A presentation that caught my attention (and based on the attendance, it caught a lot of other people as well) was SAP and Blockchain. Overall, the presentation covered how Ariba was looking to utilize blockchain. Now, I’m far from an Ariba expert, but this presentation was interesting to me for multiple reasons. For anyone that knows me well, they probably know that I have had a recent fascination with blockchain. I find the overall technology interesting, but I’m still struggling to come up with a good use of blockchain that doesn’t involve the financial world.
If you don’t really know what blockchain is, or if you think blockchain = bitcoin, then you are in the majority. I think most people don’t really get the concept, and it took me reading multiple e-books and online articles to finally get a “reasonable” understanding. I’m still far from an expert, but think of blockchain as another database. The biggest difference is that blockchain is peer-to-peer (so like napster/bittorrent). What makes blockchain different is that you cannot delete anything. Whatever is entered into the chain is there forever. So there is no chance of “rewriting” history. This is especially important in the financial world. It makes audits easier, it allows transactions to happen with few or no middlemen validating the transactions (and taking their cut along way). It may also set the stage for allowing “micro-transactions” and allowing anyone to afford a bank account because there will be so little overhead in the transactions. All of this is done using state of the art encryption to keep the data safe and only releasing the data needed and nothing more.
Ok… so now you have the briefest of overviews on blockchain. So where does SAP fit into this? Well, I just learned that Ariba, which is an SAP product that is used for supplies to talk to eachother. Well, it turns out that Ariba is with a product (that I’ll be looking into) called HyperLedger. The idea with HyperLedger is that a lot of big companies are using it, so they “might” be able to set the standards in blockchain communication. This is could be good or bad. Blockchain pride itself on trying to revolutionize the financial world (and more of course). Depending on the plan, things like HyperLedger could make it more powerful, or could obscure the real purpose of blockchain. I guess we need to wait and see on that. SAP’s plan is to be able to track all the different transactions from supplier to supplier to customer. The idea is that by tracking where everything comes from, industries that rely on manufacturing, will have a better way to validate that the manufacturers are using “legitimate” components, opposed to knock offs that will reduce quality.
According to the Ariba guy that gave the presentation, this will become a “free” add-on to existing customers and blockchain will become an added benefit.
I’ll be watching this anxiously. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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