PLM Cloud Future: Back to Database?

December 30, 2010

I was reading Salesforce.com announcement made earlier this month during Dreamforce 2010 conference about introduction of a new database.com platform. I found it as an interesting turn in the future cloud platform development. You can take a look on a short video introducing the new element of Salesforce.com platform.

What is database.com is about? The main driver behind this is how to solve a problem of fast application development and deployment. Before that introducing, Salesforce spent time introducing multiple clouds- basically imitating product portfolios in a traditional application form. However, the limit of such an approach and the ability of 3rd party developers are very critical. So, database.com is coming to solve the problem.

I read Michael Fauscette’s report about Dreamforce 2010 conference. Here is an important, in my view, piece of this report Michael is talking about database.com:

Database.com and the database cloud is an interesting announcement on several fronts. In the simplest form, developers should find the offering of interest since many are looking to deploy apps that provide ubiquitous access, multi-device, multi-OS, etc. Having a cloud ready database to use for development could speed up that process. Database.com is the latest in Salesforce utilizing assets that they already had developed by putting a public front end on the asset and offering it as a product. If you think about it, when Salesforce.com started in 1999, building applications for SaaS was new and they had no available cloud platforms including the database tier. They had to develop all of these assets and now that they are mature Salesforce is opening them up for other ISV’s to use, starting with the Force.com platform and now with the Database.com offering. Database.com supports any development platform, any development language and any device. With the offering ISV’s get a scalable multi-tenant database with automatic upgrades, tuning and backup.

Platforms, Cloud, Data

Data is playing a significant role in every computing platform. We can see multiple efforts of platform players to provide data management solutions on cloud. The most significant players in this space, in my view, are Amazon, Google, Microsoft. Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) is a web service that makes it easy to set up, operate, and scale a relational database in the cloud. SQL Azure is a highly available, scalable, multi-tenant database service hosted by Microsoft in the cloud. Google and some other vendors are rolling out their own proprietary data management and database technologies.

PLM Cloud Data

Earlier in 2010 CAD and PLM vendors made some announcements and introduced applications and researches leveraging cloud. However, a very small emphasize was made in the context of how data will be places and management on the cloud. The most prolific statements were made by Dassault and SolidWorks. DS V6 platform was mentioned as a future cloud platform. In my conversation with Jeff Ray of SolidWorks, he mentioned the first cloud V6 enabled product (the current name – SolidWorks Connect) to be available later in 2011. PTC and Siemens PLM are keeping neutral positions with regards to the availability of their product on cloud.

What is my conclusion? Data becomes an important piece in the next step of cloud platform development. In my view, Salesforce.com is proving that by introducing database.com cloud layer. This data layer takes us back to a very fundamental point of granular and flexible data management introduced in PDM back 15 years ago. To manipulate data on cloud can be a next serious differentiation characteristic of future PLM cloud platforms. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Will ChromeOS be the Next Big Thing for PLM?

December 29, 2010

I read GigaOM – The network computer arrives… finally! About three weeks ago, Google launched the Chrome application store and demonstrated Chrome OS, its browser centric netbook operational system. The Google’s philosophy behind Chrome OS is to build a browser that largely designed for applications rather than a browser for documents we have today.

Google posted a full video record of the event on the Youtube. You can get it by navigating your browser to the following link. If you have some free time during the winter break, watch the Google Chrome OS show. I made few notes when watching these videos:

- Chrome OS is about web and sharing
- Chrome OS is about low cost personal computing
- Chrome OS is about simple application access

If you short on time, watch the following video to have a basic idea about Chrome OS.

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Enterprise Use Case for Chrome OS

At the time consumers might be checking options of Chrome OS vs. other alternatives like iOS and cool Apple devices, enterprises can find reasonable to adopt Chrome OS. Enterprise has a strong need for low-cost computers designed to do a certain task cheaply and without maintenance. Think about mainframe terminals in the past. So, back to the future. Chrome OS and HTML 5-based web apps that runs inside the browser are a perfect solution.

