PLM and Cloud – Hold the Promise?

December 18, 2010

Cloud is trending. This is not a first time I’m touching the topic of cloud. During the past days, I had lots of healthy debates about different topics around PLM, Technologies and Innovation. Surprisingly, the topic of SaaS and Cloud didn’t come much into this discussion. Israel wasn’t cloudy during the day of COFES Israel event. Maybe it was a reason. Who knows? Autodesk R&D Israel and Dassault Solidworks presentations mentioned the influence of cloud, but only from the standpoint of mobility and device diversification. Originally, I wanted to spend some time speaking with PLM+ in Israel – a startup company working on a new on-demand solution for PLM. Unfortunately, a startup business and events are not always going together. I decided to spend some time and out my thoughts about PLM, Cloud, On-Demand and market demands.

PLM and Enterprise Software

What happens with enterprise software these days. Think about 2000s. The corporate life in 2010 is not much different from how it was in 2000. Multiple applications, interoperability problem, tons of Excel files and people who need to get a job done. Back in 2001, companies accepted long roadmaps. It is a different story now. Two factors become the most critical in Enterprise Software – the cost of implementation and cost of change. Another thing is a demand for simplicity. Simple is always winning. The last ten years of consumer software revolution created a huge demand for a change in enterprise software. PLM is strongly associated with two words – complex and expensive. Mindshare PLM leaders as well as smaller PLM vendors are reacting. You can see PTC Creo, Aras Open Source and some other initiatives are trying to break a perception of complex and expensive PLM software. It is also interesting to see how Autodesk is making an effort to solve PLM problems without calling themselves PLM.

PLM and Cloud Promise

People have different understanding of what cloud means. I can probably break it into three main category. 1- Software available from the cloud (i.e. Salesforce). 2- Access to data anywhere (i.e. Dropbox). 3- Elastic computational power (i.e. AWS). I can see companies are trying to embrace cloud technologies. They do it differently. Software access for the cloud is a place where companies are hold the promise (i.e. Dassault cloud offering planned in 2011) or experimenting with tools (i.e. Autodesk Lab projects, including acquisition of Israeli Visual Tao and creating AutoCAD WS). The security conversation is dominant when you are talking about data on the cloud. The advantages of data access are obvious. However, regulation and company concerns, even if it looks like a red-herring, are still dominant in these discussions.

Cloud and Cost

Will cloud solution be cheaper? This is an answer press, analysts and users are trying to get from vendors. However, there is no straightforward answer on the side of vendors. I think, one of the main reasons is a very unclear situation related to the marginal cost of cloud services. Big cloud players, such as IBM, Amazon, HP, Google and IBM are playing with buzzwords- cloud servers, private cloud, data centers. Software vendors are experimenting with all of them. I don’t see much clarity in this space.

PLM and SaaS

If you think, about PLM and SaaS (or OnDemand), you need to put your hands on the experience of Arena Solution. Re-branded bom.com, started during the late 1990s, Arena is providing PLM on demand solution for the last decade. One of their struggles was to provide an appropriate connection to design systems. As a result they focus on industries less dependent on heavy CAD experience. PTC and IBM also made some experiments in this space. I found interesting to learn about Autodesk BuzzSaw experience (even if this not presented as PLM solution, the SaaS experience is interesting). To analyze the advantages of PLM on Demand, I’d suggest to think about the potential benefits of SaaS and try to apply it into PLM space.

Anywhere access - this is an obvious benefit. Gmail is a good analogy. Is it possible to have an access to a corporate application using VPN tunnels and other channels? I think, yes. So, it will not play as a significant differentiation factor, especially for big companies.

No capital investment and cost - this is a big thing. The usage of a subscription model is a significant financial benefit. However, only if it comes to a comparable cost to a solution to be implemented on a premise. Companies will be easy to make their own calculations and decision about buy vs. rent.

