention thanks to high-profile customer wins as well as a recent successful IPO, but the spotlight also comes with continued pressure to perform. Market watchers will be eyeing Workday's stock price, revenue and ability to keep landing those mega-deals against Oracle and SAP.
Intuit: Millions of small businesses use Intuit's QuickBooks software, and as more customers move to SaaS, Intuit clearly wants to keep them. In September, it rolled out a global version of QuickBooks Online covering well over 100 countries. It has also moved to build out a small business SaaS suite of sorts, tying together its Demandforce cloud-based marketing software with both QuickBooks Online and the on-premise versions of QuickBooks. It seems likely that Intuit will continue down this path in 2013.
Zuora: This vendor offers SaaS software for subscription-based businesses, providing billing, e-commerce and finance modules that tackle the unique needs of such companies. The company has been getting plenty of attention and could be headed for an IPO. It may also see itself courted by potential acquirers, as well as challenged by new rivals.
Single sign-on for SaaS: Vendors such as Okta, Ping Identity and OneLogin offer their own takes on single-sign in for multiple SaaS applications at once. Look for growth in this area as more customers reorient their IT environments around SaaS and jettison legacy applications, but then find they have a fresh management problem on their hands. One can also imagine these tools sparking a rise in consulting firms offering to stitch together and perhaps manage a best-of-breed SaaS suite for customers.
Cloud ERP for manufacturers: It's well-known that ERP has lagged other categories with respect to SaaS. However, the market may grow substantially in 2013 due to the rise of SaaS vendors honing in on specific verticals such as manufacturing. That's where companies such as NetSuite, Plex Systems and Kenandy have focused attention.
Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com.