WOW, what an amazing first day at SapphireNOW! The insights shared by SAP into the developments of their (digital) future answered several questions I had raised, and also indicated in the blogs posted last week, and gave us plenty more food for thought.

For me, the big question is whether this is a new renaissance for SAP; or perhaps the start of the Cognitive revolution.

Confused? Let me shed some light on these two different perspectives. First, let’s start with the Renaissance perspective. In his book “the Medici Effect”, Frans Johansson gave his view on how the “first” Renaissance took place when the Medici family enabled people from diverse disciplines to work together and share their insights. Sculptors, painters, scientists… by building on each other’s skills, they elevated the human race to a new level. Something we still benefit from today.

Is it a coincidence that SAP has named their cognitive platform SAP Leonardo? I don’t have any real insight into how they came up with this name, but we all know that Leonardo Da Vinci was one of the most brilliant people of the Renaissance. More significant is the fact that he was a polymath, as demonstrated by the diversity of his skills and talents – architect, engineer, painter, visionary, and much more.

Compare this to the platform SAP has created; it brings together Blockchain, IoT, Machine Learning, with the possibility of many more. As with the Renaissance, it is not a single technology that will impact the world, but the aggregation of different technologies that will bring new opportunities.

Now look at the second perspective, the Second Cognitive revolution. In his book “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”,  Professor Yuval Noah Harari gives a comprehensive overview of our existence, pointing out that Homo Sapiens became the dominant species with the development of their Cognitive capabilities. There were other human-like species on earth, but the fact that we could start to think differently, were able to create myths (crucial to mobilize more than 150 people) gave us the ability to outperform them all.

Now look at the Artificial Intelligence wave. All large software vendors (and not to forget thousands of start-ups) are making huge investments in this technology. Even to the point that we are already thinking about neural layers to have the human brain connect with the power of the AI (see the initiatives of Elon Musk and Facebook).

Just as the “victory” of Homo Sapiens over the other Human-like species, will cognitive capabilities also lead to victory some of the large software vendors over all the others? And will SAP be one of those winners?

Looking at them from both these perspectives, we can definitely say that SAP has some unique capabilities to help them win in the market. The power of standardizing data through the ERP Data Model enables a better architected environment for the large clients, while the in-memory database ensures that people have the ability to store and work on even more data, thereby powering the “AI” capabilities.

SAP also stated that they will enable people to develop applications on the SAP Leonardo platform by opening up the software stack through the app store, and make integration easier with APIs.

While this is definitely positive, we have also seen SAP facing challenges in opening up the software stack to other application environments. With many clients already adopting other software platforms as well, this integration becomes crucial.

SAP also announced that from an infrastructure side, the possibility to host on a wide range of platforms such as Azure, AWS, Google exists. But what I am personally interested in is to see how SAP Leonardo will work with IBM Bluemix, and others.

Whether this is the second Renaissance or the second Cognitive Revolution remains to be seen. For now, there is still a lot to find out in the coming days.

Stay tuned…