Monthly payment obligation – this benefit is only true if you make a monthly contract. Many SaaS/OnDemand solutions, in fact, are signing yearly contracts. In this case, the benefit of payment is diminished within the time. In addition, data is another element that can decrease an effect of “pay-as-you-go” solution. If you decide to move, you need to keep an existing system at least until you transfer all your data between systems. SaaS/OnDeman model is also a potential data locker with a more complicated way to access the data for export/import purposes.

Faster implementation – most of SaaS solutions are very simple. Therefore, fast implementation speed is obvious. However, it is complicated in PLM. Nobody is running their manufacturing shop in the same way. The ability to provide a match to customer needs is a key. The balance of flexibility and OOTB solution is an easy, but a very complicated answer. OOTB decreases a potential list of customers. Flexibility can also increase an overal solution cost.

Scale-Up and Efficiency - this is an obvious benefit for companies that have no abilities to invest in data centers and hosted servers. The ability to raise a number of users can be a nice feature. However, the question of cost will be probably a key one to decide if it is worthwhile.

What is my conclusion? Cloud is an interesting these days. It provides a multi-dimensional opportunity for customers and business to optimize the solution. Can it solve main problems of manufacturing companies looking how to get the job done? Probably yes. However, not in a straightforward way. I can see a cloud as a very dynamic place. To be able to provide a solution fast, react on customer feedback is probably one of the key factors to success in this space. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PLM Innovation and Packaging Trajectories

December 18, 2010

Innovation is a popular word these days. It sounds modern and trending. Everybody wants to jump to this bandwagon. I found myself reading and listening a lot about innovation during last time. The best book, I can recommend you is Peter Druker’s bestseller – Innovation and Entrepreneurship. It was re-printed many times. You can buy one on Amazon for a price less than one buck. However, the book is exceptional.

I spent Thursday listening and talking about innovation in engineering software during COFES Israel Forum in Hilton Tel-Aviv. You can get an idea about who attended by navigating your browser to COFES Israelwebsite. Brian Shepherd of PTC brought the idea of packaging in PLM. It made me think about some interesting trajectories related to the innovation in general and more specifically in PLM.

Packaging and Roles

The idea is to split application into pieces and providing different applications to people in a company. It sounds to me as a blend of the old “role-based” portfolio and trending App Store ideas. The fundamentals of this model are very healthy, in my view. However, the execution of this “re-packaging” is mostly important. The ability of apps for inter-play and exchange information is one of the most critical aspects. The second will be usage of heterogeneous Apps coming from different vendors. As you can see the backside of flexible packaging is the same data problem. PTC has something called Common Data Model. You can listen Mike Campbell of PTC is speaking here about Creo Common Data Model. It will be interesting to see how it will be different from Dassault V6 platform.

Enterprise Open Source

Another idea how to charge people for PLM in a less painful manner. Aras Corp. is leading this PLM innovation. You can get PLM software for free – no associated license cost. However, you will be able to get extra services by paying maintenance, subscription and services. This model, re-package a very complicated PLM sales process as well lower entry barrier. An additional aspect of this innovation is to prove software maturity by enabling people to run free download and evaluation. The last is only half true, in my view. Yes, you can download for free. However, your organization time is not free. In most of the situations, you can have a free PLM software for evaluation from other PLM vendors.

Services

This business model started many years ago as ASP model. Later, it was renamed as “on-demand” and SaaS. Now this model is associated with so called “cloud” platforms. The leader of SaaS offering, San-Francisco based Salesforce.comis selling the software by charging service money per month/year contracts. PLM early innovators in this space is bom.com (later re-branded as Arena Solutions). To sell services is an interesting approach and provide some financial benefits. However, PLM by nature removes one of the most strong advantages of SaaS model – flexibility to stop service at any time. At the time your data will be locked into PLM database, you need to pay to both providers until you will transfer your assets in an alternative system.