What is my conclusion? End user adoption is a significant problem for PLM software vendors. Complexity, Installation, Implementations – all these factors stops PLM proliferation in organizations. Cost is another aspect. It seems to me, Chrome OS has a potential to become a platform to deliver a value of PLM application to users in manufacturing organization.

Best, Oleg


PLM Migration and Product Data Rock-n-Roll

December 29, 2010

I read The PLM State: PLM Migration, No Data Left Behind on Zero-Wait State blog. Read it and make your opinion. Stephen Porter is discussing a very important topic of data migration. I found it interesting. This is my favorite passage:

…leaving data behind is not necessarily a bad thing since it can corrupt and handicap your new system. Spending time up front to fully assess your information is time well spent. Segmenting data and moving it over in portions is a viable strategy for facilitating cleanup and assessment. Using the target PLM system as a filter and cleaning mechanism can be an effective way to manage migration.

The conclusion made by Stephen made me think about product data value and data migration problems.

Data Value

Most of the companies I have seen for the last year are dying in the ocean of product data. Company creates data every day. It comes out of the company design and engineering, manufacturing, support, sales, marketing and service. In my view, data is one of the biggest company assets. Companies are accumulating data for a very long period of time. In some industries, legacy data retention is part of the regulation rules and requirements.

Product Data Rock-n-Roll

According to the latest survey of Cyon Research, the majority of customers are dissatisfied with PDM software. Companies are looking how to improve the way to manage product data and thinking about how to optimize and consolidate PDM packages. Here is the quote from Cyon Research 2010 Survey of Engineering Software User:

Among the major classes of software, customers are most dissatisfied with their PDM systems. More than 25% of SMBs and 30% of large firms were either in the process of switching PDM systems or had just switched within the past two years, about twice the rate of change for CAD or CAE systems. 45% of large firms are going through or have just gone through a consolidation of PDM software.

The consolidation of PDM software will obviously raise the question of data migration and potential losses of companies due to their inability to move data from a previous system. Another practice is to continue using an old system in parallel with a new system to access data. The last option often becomes a much more cost effective for a company compared to the investment needed to migrate data between systems. The result is a lot of legacy data sources and systems. In the past, I wrote about different aspects of legacy data handling. The importance of legacy data for a company is absolute and very undervalued in modern PDM/PLM systems.

What is my conclusion? The complexity of product data management systems created a situation when migration of data between systems can cause a significant loss of value. Competition between software vendors in this domain adds additional difficulties. In my view, to clean the historical data record, as a result of multiple system migrations, is a very bad idea. To have an ability to migrate product data from one system to another can be a significant product differentiation factor. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Winter Slowdown, SharePoint and Enterprise PLM Scale?

December 27, 2010

Winter slowdown is a good time to clean back logs of RSS readers and work on urgent development projects. Especially when it comes together with the snow blizzard. Take a look on the fresh picture I just made out of my house in Brookline.

I read ECM Connection post Benchmark Test Results Show SharePoint Ready For Enterprise Content Management Scale. I downloaded the white paper mentioned in this post using the following link. I never heard aboutStorSimple. According to the website, the company provides an appliance and data solution with the focus on SharePoint and Exchange. Recently I had few discussions about SharePoint and PLM on the blog and on twitter. In that context, I found the following passage from this post and related links interesting:

"SharePoint has been a great product for us since we managed 300 gigabytes (GB) of content, but there were severalcategories of content we could not let our users store in SharePoint, including CAD drawings and video, which are critical to day-to-day operations," said Shawn Partridge, vice president of information technology for Rockford Construction. "WithStorSimple we are now able to let users collaborate on this content in SharePoint, and plan to double or triple the amount of SharePoint content over the next six months. The increased performance and unlimited usage of SharePoint has had a major impact of user satisfaction."

