As technologies evolve, they typically pass through different stages of maturity, both from a technical and a business perspective. They move from pilot project to a whole new way of working, from an idea to a bold vision to disruptive innovations. New technologies often generate extensive hype before they have gained traction and realized their full potential with tangible solutions. This is also true for the blockchain technology, which while it has matured and is moving beyond the experimental phase, still faces a level of uncertainty in the market.
Particularly in the enterprise world, it is a challenge for businesses to know how they can best take advantage of this technology. At the same time, the potential is so remarkable that, according to a survey by the World Economic Forum, by 2027, 10% of the global gross domestic product (GDP) will be stored on blockchain technology. In any case, the idea of decentralized applications that share and distribute control, resources, and data in order to benefit from the network effect and greater transparency and trust within a network, remains a promising opportunity to establish new business models.
Enabling enterprise blockchains
Many people consider blockchain to be one of the most significant innovations in the IT industry, while others consider its biggest strength – that there is no central control – to also be its greatest weakness. However, the majority of enterprise blockchains are consortium or semi-private blockchains. These types allow either a pre-selected group or a single organization to control and run the network and the according consensus mechanisms.
When companies start exploring the appliance of blockchain technologies, it should not just be for the sake of applying a new technology. Blockchain offers companies an opportunity to rethink their business processes, with significant potential to speed up existing processes, even across corporate boundaries.
Enterprise blockchains have the power to further simplify and accelerate business processes through reduced process steps and greater transaction consistency. From the trading of digital or physical goods to verifying documents and milestones of a specific process, applying blockchain-empowered solutions in the enterprise world can lead to increased profitability.
With SAP HANA®, we have the unique ability to enable enterprise blockchains and integrate them with new and existing business applications so customers can take full advantage of the technology’s benefits. Therefore, our goal is to embed blockchain in our multi-modal architecture and have blockchain-related processes appear as a typical database transaction to both humans and machines – taking out complexity and inefficiency, but ensuring the speed, reliability, and security that enterprises require to run their businesses smoothly.
Introducing the SAP HANA Blockchain adapter
At SAPPHIRE this year, we launched a first version of the SAP HANA Blockchain adapter integrating with the newly launched SAP Cloud Platform Blockchain. With this new capability, customers can easily consume and build on blockchain data in SAP HANA using an SQL interface and standard SQL commands – both on-premise or in the cloud. This consistent user experience makes it much easier for developers to build new applications using the blockchain technology because they do not need to be aware of the very concrete blockchain implementation details, but are empowered to simply apply them. By removing this barrier for developers, SAP HANA enables them to easily and quickly adopt blockchain, providing an enterprise-class data platform that harmonizes multi-party transactions and allowing customers to establish trustful and transparent business processes and networks.
In addition to connecting to existing blockchain networks, such as Hyperledger Fabric or Multichain, via APIs offered by SAP Cloud Platform Blockchain, customers can now take advantage of the relevant data from the blockchain network with the speed of SAP HANA. This data from the blockchains is provided in the form of virtual tables in SAP HANA and can also be replicated into physical tables. In addition, blockchain transactions triggered through SAP HANA are submitted to the respective blockchain ecosystem. On the other hand, for any additions to the relevant blockchain, the corresponding blockchain table in SAP HANA will be updated accordingly.
This makes it possible to run analytics and transactions in real-time on both regular business data and blockchain data – making blockchain enterprise-ready by integrating the technology with new and existing business applications. All these operations can be performed utilizing standard SQL commands since blockchain data resides in database tables.
With this new capability of SAP HANA, companies can increase, for example, the supply chain transparency by extending order processing information to suppliers. Further use cases are applicable in the public sector, for example with document verification, or in the utilities industry with, among others, the tracking of electricity production and consumption in the private sector where people can trade rooftop solar power with other households.
As a next step, we will explore further use cases with customers in a controlled beta phase for the SAP HANA Blockchain adapter.
Making use of the blockchain technology in the enterprise world is a further step towards decentralizing applications for greater flexibility, transparency, and scalability in and for the hyper-connected economy. Eager to learn more? Make sure to check out the post by Andreas Schuster.