What is my conclusion? Reading the same book by Peter Druker, you can find, innovation may happen in different places. Product, Technology, Services, Business Processes, Logistic and Business Model. Edward Lewis from Hollywood fairy tale Pretty Woman is buying up businesses to break them up and sell them off in piece with a profit. It is hard to sell large PLM Platform these days. PLM vendors are trying to find an alternative model, which will be more successful in 2010s. Services, Open Source, Re-packging – all these models have one single root – to find an appropriate way to match customer needs and product offering. The innovation is in a business model. However, the simplicity of products is probably the key to success.

Best, Oleg


PLM and COFES Israel: People Just Want to Drink a Beer!

December 18, 2010

Last three days I spent my time with COFES Israel. Navigate your browser to the following link to see agenda and people attended the event. The main topic of the event was about Software for Engineering and Innovation. Videos and presentations from the event will be available later. Two days before early COFES attendees from outside of Israel had a chance to visit Israeli companies and office of some foreign companies located in Israel such as Microsoft Israeli R&D Center in Herzlia,IBM Israel Lab in Haifa.

I visited Israeli company OptiTex providing CAD and manufacturing solutions for textile and fashion industry. Spend some time on their website with such a great set of examples of their technological innovation. I specially liked the red dancing dress by OptiTex.

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Andreas Vlahinos of Advanced Engineering Solutions presented some interesting statistics and visualization showing income per person comparison and growth between Israel and USA for the last seventy years.

Fielder Hiss of Dassault SolidWorks spoke about platform shifts, predictive computing and sustainability. The following slide definitely shows you the inside preparation of SolidWorks to run their product on any device.

I gave my top rank to the slide from the presentation of Brian Shepher of PTC. The complexity is one of the biggest problems of PLM. However, like Brian said – people just want to drink a beer. In my translation – people just want to get a job done.

PTC has some ideas about how to change the status quo. Their new Creo products supposed to solve this problem in the future. Navigate to the following link to read my thoughts about PTC Creo.

I’m going to give some additional thoughts later today about PLM innovation inspiring talks I had during this week in Israel. Best, Oleg


CAD, PLM and Pragmatic Cloud: Do Less

December 15, 2010

The conversations about future CAD and PLM solutions is not a new thing these days. I decided to re-read some of my previous writing about cloud and find it interesting in today’s context: Where is PLM shortcut to the cloud? You can read one more blog post – Putting your design on the cloud.

Earlier today, I had a chance to see a short presentation by Tal Weiss of Autodesk. Tal made it during my visit Autodesk R&D office in Tel-Aviv. It was part of my COFES Israel program today. Tal and his wiz team was part of acquisition Autodesk made to find a new and promissing technology in the cloudy space.

The presentation made me think about what I called in this post – Pragmatic Cloud. At the time industry is waiting for big game-changing technologies and product to come, I found that CAD and PLM vendors are started to introduce some solutions, slowly and quietly. I wanted to mention few of them.

Autodesk WS

Autodesk is doing some impressive job by introducing multiple apps that can be available from the cloud. Autodesk WS is one of them. According to Tal, the mission is simple – to make AutoCAD drawing available form the cloud for everybody. You can see the following video of Autodesk WS to get an impression.
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Also, you can see a pic of Tal during his presentation in Autodesk R&D Israel office today.

Dassault 3DVIA Mobile

Another “almost cloud” solution. Dassault released 3DVIA Mobile App for iPad. It was available long time as iPhone app. Now it was shifted. This is a small step into the direction to make CATIA and SolidWorks informtion available separately from the desktop / laptop.

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I’m still waiting to see some major cloud announcements from DS on the coming SolidWorks World 2011 in San-Antonio in six weeks.

Teamcenter for iPad

Another app that presented some mobility and disconnected data access. TeamCenter App for iPad. The application is actually made by TeamCenter partner- BCT Technology AG. You can see an impressive video below.

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PTC on the Cloud Map

I didn’t find any cloud and/or mobile app available for PTC products. I found PTC behaves with a high level of ignorance in the “cloud” space. The latest thing, I’ve heard from PTC is that cloud is a delivery mechanism and it will be available to PTC customers when they will ask for that.