I can see PLM companies and solution providers are making statements about SharePoint usage for the collaboration purposes. For me, it says to expand core PLM with the ability to leverage SharePoint infrastructure for content sharing. Such long time players as Siemens PLM having their TeamCenter Community product already many years, probably accumulated an experience of scalable for with SharePoint. PTC is rolling out their Windchill ProductPointsolution is an example of another PLM company having large stakes in SharePoint PLM business. Here is the interesting quote from PTC’s website:

With SharePoint as its foundation, Windchill ProductPoint exemplifies social product development, namely, the convergence of Microsoft’s social computing initiative—the use of social networking technologies and associated Web 2.0 services for business-related purposes—and product development activities. The result: A heightened degree of collaboration, productivity and effectiveness in the use and leverage of CAD data across organizations.

What is my conclusion? Microsoft is working hard to put strong stakes in the mid-range and enterprise scale organizations. 300GB is not a big chunk of content when it comes to CAD/PLM data. I wonder to see the latest experience of customers using SharePoint solution to work with heavy content (3D CAD, 2D Drawing, etc.) together with hardware solutions they are deployed for this type of content. Kind of important to understand a potential SharePoint slowdown before starting the project.

Best, Oleg


Happy Holidays from Beyond PLM!

December 23, 2010

Just a short note to wish everyone a great Holiday Season and Happy New Year!

Best, Oleg


PLM Collaboration and Email Innovation

December 23, 2010

Short note this morning. I just learned about Etacts, company that launched their solution earlier this year. Etacts wizards understood the value of email communication. The service they delivered helps people to track contact and communication in your Gmail as well as mobile devices. It made me think one more time about complicated relationships between PLM and email. At the same time, the ability to deliver messages and information via email is very natural.

I assume, Salesforce.com snagget Etact to improve their collaboration capabilities. The value of communication becomes so crucial, enterprise vendors are trying to leverage it in their applications. Etact communication patterns and email intelligence is interesting.

What is my conclusion? I think PLM companies undervalue the ability of mainstream application to improve customer adoption. The Etact example shows how to improve collaboration by leveraging connections to email and mobile devices. No allergy to collaboration. Less buzzwords. Just my opinion…

Best, Oleg


PLM Appliance Game Changer?

December 23, 2010

People making software sometimes get excited about appliance. There is something magical in the way appliance can solve a problem. Especially for people struggling with software installation, implementation, configuration, etc. I read Bloomberg’s “SAP’s Hana Speeds the Database Race”. SAP anounced their revolutionary approach just 3 weeks ago: "SAP Announces First of a New Generation of Business Applications Harnessing In-Memory Computing, Enables Companies to Re-Think Layers and Complexity of the Traditional IT Stack". SAP news made me think about what is the potential of appliance delivery in PLM business.

Who is making Appliances?

There are few companies I’d mention in the context of appliance makers. First and obvious is Google Search Appliance. Google delivers appliance to index documents inside of companies. Another interesting appliance maker isNetezza (just acquired by IBM few months ago). Another foot steps into the appliance market was done by Oracle by presenting Oracle Exadata server. EMC Greenplum is probably another business example worth looking on.

PLM and Appliance

I never heard about CAD and PLM companies stepping into Appliance business. However, with growing of application complexity some PLM development wizards may think about Appliance as a viable option. Until now, I’ve heard only about pre-configured option related to the partnership between PLM companies and HW vendors such as Dell or HP. This is a step into the possible Appliance direction.

Cloud vs. Appliance?

I hope, you have not been surprised by this comparison. The cloud option is one that can be successfully positioned against "appliance magic". The computational power of cloud is growing. The ability to run elastic infrastructure was improved over the past few years. PLM companies are flirting with cloud deliveries, for the moment. However, no mainstream solution was delivered till now for high performance global cloud deployment.

What is my conclusion? My view – Nope. Appliance will not become a game changer for PLM business. I think, appliance is a continuation of database-centric approach in PLM. This approach needs to go away and be replaced by "network approach". Cloud fits network in a much better way. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Mini PLM and Google Shared Spaces

December 22, 2010

Google Wave gone. Developers moved to Facebook. Nevertheless, Google comes with an interesting Labs project Google Shared Space. You can get more info on the Shared Space wiki pages. In addition, navigate your browser to the following two articles – PC Mag: Google Shared Space Gadgets Use Wave Technology and Google has a new social experience. The technology of usage widget code written for Google Wave without actually trying to achieve to grandiose Wave goal of re-inventing email made me think about some similar experience happens in PLM world these days.

