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Top SAP 2012 news -- from the Ariba Network buy to developer outreach

From the Ariba acquisition, to the growth of SuccessFactors, to third-party developer initiatives, SearchSAP looks at the biggest stories of 2012.

It was a big year for SAP. The last 12 months brought new initiatives for HANA and SAP mobile developers, new applications like SAP BusinessObjects Predictive Analysis, and a $4.5 billion acquisition of Ariba. It's not easy keeping track of it all, so we’ve pooled together the top 10 stories of the year, listed in reverse order.

10. SAP debuts SAP Visual Intelligence.  SAP decided it was time to offer more visual analytics functionality than what customers can get out of its Business Explorer. In May, SAP introduced SAP Visual Intelligence, geared toward business analysts. SAP continues to improve on what one analyst then said was "a promising, but somewhat limited, first release." 

9. SAP takes another run at social collaboration. In November, SAP announced the SAP SuccessFactors Jam social collaboration platform in an apparent admission that SAP StreamWork had failed to truly take off. Instead, it would go with the SuccessFactors Jam application moving forward. Whereas both SuccessFactors Jam and SAP StreamWork are largely standalone applications loosely tied to some of SAP's enterprise applications, the new on-demand product, SAP Jam, can be integrated with sSAP ERP modules such as those for finance and human capital management (HCM) to bring social collaboration to individual departments.

For more on other big SAP news in 2012

Read about the debut of SAP Financials OnDemand

Once again, users pan SAP licensing

Mobile device management is dead, says one expert

8. SAP and big data. Big data  wins the award for most used (some might argue overused) term in 2012. Nonetheless, SAP saw the trend as one of the primary drivers behind the need for applications such as SAP BusinessObjects Predictive Analysis, which runs on SAP HANA. SAP also announced growing support for big data products like Hadoop, an open-source technology that enables distributed processing. Scott Elder, an SAP TechEd 2012 attendee and a technology solutions architect with Encryptics, said his company is counting on SAP HANA and big data to make encryption more critical for businesses.

7. SAP gets into the predictive analytics game. In April, SAP introduced SAP BusinessObjects Predictive Analysis, an area the company previously ceded to competitors like SAS Institute Inc. The software, which can run as a standalone application as well as with SAP HANA, enables customers to perform forecasting functions on large data sets. Before this software release, SAP HANA was used for more historical analysis.

"Predictive has been around for a long time, but there's been some changes in the market that we wanted to take advantage of, and one of those is big data," said Jason Kuo, an SAP analytics marketing manager. When the software became generally available, SAP also announced it had decided to incorporate the full set of SAP Visual Intelligence tools into the predictive analytics software.

6. SAP SuccessFactors portfolio takes shape. In December, 2011, SAP purchased SuccessFactors, the maker of on-demand HR software. This year the company clarified where it's taking its recent acquisition. For instance, SAP made SuccessFactors talent management software its "go-to" applications in performance management, compensation management and learning management. It also continued to build out Employee Central, the SuccessFactors core HCM software. Then in the fall, SAP announced the introduction of SuccessFactors Headlines analytics software.

At the same time, the company revealed that the unreleased SAP Career OnDemand would not move forward. Instead, SAP plans to fold some of the product's functionality -- specifically the ability to incorporate peer reviews into the evaluation process -- into SuccessFactors software.

5. SAP acquires Ariba. In May, SAP's cloud strategy moved forward with its announcement that it was buying Ariba Inc., a provider of a cloud-based network of buyers and sellers, for $4.3 billion. As some have noted, there are plenty of roadmap questions to answer in the coming months, including how customers will be able to integrate Ariba with their existing on-premises SAP ERP.

SAP also acquired Syclo, a mobile application provider based in Hoffman Estates, Ill., for its customer base and products like its enterprise asset management and field service software, according to SAP.

4. SAP and Oracle remain at each other’s throats. It just wouldn't be a typical year if SAP and Oracle didn't trade shots. The rivalry may be one of the best known in tech circles, and this year did not disappoint with the giants trading bards over competing versions of in-memory technology. In May, Oracle said its Exalytics was better -- and cheaper -- than SAP HANA, which drew a heated response from SAP. In October, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison gave a speech that trumpeted Exadata X3 over HANA, referring to HANA as though it was a nine-year-old girl in a frilly pink dress. Oh, and of course, Oracle's never-ending case against SAP and the long-deceased TomorrowNow is still dragging on. SAP is now appealing the latest judgment, a $306 million ruling in favor of Oracle.

3. SAP makes a play for database dominance. In April, SAP announced plans to dominate the database market with the help of its HANA and Sybase database technologies, hoping to eventually best Oracle or at least get close enough to breathe down the neck of its nemesis. As others have pointed out, it’s a goal SAP has expressed before. It remains to be seen if SAP can make good on its promise this time.

2. SAP announces CRM on HANA. Late in the year, SAP announced customers could now run SAP CRM on HANA, which the company rolled out as a part of its new SAP 360 Customer package of applications. Running CRM on SAP's in-memory database certainly drew attention, but the bigger news is that the move marks the first real step toward running ERP on HANA, which SAP has talked about for a year.

1. SAP shows developers the love. Apart from the raft of HANA and mobile applications, SAP announced several initiatives aimed at developers in both areas. For mobile developers, SAP announced free developer licenses as a part of a three-tiered approach for developers, as well as partnerships with a number of platforms, including those by Appcelerator Inc., Adobe and Sencha.

SAP set up a similar structure for HANA developers, and announced its new HANA One platform. It also announced the general availability, as well as free developer licenses, for SAP NetWeaver Cloud. Ethan Jewett, a developer who attended SAP TechEd 2012, said the outreach to developers was an encouraging sign, but more work needs to be done.

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