A Glimpse Into the Future: Cloud Computing and AI
Cloud first, cloud only
SAP’s figures show that cloud computing and AI is in demand and growing steadily. The success of cloud computing is indisputable. SAP is building more data centres and is investing in cloud applications like Concur, Ariba, SuccessFactors, Fieldglass and so on.
However, SAP’s year-long message of “cloud first” and “cloud only” has unsettled many customers on the road to SAP’s S/4 HANA. Far too little has been done in recent years to work out the actual benefits of cloud functionality on a company’s own data centre (on-prem), with an outsourcer or host, with a hyperscaler, or with SAP itself. Another thing to consider is that every successful SAP cloud application has its root in the ERP environment. Customers trust on-premise solutions in their own data centres or cloud offers from AWS, Azure, and Google.
However, the situation does not have to be black or white; there is a shade of grey in this debacle. Namely, the combination of on-prem and cloud capabilities, giving users the best of both worlds.
On-prem cloud capabilities
One of SAP’s best-kept secrets is the on-prem cloud functionality for HANA and S/4. The truth is that yes, there is such a thing. However, it may take some time for SAP customers to find a sales representative who offers this rare SAP product. Surprisingly, SAP has faced reality: there are SAP offerings for public, private, and on-prem clouds. The product “SAP S/4 HANA cloud, Private Edition, Customer Data Center” provides a cloud service answer for all SAP customers who want to use their own data centre, or a host or outsourcer, with S/4 Hana. But why bother with this at all?
There are many reasons for customers to use cloud computing with their own data centres or with a host provider of their choice. One of the reasons many SAP customers cite is having their own data sovereignty alongside their SAP licenses. The issue here is not one of security, i.e. data protection, but one of governance and compliance. It may well be that data is more secure in Microsoft’s, Amazon’s, and Google’s cloud service centers. But if worst comes to the worst, physically accessing that data is difficult. Downloading and then reusing your own data is also a challenge. Once the data is in a public or private cloud, SAP customers are largely at the mercy of the cloud provider and hyperscaler. In addition to this loss of sovereignty, high costs must also be taken into consideration. It is important to consider all angles when deciding which option to opt for.
ERP and AI
Besides cloud computing, AI is also a hot topic for SAP users. In theory, creating a perfect ERP system is a simple task. If someone were to have the time and the energy, they could read all of the business administration literature available on the web. Data on organizational theory, financial systems, logistics, and production can also be easily found online. So it is likely that the entire scope of ERP, SCM, and CRM knowledge of an SAP system, including the programming instructions for Abap, can also be found online. If these “book smarts” were supplemented by contributions from the SAP community, the result would be an S/4 successor that is likely to be universal, i.e. a successor that takes into account all the information that S/4 currently lacks, all the missing functions and modules that necessitate plug-ins from third-party providers, and creates a more complete program.
On the subject of AI and ChatGPT, the web version of the German magazine Handelsblatt had the following to say: “In trying to push its own limits, it continuously discovers unexpected abilities. For example, ChatGPT can write code on command in the Abap programming language, which is only used in SAP applications and is thus usually reserved only for specialists.”
Go like ERP
A few years ago, Google experimented with an AI that was supposed to master the board game Go, a strategy game invented in China over 2,500 years ago. After a relatively short training phase, the Google Go AI, called AlphaGo, was better than any human player and made moves that experts thought were crazy—yet the Google machine won in the end. But it got even better: in a second attempt, the AI was given only the most basic Go rules. From then on, the machine played non-stop against itself and, in a few months, had read through the entirety of Go literature from the past millennia.
It should then be a simple exercise for ChatGPT to become an ERP genius and know the answer to every problem with the extensive breadth of business, organizational, technical, and licensing literature available online. Transferring this knowledge into Abap and testing it should be possible within the next few months.
An AI that can program the best ERP system of all time currently seems like a pipe dream. However, if we abide by the thought that all the knowledge for a perfect ERP system is available on the web and ChatGPT has access to it, then it only appears to be a question of available resources. Will SAP be willing to license ChatGPT and run it on an appropriately powerful supercomputer, and present the perfect S/4 successor to the world in a few years? It remains to be seen.
This blog was written by and in cooperation with https://e3zine.com/ Browse many more SAP articles like this on their site.