Cloud and PLM Solution Evaluation

I think, Enterprise Software is not simple. And Product Lifecycle Management is not an exception and even one of the most complicated pieces of enterprise software. I had chance to discuss how to simplify PLM. However, today, I want to talk about how possible to evaluate PLM solution. Cloud computing, in my view, can change a lot of things in how enterprise software can be development, implemented and deployed. In addition, it made me think about cloud as a possible “evaluation” option for PLM.

Few weeks ago, I came across the publication by Lawson software availability on Amazon EC2. You can take a look on details here. The interesting piece of announcement is the following:

[...Lawson External Cloud Services also features Lawson Test Drive, which begins to change the way Lawson demonstrates its products and how customers purchase ERP software. Lawson Test Drive allows Lawson customers to test real products for up to 14 days using their own business processes and data before committing to the actual software purchase. Lawson Test Drive increases enterprise customers’ confidence that a demonstrated product will match the eventual installed product. Lawson Test Drive is being launched with two of Lawson’s newest, most innovative products...]

In my view, providing possible test drive in the virtual testing environment can be an easy option for customers to evaluate PLM software. I can see the following advantages:

1. Customer doesn’t need to invest into local infrastructure and  IT work
2. Environment can be tuned and optimized by software vendor
3. Evaluation can be shorter and more efficient.

A big question is how to load such a testing system with customer data? This can be complicated task. However, if you think about a pilot project it can be possible, in my view.

What is my conclusion? Evaluation of enterprise software is a very interesting space. Cloud solutions are probably in the beginning of their development in the such areas like CAD/PDM/PLM. However, to use cloud for evaluation can be an interesting option to make an evaluation simpler and in the end to improve customer’s adoption rate. It is always easy when you can test and see how it works…

Just my thoughts..
Best, Oleg

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10 Responses to Cloud and PLM Solution Evaluation

  1. David says:

    Test drives are terrific in theory, but I wonder if that assumes either that (1) the user must alter his workflow to suit the application, or (2) that customization is exceptionally fast, inexpensive and easy? And how about training? And change management … would a real organization go through all the pain of change just for a test drive? If they don’t change, is the test real? All these issues make me wonder if potential users would expend the time, effort and attention needed to explore a test drive.

  2. Nikolaj says:

    On my mind one the biggest problems with clouds usage for PLM needs is security. Just imagine that there is a security hole that allows one customer read data of another one. Then one just requests a “test drive” from a vendor of cloud PLM and reads foreign data. Even if your personal data flows out it is sad. But for a company such data flow may be vital.

    If you store your data on your local server your admin is responsible for tuning permissions. And good admin will check access logs and so on.

    So making a desicion on such “cloud PLM” usage company needs carefully review how data is separated. I’d not believe vendor stating “it’s safe” without
    good knowledge how *exactly* the goal is archived. Statements like “it’s 100% safe” are made on marketing level. And that level often is quite far from
    understanding technical issues and some interesting technical possibilities.

    On my mind the perfect way to be sure your data will be safe is have full access to arcitecture and source code to be sure vendor doesn’t describe things prettier than they are.
    I believe OpenSource solutions may use that statement to compete with “closed source” clouds. Something like “even for desktop application that is closed source you don’t know what that does exactly. What may happen with your data somewhere there under control of nobody knows what” :)

    For example on Russian market there are such companies like NanoSoft ([a]http://www.nanocad.ru/[/a]) and RUPLM ([a]http://ruplm.com[/a]) that promotes OpenSource solutions (CAD and PLM respectively). Not sure that all is 100% open in those solutions, but anyway it seems there is some movement into OpenSource direction.

  3. Alexey says:

    If we leave apart the pros and cons of cloud computing (like security, availability etc. that have been largely discussed over the last time and referenced in some of your posts) in general, I agree with David’s comments and your remark that it is a big question how to load into such a system the customer data and customize it fast and easy.
    “How possible to evaluate PLM solution” – this is a crucial question because the biggest problem of the current situation with PLM systems in my opinion is the lack of possibility to test and evaluate a PLM system or another before spending money on it (and they are far from being cheap). For SMBs it’s a huge risk to buy a solution from Dassault, PTC or Siemens without a chance to know whether it will help to improve the business processes or maybe to make the things more complicated.

