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Edge computing is here - Or is it? An introduction to SAP Leonardo



Industry 4.0

Edge computing is here - Or is it? An introduction to SAP Leonardo

Gianni Pelizzo | Jan 23, 2017

About one week ago, I visited the SAP Field Kick Off Meeting (SAP FKOM) with hundreds of other SAP partners in Barcelona, where SAP Leonardo was presented for the first time. My first impression... This is the second SAP product given an Italian name, the first being SAP Fiori - a small victory for my Italian pride.

But, going into details, what is SAP Leonardo? Or perhaps more accurately - what will it become? To answer these questions, you must first understand the impact that IoT is having on enterprise applications.

The impact of IoT on Enterprise applications

Before the introduction of IoT, an enterprise application was closely related to:

  • the type of business it was used for (i.e. Logistics, Manufacturing, and so on...)
  • the technology adopted (i.e. Cloud, OnPremise, Hybrid)
  • the particularly industry in which it addressed 

Now, with the introduction of IoT, a fourth dimension is coming into play. One which is formed of people, objects and markets, which will be connected thanks to the precision of IoT Technology.

SAP Leonardo will become the first platform that connects these objects to derive a business advantage. For this reason, the first macro-classification that you can find is in the solution map, regarding the 6 "things" that can be interconnected: Products, Assets, Fleets, Infrastructures, Markets and Persons.

SAP Leonardo for Edge Computing

How will SAP Leonardo work?

Leonardo will act as the bridge interconnecting the six identified "things" (listed above). Thus, depending on the area that you are going to place your IoT initiative, you will be able to find one or more applications inside Leonardo to support the introductions (or interconnections) of these technologies. Consider for example, an Asset; where connected asset solutions are already a reality and are used to facilitate predictive maintenance.

From the technological point of view, this new platform can be considered a system with three levels:

  1. the IoT applications (which we previously reviewed)
  2. the IoT foundation, where we find the data management and big data applications, integration services, machine learning libraries and artificial intelligence. Essentially, the component that resides on the cloud (and therefore, the SAP HANA Cloud Platform) 
  3. the component of edge computing, where it will be possible to delegate choices locally (via sensors or communication gateway) and will enable a first level of data collection and data streaming (the process of analyzing real-time streams of data collected to determine which are truly important and which are not)

What are the main changes this new platform introduces?

The key changes, in my opinion, are mainly two: The introduction of the Edge Computing and The creation of a virtually boundless space in the world of IoT Applications in the Cloud

Edge computing

In all of the connected manufacturing applications, or more generally those using IoT, it’s becoming increasingly more important to delegate decisions that must be taken in real time to the local systems (be it mini DB or manufacturing consolidation systems like SAP MII – Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence). With this ability, there is no sense to take these decisions to the cloud or the ERP systems.

In fact, edge computing covers a gap that has always been very complicated: building hybrid applications between Edge and Cloud computing.

A Boundless space of IoT Applications in the Cloud

The second novelty: Applications like the connected asset that allow you to construct a sort of social network of the productive assets of an entire sector. This dynamic is set to revolutionize the relationship between customers and suppliers of machinery and plants.

Leonardo will provide, first to SAP and soon to the entire SAP ecosystem, the building blocks for the construction of IoT applications.

What's in store for SAP Leonardo in the coming months?

Given the information available today, it is hard to say. But I would dare to hypothesize the following, based on a few assumptions:

  • The availability of the Plat.One component (recently acquired by SAP) inside Hana Cloud Platform, particularly as the bridge between Edge and Cloud computing
  • New IoT applications, from Asset to Product related
  • The availability of out of the box analytical dashboards and predictive algorithms which are more and more easy to use (e.g., more sophisticated algorithms for the analysis of vibrations)
  • Connectivity. Until today, SAP has entrusted the topic of connectivity to the telephone carrier or to the radio frequency systems producers. Let’s see if there will be some acquisition by SAP or if SAP will create its own industrial connectivity solution.


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