What is my conclusion? I think, “do less” and “do small” is a right strategy to adopt the cloud. The Autodesk seems to me mostly prepared for that. Cloud, Web, Mobile – all these things are very “tool oriented” today. So, to have some pragmatic tools, can be a good starting point. Just my opinion…

Best, Oleg


CAD-less PLM Puzzle

December 14, 2010

Ask people about the connection between CAD and PLM and you will discover a very interesting thing. In the past people draw a bold line connection CAD and PLM environment. The connection between CAD and PLM is not very strong. CAD was considered as a founding layer in all PLM strategies, today impose lots of restrictions and complications in the implementation of PLM strategies.

CAD Foundation Layer

CAD data management is one of the historical roots of modern PLM. It was very straightforward to start everything with CAD. The starting pitch was to take CAD data under control. CAD provides the initial point and source of design information in the organization. Many PDM and PLM companies used to implement CAD integration modules first and then expanded the offering beyond this point. It was also an easy part to get into manufacturing organizations via people involved into design and CAD.

Business Processes

The opposite side of PLM development actually was to think more about product development and organizational processes. In the beginning, it was very ERP-ish to think about PLM as a "process management story". However, more people started to see processes, change management, quality management and other similar, but disconnected from CAD topics as an important trend in their PLM strategies.

Connecting Dots

One of the important aspects of a product development process is to be able to connect dots between different departments in an organization. These days you cannot optimize product development without analyzing various aspects of product development – design, engineering, manufacturing, sales support. CAD is one of the elements in this chain. You cannot take CAD out of the overall product development story. However, to balance between strong dependencies on CAD and process optimization seems to me a right path to go.

PLM New Entrants

There are not many new entrants in the PLM world. Very few new companies were started in this space for the last decade. There is one very important question you need to ask. How much effort and focus new PLM company need to spend around the CAD? I don’t think there is a clear answer. Few new companies in the PLM world started completely disconnected from CAD and, later, discovered a need to put their hands into CAD-related stuff. Those companies that kept their eyes open to CAD world were more successful in the past. Industry is also an important aspect when you think about your CAD-roots.

What is my conclusion? CAD is obviously important. It represents a lot of IP in every manufacturing organization. It is hard to think how you can effectively manage a product lifecycle without putting your hands deeply inside of what people are doing in CAD. However, the technological aspects of CAD data management are very complicated. CAD vendors are playing hard to keep CAD as their competitive instrument, which creates additional entry barriers in front of new PLM development initiatives. Do you think CAD-less PLM has a future? An important question to ask, in my view.

Best, Oleg


PLM Out-of-the-Box: Misleading or Focusing

December 13, 2010

Picture-211-300x240.pngI’ve seen a new splash in the discussion around PLM out-of-the-box during the last couple of weeks. The initial hit was done by Marc Lind of Aras publishing his OOTB PLM: Hit of Miss. The name of the post is doing well from the standpoint of Google’s keyword search and then was followed by multiple comments and additional blogs. One of them, Jos Voskuil’s PLM and Flexibility is a great reading. You can enjoy various opinions about what is more important – "ready to go" functionality or flexibility.

Early PDM/PLM experience

The initial PDMs were heavy customized. It started as a database managing CAD files. Later PDM/PLM explored a possibility to manage more data as well as control more processes in organizations. However, the lesson learned during that time was simple – you cannot replicate PDM/PLM experience in such a way. Too complex and too expensive.

PLM Out-of-the-Box

Following early experience, industry gurus decided to come with so called "best practices" or Out-of-the-box" implementations. It seems to solve few problems in one hit – to provide a starter package as well as simplify implementation. The obvious success of such approach was in a demo time. Marketing did an excellent job rolling out OOTB features and videos. However, the implementation was hard-landing. I heard about multiple replacement of "PLM Limited Editions" with full PLM packages in order to deliver a promise.