Re-packaging and Mini PLM

I’ve wrote about re-packaging few days ago. I can see Google Wave morphed and re-packaged into SharedSpace. I can even see a repackaging formula: Google Wave – Email Replacement = Google Shared Space. As a consequence of this can come with something that can provide useful PLM-related features without building huge PLM building. PLM vendors were under immersive stress to provide the best integrated environment. Mindshare PLM vendors spent enormous budgets working on vertically integrated solutions. At the same time, Daimler situation presented some weak points of proprietary integrations and client adoption.

Applificiation and Google Wave Widgets

Take a look on the list of Google Shared Space widgets. I found it interesting. Using imagination, you can think about how to utilize them for product development tasks, voting, business process planning, etc.

I made a try with a glimpse of BPMN process. You can see, it resulted in a process I can share with other people using Google, Facebook or Twitter accounts.

What is my conclusion? The consumerization of IT – this is a process we will be watching very intensively for the next decade. It will result in multiple morphing of existing solutions into something that will remind consumer web, but will provide a value for enterprise organizations. Google SharedSpace experiment with widgets is a good try. I’m not sure what success it will bring to Google. Data is a missing point when you move SharedSpace story to an enterprise environment.

Best, Oleg


Less Services. More PLM…

December 21, 2010

I’ve been discussing with colleagues Gartner’s Predict 2011: Manufacturer Revamp and Enhance Product Lifecycle Management strategies. Without Gartner’s subscription, you cannot get the document. The short passage on Gartner’s website says: Manufacturers are demanding that PLM software vendors deliver more value for the price in 2011. Top priorities include licensing models that enable lower spending and an increased ability to support software and electronics as part of manufactured products.

Customization Problem

In the beginning of the year, I wrote the following post – Is PLM customization a data management titanic. It seems to me, the customization is a biggest problem of PLM implementations today. Everybody understood, customization has a severe impact on PLM value proposition for the short term. Customer is required to make such a customization to make PLM system up and running.

Services Dependencies

Another aspect of a customization problem is long term dependencies on consulting and services. Companies are not able to maintain their implementations and required to have long term commitment with consulting companies. Which makes a solution even more problematic.

What is my conclusion? Gartner predicts vendors will be enforced to lower price in order to justify the need of customers to spend money on customization and support services. Make sense to me. At the same time, it creates opportunities for horizontal platforms and other alternative solutions. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Engineering and Social Dashboards

December 21, 2010

I found an interesting article in San-Francisco Gate about Dashboards- “Introducing Netvibes Dashboard Intelligence Solutions: Business Intelligence Reinvented for the Real-Time Web.” I spent some time watching Netvibies video.

Dashboards
The dashboard approach can simplify information consumption. This approach is interesting and you can digest a bigger amount of valuable information in a much easier way. Dashboard is a popular view in engineering software. To provide one, you usually need to spend lots of time to prepare, test, program, etc. To automate this process, can be an interesting solution.

Social
The unique aspect of Netvibes approach is to focus on social information. These days we are overloaded with the amount of information flowing inside of organization. To be able to categorize and present it to a user is what actually needed.

Tagging
Netvibes is using the technology called “SmartTagging” to process social information. An interesting aspect of this approach is how to mix automatictagging with an ability of users to add additional ones.

What is my conclusion? We produce a lot of information inside of outside of organization. How to digest it? Netvibes provide an interesting approach. Do you think a similar approach can work in other applications? I think yes. However, the process to prepare a dashboard for a particular type of data can be long and cumbersome. Not sure I agree with the approach Netvibes is taking. However, this is the place to innovate. Just my view…

Best, Oleg


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