Hyperscalers Focus on Supply Chain Platforms
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⇨ The supply chain planning solutions space has been crowded and competitive for decades. As technology capabilities progress, we see more and more entrants in the segment trying to compete with established players.
⇨ Things have become much more competitive within the last few months, with the three hyperscalers launching their supply chain planning and visibility platforms.
⇨ There seems to be a gap that needs to be filled to extract value from the plethora of solutions available. Solutions from the hyperscalers aim to fill those gaps.
The supply chain planning solutions space has been crowded and competitive for decades. As technology capabilities progress, we see more and more entrants in the segment trying to compete with established players. However, a key fact of this space is that while bells and whistles may differ, the core features and functionalities remain the same. And that is what makes this segment a competitive space to be in from a provider perspective. Things have become much more competitive within the last few months, with the three hyperscalers launching their supply chain planning and visibility platforms. In this article, we will overview supply chain platforms from the top three hyperscalers.
It is a paradox that while the market for supply chain planning solutions is crowded, many of the conventional challenges in this space have persisted for decades. There seems to be a gap that needs to be filled to extract value from the plethora of solutions available. Solutions from the hyperscalers aim to fill those gaps. At a high level, those gaps are:
- Siloed pockets of data and systems, internally as well as externally
- Lack of end-to-end and real-time visibility
- Lack of ability to build customized planning solutions portfolios.
- Bridging the gap between planning and execution
In the subsequent section, we explore how each of the solutions tries to address these gaps. An important note here is that you can use the SAP portfolio of solutions as well to build the capabilities that these platforms provide. In this article, we, however, focus on the platforms from the top three hyperscalers.
Microsoft Supply Chain Platform:
The aspect that makes this platform strong is the strong ecosystem of Microsoft enterprise solutions that the company has developed over decades and their unrivaled penetration. Microsoft’s Supply Chain platform leverages a portfolio of its products, like Azure, Dynamics 365, Teams, and Power Platform, to build a comprehensive, end-to-end supply chain planning solution.
The platform also leverages the Microsoft partner ecosystem, which can be critical in enabling customer supply chain resiliency and agility. Microsoft partners can bring their industry and domain expertise to create integrated solutions leveraging Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management, Microsoft Azure, Microsoft Teams, and Power Platform. At a high level, the architecture can be categorized into four components, each addressing one of the gap areas identified above:
- Data integration (through Dataverse)
- Real-time visibility (Dynamics 365 and Azure)
- Advanced analytics and planning (Azure)
- Collaboration (Teams)
With components like Azure Cognitive services and ChatGPT, you have the option to not only take your planning and capabilities to the next level but also build and integrate shop floor digital twins in your planning platforms. This can allow you to build control towers that address all three layers of planning (strategic, operational, and tactical).
At the core of the Supply Chain Platform is the Microsoft Supply Chain Center. Microsoft Supply Chain Center solution provides a supply chain command center tool that can be leveraged to harmonize data from a plethora of supply chain systems across the enterprise, such as data from SAP, Dynamics 365, and other ERP providers, as well as from standalone supply chain systems. The architecture of the command center is shown in figure 1. You can research the platform in detail here.
Figure 1: Microsoft Supply Chain Command Center architecture
AWS Supply Chain Platform:
AWS Supply Chain is a cloud-based solution that, at a high level, provides the three powerful capabilities of data integration, analytics, advanced analytics, and supply chain collaboration into one solution. The key GTM theme of the AWS supply chain is presenting the solution as an “ML-powered supply chain application.” All these hyperscaler supply chain solutions harps on leveraging AI and ML to help fill the gaps that have traditionally existed in the supply chain solutions space highlighting the impact AI and ML can make in the supply chain. Building on the foundation of data integration and visibility, the platform adds advanced planning and collaboration tools. At a high level, the architecture can be categorized into these components, each addressing one of the gap areas identified above:
- Data integration (both cloud and on-premise)
- Real-time visibility
A sample architecture is shown in figure 2. You can research the platform in detail on the product page.
Figure 2: An example architecture of the AWS Supply Chain platform.
GCP Supply Chain Platform:
GCP was the first to formally launch a supply chain planning solution. GCP’s GTM take has a digital twin perspective, where it sees its platform providing customers an opportunity to build an end-to-end digital twin of their supply chains. Their solution can be envisioned as having two core components- Supply Chain Twin and Supply Chain Pulse. You can envision the Supply Chain Twin component as the foundational component. This component builds data integration and foundation by integrating data from multiple sources, like SAP ERP, into BigQuery data platform. The pulse component is what end-users use to interact with and leverage the platform. End-users can use this component to perform business analytics, planning, data science, and building supply chain control towers. To summarize, the capabilities of GCP Supply Chain platform are:
- Builds an integrated data foundation and enhances supply chain collaboration by providing the capability to share data across supply chain partners without complex integration requirements.
- Provides advanced business intelligence capabilities in the form of the capability to build real-time dashboards, perform advanced business analytics, and alert-driven event management in a single platform.
- Provides collaboration tools to facilitate collaboration across teams and external partners within the Supply Chain Pulse layer.
- Option to build AI-enabled capabilities by seamlessly extending into AI workload offerings from Google.
Figure 3 is an example of the myriad data sources the platform can help integrate and aggregate. This is a screengrab from a demo video that can be watched here. Those looking to research the solution in detail can refer to the product page.
Figure 3: An example of siloed data landscape that GCP Supply Chain platform can integrate
There has been a lot of interest in leveraging cloud-based supply chain management and planning solutions. SAPinsider published a research report focused on this area in 2022, titled Supply Chain Planning in The Cloud, sponsored by SAP and Microsoft. These platforms may combine the advantages cloud platforms offer with the technology capabilities that the likes of Google, AWS, and Microsoft have developed over the years. However, as mentioned in the beginning, you can build your desired version of these platforms with SAP technologies as well. The good news here is that you have now more options to build the supply chain capabilities to become a more resilient organization.