The House of Balance

After all years and multiple options, the discussion of Flexible vs. OOTB seems to me an endless. You obviously don’t want to repeat all implementation steps from the beginning every time. So, your PLM system needs to provide some mechanisms ready to use. On the other side, you need to be ready that every customer will introduce some needs that will require you to make a chance. You will hardly achieve your goals if your system won’t support it.

What is my conclusion? The both sides of this conversation are wrong in my view. You cannot go totally out-of-the-box, since you will obviously miss the target or deliver to a very small customer audience. However, extreme flexibility can cause a complexity on the implementation side, which can be good for few big implementations, but obviously won’t be productive for a mainstream. To find a good balance is a right option to go. It seems to me, PLM industry is still looking for this balance. Just my opinion.

Best, Oleg


Do We Need To Coach PLM Backbone with NoSQL?

December 10, 2010

I’d like to take my Beyond PLM conversation away from social and collaboration trend. Let’s think about bits and bytes of data, delivery technology and cloud. Navigate your browser to the following link – Microsoft Coaches NoSQL Option for Azure Cloud. I found this writing interesting. Microsoft play around NoSQL indicates that SQL Server may have some visible alternatives even inside Microsoft Azure Cloud.

What does it mean in PLM? Today’s products are heavy users of SQL option. DS V6 made usage of SQL backend to drive CATIA. Few days ago, I posted about Windchill technological trajectories. CIMData is saying Windchil has 900 SQL Tables and evolving forward. Reading Deelip yesterday writing about PTC from Shanghai PTC event, I found the following statement important:

(Q) Does PTC have any plans regarding cloud computing? (A) We view cloud computing as a delivery mechanism and we will take advantage of it when it solves some real problems. An example is Windchill and it does make use of the cloud today.

Does it mean PLM SQL technologies is a step ahead of MS SQL server? I don’t think so. I can think about potential SQL problems of PLM backbones on the cloud. PLM mindshare leaders will have a good partnership agreement with Microsoft. Does it mean Microsoft Azure NoSQL stuff will be immediately available for PLM platforms? How much re-writing it will be requiring from developers of existing PLM products?

So, what is my conclusion? It seems to me PLM R&Ds are experimenting with a lot with cloud PLM these days. Next year can be a year of some big introduction in this space. The cloud infrastructure is one big question mark. Some of PLM vendors are developing new products. Some other vendors (i.e. PTC) are considering cloud as just yet another delivery option. Time will show…

Best, Oleg


Social PLM and Email Lock-in?

December 9, 2010

I found the following WSJ Pool interesting. Will you use your Facebook’s email service as you primary email? You can read about this poll in the following eWeek article. Navigate to this link to read discussion and vote. At the time I voted the result was pretty clear- email is one the most successful lock-in application.

The results of this vote made me think again about the future of collaboration and social PLM. Recently, I wrote about Facebook’s message service – Social PLM Inbox and Changing Paradigms. My conclusion back few weeks ago was clear. Social PLM is taking on email. This is a very ambitious take. The WSJ pool made it clear – email is sticky and despite the huge success of Facebook is still here.

How To Break Email Lock-in?
I was thinking about how social PLM can break email lock-in for the people using email in design collaboration. The social link is a possible ice-breaker. People value ease of use and data connections. The main place where email gets crazy is when you need to connect people’s communication and relevant CAD files. I can see an attempt of companies PLM space to make it happen. PTC Social Link, Dassault Social Innovation, Vuuch. This is my short list of trials.

What is my conclusion? To break an email lock-in can be a big deal. Will it happen or not? People are asking this question all the time. You need to think about really sticky application to make it happen. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


GSA and How to Reduce PLM Collaboration Cost?

