This content is part of the Conference Coverage: SAP Sapphire 2024 news, trends and analysis

SAP highlights business AI partnerships, puts Joule in spotlight

On the first day of Sapphire, SAP focused on business AI and the criticality of its GenAI assistant. But analysts say the emphasis on AI might be too forward-looking for customers.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- SAP unveiled a flurry of partnerships and new capabilities focused on unlocking value from its concept of business AI, a term it uses to describe how SAP data can inform specific industry use cases for AI.

The partnerships, which include new and expanded ventures with vendors such as Nvidia, Google, AWS and Microsoft, were highlighted at the SAP Sapphire conference for customers and partners this week. Many center on Joule, SAP's generative AI assistant that it unveiled last fall. It is now being embedded throughout SAP's cloud applications portfolio to help customers generate code, build digital twins, manage inventory levels and interact with other AI assistants.

SAP CEO Christian Klein highlighted several partnerships during the show's opening keynote, and was joined on stage at various points by Matt Garman, newly-anointed CEO at AWS, and Jensen Huang, Nvidia CEO, who joined remotely from Taiwan.

But the focus on AI, while aspirational and perhaps necessary from a competitive standpoint, is also cloud-focused and overlooks customers who remain on premises, according to analysts.

"It's understandable that you probably need to be aspirational in some respects. But there's still a large clump of SAP customers that remain on [legacy SAP systems]," said Simon Ellis, an analyst at IDC.

A focus on partnerships

SAP will use Nvidia AI models to crawl through SAP consulting data on cloud implementations and help train its SAP Joule generative AI assistant on best practices for Rise with SAP deployments. It will also rely on Nvidia infrastructure to host and manage Joule as it generate ABAP code for developers, and it will use Nvidia Ominverse Cloud APIs to help simulate product manufacturing of products through digital twins in SAP Intelligent Product Recommendations.

Other SAP partnerships include the following:

  • An expanded partnership with Google Cloud to integrate Joule and SAP Integrated Business Planning for Supply Chain with Google Cloud's Gemini Models AI assistant and Google Cloud Cortex Framework data foundation to help businesses predict and deal with supply chain disruptions and improve inventory levels.
  • An expanded partner with Meta, where SAP will use the new Meta Llama 3 AI model to help generate analytics applications in SAP Analytics Cloud.
  • A new partnership with Microsoft that will integrate Joule and Microsoft Copilot for Microsoft 365 to bring enterprise data from SAP systems together with data from Microsoft 365 applications such as Teams, Outlook and Word. The Joule-Copilot integration will happen later this year.
  • Prior to Sapphire, SAP and AWS unveiled plans to extend the use of AWS Graviton4 chips to run SAP HANA Cloud deployments for better performance, lower costs and greater energy efficiency. SAP is currently using AWS Graviton3 chips. SAP also plans to run applications including SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP), SAP Datasphere, SAP Analytics Cloud and SAP Application Lifecycle Management on AWS Graviton.
  • SAP plans to add new large language models from Mistral AI to its GenAI hub.
SAP CEO Christian Klein at SAP Sapphire keynote.
SAP CEO Christian Klein delivers the opening keynote session at Sapphire 2024.

Joule to become face of SAP applications

SAP is focused on embedding Joule into a host of SAP applications, including S/4HANA Public Cloud Edition; S/4HANA Private Cloud Edition; and several SAP developer applications, such as SAP Build, SAP Build Code, SAP BTP Cockpit, SAP Customer Data Platform and SAP Integration Suite. By the end of 2024, Joule is expected to be integrated into SAP Ariba for procurement, SAP Analytics Cloud and several supply chain applications. Joule is also expanding the number of languages that it understands to include French, German, Portuguese and Spanish.

The Joule integrations are intended to ease routine work processes and help knowledge workers speed up the time and accuracy in performing work related tasks, according to Klein.

It's understandable that you probably need to be aspirational in some respects. But there's still a large clump of SAP customers that remain on [legacy SAP systems].
Simon Ellis Analyst, IDC

"Joule is ready for prime time and will be delivered out of the box to all of our cloud customers," Klein said during the opening keynote.

SAP currently has more than 50 embedded use cases for Joule in SAP applications, and Klein said that the company intends to double this by the end of the year.

To take advantage of AI and other new functionality such as sustainability applications, SAP customers must be on Rise with SAP. Klein introduced the "next evolution of Rise," which provides a tailored service to further ease the process of cloud migrations.

SAP will assign an enterprise architect to all existing and new Rise with SAP customers, he said.

The enterprise architect will guide customers in following the Rise methodology through the implementation lifecycle, including steps such as process simplification, Klein said.

Aspirational more than practical

SAP's AI-related messages appear to be more aspirational than practical right now, according to Ellis.

Companies might be talking about AI at the highest levels, but there's still not a lot of evidence that it's being widely used, he said.

SAP's business AI capabilities that are being embedded into SAP Spend Management applications and SAP SuccessFactors HR application should resonate more with customers because they help them solve real-world issues, said Jon Reed, co-founder of Diginomica, an enterprise industry analysis firm.

Some of the SuccessFactors AI capabilities are available now, which benefits customers more than the capabilities that will be available later, Reed said.

"It always feels like they're kicking the can down the road in the keynotes. And there's a whole different thought process from many customers right now, which is totally different than AI," Reed said. "It's around what do they do with the core investments they've made in their ERP systems."

These issues weren't addressed in the opening keynote, but there are opportunities for customers to get more information at the conference, Reed noted.

However, SAP runs the risk of coming off as a little too forward focused on AI and lacking empathy on how to help customers with their current problems, he said.

"They do have ideas and programs to help customers deal with these issues. But customers have legitimate questions that need to be addressed, like why do they even need to prioritize upgrading their ERP?" Reed said.

Jim O'Donnell is a senior news writer for TechTarget Editorial who covers ERP and other enterprise applications.

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