“True Cloud” Solution and PLM Competition

CAD, PLM and engineering software world is very competitive. Time ago, CAD vendors competed on the number of features. It is not unusual to see lists that comparing features and functions. However, nowadays the competition on features becomes useless. In the era of iPad apps and Web 2.0, you can just say that this application isn’t cool enough :). I’m almost not following competitive conversations online, and you can rarely see such a type of topics on my blog.

The following Vuuch blog article struck my attention – Vuuch is the first "true cloud" PLM application. Take a time during your 4th of July long weekend and read this article. My good fried, Alex Neihaus is taking the conversation to the level combining some competitive statements mixed with really geeky and cloud language. Here is my favorite passage from this blog:

…despite lots of strategy talks with customers and high-concept keynotes at user conferences from the big PLM vendors, the first company across the finish line with a true cloud application for the PLM community is Vuuch…

…To be a true cloud app, it’s not enough to have a web portal that users access. That’s what Gmail is. Instead of your messages being stored on an internal server behind a corporate firewall, they are stored on Google’s servers. Big deal. That ain’t what we call cloud. To really be a cloud app, the application must have an API that can be called remotely. That is, it must not only have UI, it must be callable from other applications, using cloud technologies…

I found this definition a bit shocking and decide to provide some clarification about cloud technologies that can help to readers to translate this from geeky to normal.

Cloud Computing in Various Forms

First of all, I’d like to point readers to Wikipedia’s article about Cloud Computing. It is educational and provide a comprehensive analyzes of multiple aspects of cloud applications.

Cloud computing refers to the use and access of multiple server-based computational resources via a digital network (WAN, Internet connection using the World Wide Web, etc.). Cloud users may access the server resources using a computer, netbook, pad computer, smart phone, or other device. In cloud computing, applications are provided and managed by the cloud server and data is also stored remotely in the cloud configuration. Users do not download and install applications on their own device or computer; all processing and storage is maintained by the cloud server. The on-line services may be offered from a cloud provider or by a private organization.

Modern development of cloud qualifes three levels of cloud based solution – SaaS, PaaS, IaaS.

SaaS (Software as a service) is a software deployed over the internet, available to the end user as and when wanted. It is also called sometime "software on demand". Payment is per-usage or subscription. SaaS can be considered as the oldest and mature part of cloud computing. Examples of SaaS are salesforce.com, Netsuite, Google Gmail and some others.

PaaS (Platform as a service) is a combination of a development platform and solution stack delivered as a service on demand. It provides the infrastructure that can be used to build a new software application or extend the existing ones without underlying cost of buying and deploying additional hardware and software. Sometimes, PaaS is used to extend the capabilities of existing SaaS solutions. Examples are Force.com (from Salesforce.com); Google App Engine and Microsoft Azure.

IaaS (Infrastructure as a service) delivers computer infrastructure, typically a platform virtualization environment. It includes service, software, data-center and network equipment available as a single bundle. The best known IaaS environments are Amazon EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) and some others.

PLM on the Cloud

The idea of PLM on the cloud isn’t new. The first company pioneering cloud deployment in PLM space was Arena Solution (former Bom.Com). Nowadays, vendors are talking about cloud solutions. I can see different PLM vendors are taking various strategies related to the cloud. Among 4 main companies in this space, Dassault is leading with their cloud offering based on utilization of AWS and placements of V6 platform on EC2. Autodesk strategy seems to be interesting too. On one side, Autodesk Buzzsaw is a mature application service (SaaS – according to classification above). On the other side, Autodesk is trying "cloud water" with multiple applications – some of the utilize cloud infrastructure (i.e. Amazon EC) and some of them are focusing more on mobile (AutoCAD WS). Siemens PLM and PTC are more neutral in this cloud game. Vuuch, as I learned from Alex Neihaus’ blog, is now joining PLM on the cloud race.

What is my conclusion? Competition is a tough thing. Especially, when it comes to technology. Customers are not interesting in technologies and more focused on applications these days. I’m a very happy customer of Google Apps and I don’t care if Gmail is "true cloud app" or "false cloud app". I see PLM and engineering software lives in the world of SaaS. Efficient leverage of PaaS and IaaS can be PLM cloud apps successful. Just my opinion, of course. YMMV.

Best, Oleg

*pictures are courtesy of Wikipedia and Vuuch blog

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