December 9, 2010

Navigate your browser to the following link. GSA is moving to Google Apps. According to the Google blog, US GSA becomes a first US federal organization is moving their 17’000 employees to start using Google Apps for email and document collaboration. Here is the quote:

By making this switch, GSA will benefit in a number of ways. Modern email and collaboration tools will help make employees more efficient and effective. Google Apps will bring GSA a continual stream of new and innovative features, helping the agency keep pace with advances in technology in the years ahead. And taxpayers will benefit too—by reducing the burden of in-house maintenance and eliminating the need to replace hardware to host its email systems, GSA expects to lower costs by 50 percent over the next five years.

Why I think it is important? The collaboration cost is high. Time burden during the work on emails and other non-efficient collaboration tools is enormous. Google is making a point about how possible people can save some money out of collaboration. The same blog posts states move to Google will lower cost by 50%. The amount of inefficient emails in manufacturing company is skyrocketing. Thinking about a potential combination of Google Spreadsheets, Emails with some engineering and manufacturing stuff can make sense.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg

[tag PLM, Collaboration, Google, GSA]


CAD, PLM and Technological Trajectories

December 8, 2010

I read CIMData article Windchill Evolving Lineage. Navigate your browser on the following link. I found this read interesting. CIMData is an analytical company working primarily with PLM providers and their customers. This article is a nice explanation about PTC technological evolution. Two months ago PTC announced new Creo products on their Lightening event in Boston. Since then, CAD and PLM community is discussing intensively what actually PTC is inventing in Creo. Windchill was the product that wasn’t mentioned much during the Creo event. The following article just confirms that PTC is continuing to build their PDM future on top of Windchill foundation. I specially liked this passage from the CIMdata article.

…new applications, which all leverage the Windchill foundation layer, can only be as good as the foundation upon which they have been built. And as we all know, a weak foundation cannot support what has been constructed on top for long without either collapsing or being redeveloped. Fortunately, PTC has understood this basic truth for years and has a long history of evolving Windchill’s foundation and the solutions that have been built on it. The bottom-line is Windchill and the 900+ SQL tables that exist across all of its modules, while still a 100% Internet-based solution, have been evolving for years. A close study of Windchill shows that it is not the same solution it was ten years ago, and that’s a good thing.

I found a information about 900 SQL tables interesting and wanted to read more about what changed in Windchill. Based on additional information the following examples presented changes in Windchill infrastructure over the time: Info*Engine (EAI module acquired from Axilium) was re-written in Java, UML/Rational Rose related implementation moved into Java, incorporation of Open Source technologies to replace commodity code and significant investment into Microsoft’s technologies such as SharePoint and Project Server.

Technological Trajectories
I see interesting trajectories in development of PLM and enterprise technologies over the past decade and even more. There are two main characteristics on these trajectories: evolution and convergence. The reasons for that are slow changes in manufacturing companies (especially big ones) and multiple acquisitions that were made by enterprise companies for the last 10 years. Companies were locked by commitments to existing customers, existing architectures acquired from different companies. Nevertheless, I can see CAD/PLM companies made an effort to introduce technological innovation. As such, Dassault released V6 with the revolutionary proposal to manage CATIA data by using MatrixOne data engine, UGS/Siemens PLM introduced a new version of their TeamCenter Unified product and now PTC is going to come with new Creo product line.

Consumerization of Enterprise IT
This is an interesting trend, in my view. Lots of technologies were developed for the last ten years in consumer software space. These technologies may create a significant pressure on today’s enterprise software providers. Open Source, Cloud, Social – this is probably a short list only of possible technological influences. We can see some traction in CAD and PLM companies in trying to leverage these technologies. However, as I mentioned before slow changes in enterprise manufacturing companies make these implications less visible in a short period of time.

What is my conclusion? Existing PLM software is developed using 15-20 years old technologies. 900 SQL Tables in Windchill is impressive information. I believe other PDM/PLM products are similar. What will be the next technological trajectory in the development of these applications? Will Windchill technology evolution CIMData presents in the article is a right path to go? What will allow to decrease a cost of the future PLM software? Right questions to ask, in my view.

Best, Oleg


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