    As for cloud as a possible evaluation option for PLM – the question is why to re-invent the wheel if there are already for some years reliable and proved open source PLM solutions, like Aras Innovator that you can get for free and use with no limitations (neither for number of users nor for time) and no one will make you buy it after the evaluation period (14 days, a month or, I don’t know how much the software vendor will show a bit of generosity) ends.

  4. Awadhesh Parihar says:

    I think what Oleg is suggesting is that PLM application(s) on externally hosted infrastructure (Cloud or no Cloud) will provider a faster turnaround to package evaluation.

    Compare this with, the long sales cycles where in elaborate infrastructure/other resources within a company are deployed, data/process configuration is loaded and comparison sheets filled.

    So, isn’t this a DIY kit for potential PLM package buyers? Its a great idea for PLM package vendors, but there is a flip side as well! They will have very little control over the choices that potential PLM buyer will make!

    If the question is to enable PLM applications on cloud, not just for evaluation but for regular production, I would say that its a great oppportunity!
    Given the pervasiveness of the clouds, PLM of all the enterprise applications will benefit most. If you are too worried about the security, invest in Private cloud.

    However, there are few points about PLM on Cloud, which, at least I dont have an answer to
    a) Identity Management – How will you preserve the user identity in Hybrid clouds
    b) PLM on Cloud, a New Wine or the Same Old Wine in the New Bottle – Would you just elevate terrestrial PLM to Cloud and miss the opportunity to re-invent PLM?

    Possibly, Oleg can spin another blog for PLM on Cloud to discuss the possibilities and PLM technology evolution required

  5. David, Thanks for your comments! I have to say that you mentioned very important aspects related to software implementation. However, my idea here is just how to give customers an option “to try before buy”. Today’s practice is that most of the customers are doing so called “pilot” project. It may take up to 4-8 months until it will be done. The biggest problem is that during this evaluation process customer is going to discover a distance between marketing stuff and ugly truth about implementation. So, in my view life can be much easier if customers will be able to try a solution before. However, this is not a simple, since you need to apply all customer’s specific during this process. In my view, this addition to sales process can be beneficial. Best, Oleg

  6. Nikolaj, Thank you for comments! There are some additional thoughts about that…
    1/most of the cloud and web development today made of so called LAMP stack and this is an open source. It doesn’t make them more secured. When I agree, Open source is an interesting approach, by themselves knowing about architecture will not make solutions more secured. If I will give you CAD drawings of your car, it will not make your driving safer…
    2/in my view, it is a wrong approach to measure cloud security with a pattern of “a cloud hard disk drive”. Cloud solutions will have a different architecture and can prevent data leak in a different way rather than by only setting security policies. As such hotmail and gmail today are one of the most widely accepted web mail services, and I haven’t heard about serious leakages (if any) of data between these accounts. You can take a look on my blog from today — http://plmtwine.com/2010/04/16/6-questions-about-your-future-cloud-cadplm/
    3/there are quite many well-know and secured cloud solutions. There are few possible examples – online banking, payroll systems (ADP) and many others. I agree, one of the things that vendors need to do is to provide more explanations about what solution is and how it works.
    Best, Oleg

  7. Alexey, I agree, Open Source is another option to provide to people to “evaluate”. In case of open source, you still invest into IT and infrastructure. This is cane acceptable to bigger customers. However, for smaller customers, this solution may not work. And “a cloud option” can be more reliable. What do you think? Thanks for your comments! Best, Oleg

  8. Awadhesh, I agree that some of the customers may decide to implement a cloud based solutions. However, for that are not ready yet, evaluation on cloud can be an option. This can be especially important for smaller customers. With regards to your additional comments – the migration of PLM solution on cloud will not happen in one day. At the first stage, vendors, mostly interested to test new delivery and business models. On the later stage, there is a possibility to re-write (or re-invent) PLM with all advantages cloud solution can potentially bring. Best, Oleg

  9. Dibyaranjan says:

    Hi to All, nice to see this as cloud has been the buzz for the last few months. Major part of the enterprise PLM is the change control which is quite diff from enterprise to enterprise. How flexible cloud archritecture to handle it?

  10. Dibyaranjan, Thanks for commenting! One of the concerns related to the cloud solutions is customization. This is not specifically related to the flexibility, however, can be considered as such. In my view, cloud architecture may have lots of possible options (starting from a simple server hosting on Amazon EC2 and ending up by developing solution in fully programmable Microsoft Azure). Best, Oleg

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