The 10 Biggest Software Stories Of 2013

Software: Where The Magic Happens

Bill Gates likes to talk about "the magic of software," and in the enterprise, there's no denying that software has this kind of power. This year, as in years past, software played a starring role in many tech industry storylines.

In some cases, software wasn't set up correctly, as evidenced by the struggles the website has experienced since its launch in October. Other times, software tools emerge that make development faster and easier, like DevOps, which is attracting investment from venture capitalists and big vendors.

Big data startups are also seeing tons of attention as enterprises look for software that can unlock value from their humongous internal data stores. CRN scoured the year's headlines and here presents our picks for the top 10 stories of the year in the software industry.

10. Government Calls In Enterprise Tech Vendors To Fix

The Affordable Care Act website has pretty much been a disaster since launching in October, but at least the government had the good sense to bring in some heavy hitters in enterprise tech to help fix it.

Oracle and Red Hat were part of the so-called "tech surge" of companies sent in to fix the issues with the site in late October. While it's not clear what sort of help they're providing, Oracle and Red Hat are well equipped to repair enterprise systems, Kumar Nandigam, CEO of Plano-Texas-based Tekpros, which partners with both vendors, told CRN in November.

Over the summer, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services replaced Verizon Terremark with Hewlett-Packard to handle Web hosting for the site. And in mid-December, HHS said Kurt DelBene, former head of Microsoft's Office Division who left the company this summer, will be managing and leading the charge to fix the problems.

9. DevOps Gets Backing From Big Players

DevOps, a term that describes the trend of software developers and IT operations people having shared business goals, instead of opposing ones, is seen as key to unlocking the value of large-scale cloud projects. It automates time-intensive IT tasks, including provisioning, discovery, configuration management, patch management, and infrastructure auditing and compliance.

Cisco, Google and VMware last year invested in Puppet Labs, one of main startups driving the DevOps movement. The space has seen additional investment since then.

In January, VMware upped the ante with a $30 million investment in Puppet Labs along with a strategic partnership with the Portland, Ore.-based startup. In early December another DevOps player, Opscode, raised $32 million and changed its name to Chef, the name of its flagship product.

8. Adobe Gets Out Of The Packaged Software Business

Adobe surprised a lot of people by deciding in May to stop selling boxed versions of Photoshop, Premier, Illustrator and all of its other products and start selling them as cloud services instead.

Many customers weren't happy about the change because they felt Adobe's Creative Cloud offering amounted to a significant price hike. However, some partners, like En Pointe Technologies, El Segundo, Calif., have found Adobe Creative Cloud to be a logical fit for a portfolio that already includes Microsoft Office 365.

Karl Bickmore, president of CCNS Consulting in Arizona, told CRN in August that Adobe's support for Creative Cloud was top-notch, on par with what Microsoft offers with Office 365. "I can't tell you how much time that saves us. What used to take an hour now takes five minutes," Bickmore told CRN.


7. BlackBerry Bets The House On BB10

The Blackberry 10 operating system was a make-or-break release for the company formerly known as Research In Motion. And after a six-month delay, it finally did arrive in January along with new devices. Yet despite positive early reviews of BB10, and claims about strong developer interest, it hasn't managed to turn around the struggling device maker's fortunes.

In November, BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins (pictured) stepped down after a failed attempt to take the company private. His replacement, former Sybase CEO John Chen, has an enterprise software background, which could mean a greater focus on becoming more strategic to big companies with top-notch mobile software.

6. Microsoft's Windows 8.1 Mulligan

Windows 8 was a dud with consumers and businesses alike, so Microsoft went back to the drawing board and changed many of the things people hated, bringing back the Start button it inexplicably decided wasn't needed in the first version, for example.

But Microsoft still managed to find ways to irritate developers and partners by initially not giving them access to the release to manufacturing versions of Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 R2, as it has done with previous releases. Microsoft changed its mind after a backlash, but some partners saw it as another example of Microsoft trying to be "be all mysterious and Apple-like," as one partner described it to CRN.

Windows 8.1 seems to have gone over well so far, but the user interface is still such a massive change that Microsoft partners expect businesses will still be taking their time in moving to the new OS. So it looks like Windows 7 will become the new Windows XP -- better get those downgrade rights ready.

5. SAP HANA's Growth Inspires Strong Reactions

SAP's HANA in-memory database is fast becoming one of the vendor's hottest products. In January, SAP co-CEO Bill McDermott (pictured) told AllThingsD that SAP HANA had reached the $500 million mark in sales, calling it "the fastest-growing software product in the history of the world."

In May, SAP revealed its plan to make HANA a platform for development of pretty much all of its new and existing products. None of this impressed Oracle co-President Mark Hurd, who in a press conference at OpenWorld said HANA isn't even comparable to Oracle's 12c database.

SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner didn't much like this, so he penned a blog post. "When it comes to competition you should either know exactly what you are talking about, or keep your mouth shut," Hasso said in the blog post, by way of response.

4. HP Puts Big Data At Center Of Comeback Effort

Hewlett-Packard Software chief George Kadifa (pictured) told CRN in March that HP was planning to spend around $1 billion this year on R&D and marketing for its big data software portfolio. In the first big step in June, HP unveiled "Haven," which stands for Hadoop, Autonomy, Vertica, and Enterprise Security; the"n" stands for the large number of hardware and software offerings that can connect into the HP Big Data analytics platform.

HP said in September that more than 120 partners had already signed up to sell at least one piece of the portfolio. In December, six of HP's top partners, including Avnet and Wipro Limited, launched big data offerings based on the Haven platform.

3. Oracle Learns How To Play Nice With Partners

Oracle over the years has not been known for partnering with other vendors, preferring instead to crush them in the competitive arena with its legendarily aggressive sales force. That started changing this year, though, as Oracle inked landmark partnerships with Microsoft, a longtime enterprise rival, and, a newer adversary with which it had been increasingly butting heads.

Oracle also made a number of key channel hires, bringing in Rich Geraffo from HP to be channel chief, and tapping Mitch Breen (pictured), a 20-year EMC who was a key player in building its channel program, as senior vice president of North America sales.

Sources told CRN that Breen could be a central part of reducing channel conflict at Oracle. "The word is that Breen knows how to exploit channel support better than his predecessors," one Oracle partner told CRN in October.

2. Big Data Investment Goes Nuts

Big data was already a big deal in 2012, but this year the amount of money funneled into startups that promise to help enterprises unlock value from previously impenetrable data stores became a torrent.

In July, DataStax, a next-generation database startup that claims it's stealing customers from Oracle, landed a $45 million series D funding round and said it's preparing to go public.

Also on track for an IPO is Hortonworks, which scored $50 million in VC funding in June that brought its total financing to date to $120 million. Big data analysis software startup Wibidata landed $15 million in May, and Databricks raised $14 million from Andreessen Horowitz.

Big data is not making a huge impact in the channel, but given the impressive momentum in this segment, that's probably going to change in 2014.

1. Microsoft's CEO Search Saga

Microsoft shocked the world in August by revealing that Steve Ballmer (pictured) would step down as CEO after 33 years with the company. Until recently, Ford CEO Alan Mulally looked like the frontrunner, and he still might be, but Microsoft's board could also end up picking an internal candidate, or someone who hasn't been linked to the search at all.

After four months of searching, it appears Microsoft is having trouble finding someone who not only meets its requirements but also actually wants the job.

When the world's biggest software company, which has had just two CEOs in its 38-year history, is looking for a new one, it's the sort of thing that attracts attention from a large chunk of the world's population. Microsoft says it won't make its decision until early 2014. Talk about starting the year with a bang!