While large companies have used SaaS in areas such as CRM (customer relationship management), human resources functionality lies closer to the core of ERP. It remains to be seen whether Workday manages to replace Oracle or SAP financials software with its own financials offering in large enterprises, but that's certainly its intent, as well as a threat to incumbents.
SAP's decision to buy SuccessFactors reflects this dynamic and can be seen as a defensive move. Over the years, SuccessFactors has landed even bigger deals than Workday for its HCM offerings, including a 420,000-seat pact with Siemens. Now SAP will look to upsell the rest of its ample portfolio into the SuccessFactors installed base.
SaaS ERP gains more ground
A series of announcements made last year are set to significantly increase the options for on-demand ERP next year and beyond.
In April, Microsoft announced that all four of its Dynamics ERP suites would be offered on its Azure cloud service. Microsoft "planting a flag in SaaS ERP validates players already in the field," such as NetSuite and SAP's Business ByDesign, said China Martens, an analyst at Forrester Research.
Salesforce.com also edged into ERP this year through partnerships with Infor and Workday, which built upon its previous collaboration with Unit 4 Agresso on FinancialForce.com, an accounting service.
Infor buys Lawson, venture firm grabs Epicor and Activant as ERP rollup continues
Infor's move in March to buy Lawson Software for roughly $2 billion "is a significant story in ERP because Infor is looking to step up as a third major competitor to Oracle and SAP," said Forrester Research Vice President Paul Hamerman. "A third key enterprise apps competitor has been missing since Oracle acquired PeopleSoft."
The purchase made Infor the third-largest ERP vendor after SAP and Oracle, and came not long after the appointment of CEO Charles Phillips, a former co-president of Oracle who was known for his role in that company's long run of acquisitions.
So far, Infor has shown no indication it plans to compete with Oracle and SAP for large enterprise customers.
Infor may end up closer rivals with the entity created by private equity firm Apax Partners' $2 billion purchase in April of ERP vendors Epicor and Activant.
SAP's HANA database sparks in-memory computing buzz
Whether or not SAP's HANA in-memory database lives up to the hype in the field, it may be difficult for any software vendor to go without some type of in-memory flag to wave moving forward.
HANA, which became generally available in June, places information to be processed in RAM instead of reading it off of traditional disks, providing what SAP has called a dramatic performance boost. In various public statements, the company has made it clear that the long-term goal is for HANA to replace other databases, especially rival Oracle's offering, that are now running its applications, including the flagship Business Suite.