SAP announced today at its Sapphire customer conference it was making the SAP Leonardo Blockchain service generally available. The latter is a cloud service to help companies build applications based on digital ledger-style technology.
Gil Perez, senior vice president for product and innovation and head of digital customer initiatives at SAP, says most of the customers he talks to are still very early in the proof of concept stage, but not so early that SAP doesn’t want to provide a service to help move them along the maturity curve.
“We are announcing the general availability of the SAP Cloud Platform Blockchain Services.” This is a generalized service on top of which customers can begin building their blockchain projects. He says SAP is taking an agnostic approach to the underlying ledger technology whether it’s the open source Hyperledger project, where SAP is a platinum sponsor, MultiChain or any additional blockchain or decentralized distributed ledger technologies.
Perez said part of the reason for this flexibility is that blockchain technology is really still being defined and SAP doesn’t want to commit to any underlying ledger approach until the market decides which way to go. He says this should allow them to minimize the impact on customers as the technology evolves.
They join other enterprise companies like Oracle, IBM, Microsoft and Amazon who have previously released blockchains services for their customers. For SAP, which many companies use for the back-office management of everything from finance to logistics, the blockchain could present some interesting use cases for its customers such as supply chain management.
In this case, the blockchain could help reduce paperwork, bring products to market more quickly and provide an easy audit trail. Instead of requesting a scanned copy of a signed document, you could simply click on a node on the blockchain and see the approval (or denial) and follow the products through the shipping process to the marketplace.
But Perez stresses that just because it’s early doesn’t mean they aren’t working on some pretty substantial projects. He cited one with a pharmaceutical company to ensure the provenance of drugs that involved over a billion transactions already.
SAP is simply trying to keep up with what customers want. Prior to the GA announced today, the company conducted a survey of 250 customers and found, that although it was early days, there is enterprise interest in exploring blockchain technology. Whether this initiative can expand into a broader business is hard to say, but SAP sees blockchain as logical adjacent technology to their core offerings.