PLM and New Openness

The topic of openness in PLM software isn’t new. In the past decade, I’ve been hearing lots of good and bad things about PLM and openness. Last year, I shared my thoughts with regards to PLM and openness in my post – Closed Thoughts About PLM Openness. Few days ago, I had a chance to read Ralf Grabowski was interviewing Fabien Fedida of Dassault Systems. Among all topics they discussed, one was about "new openness". Navigate your browser to the following link to read the interview. I put below some of my thoughts and references on PLM openness for the last year.

New Openness in Dassault V6 R2012

According to Mr. Fedida, Dassault is thinking how to improve the openness of their PLM software. Few examples: releasing of new APIs, adding V6 to external PDM integrations using Web Services and XML schemas. Here is my favorite passage:

Dassault is aggressively releasing API [application programming interface] calls "to the entire eco system." For example, ENOVIA V6 is now up to 3,000 API calls, 3DVIA Composer has 500, and CATIA has new ones in the area of composite manufacturing. There will be more APIs to come…

I can see the release of new APIs as something very positive. However, I’m afraid a bit about measurement of openness in the number of API calls, which reminded me how software was measured by LOC (lines of code) twenty years ago.

Aras, PLM Data "Obfuscation" and Other PLM vendors

A different perspective on openness is coming from Aras blog, which talked to us about PLM vendor’s practice of Lock-in, interoperability and need to make database and data models transparent and interoperable. Navigate your browser to read What is PLMData "Obfuscatopn" and Why Should I care?!? The following quote explains the "data obfuscation problem" and core idea behind Aras’ openness in database and data modeling technologies:

This is the way the other major PLM / PDM systems were / are designed. The database table for the Part Master is notcalled / labelled “Part” – it’s labelled “0034543908543TG324” or something else confusing like that… the data aresometime split into different tables so that access is non-intuitive. This is “obfuscation” and it’s done by design. PLMsystems have traditionally (and still are) very hard to get at the data and figure out, sometimes impossible…. Aras is an open and transparent data model that is designed in a very simple and straightforward manner. Parts are in a table calledPart”, Suppliers in a table called “Supplier”, etc. and you have complete access along with a published data dictionary. That’s very different from the other major PLM providers and one more way that we are helping companies take control of their own destiny. “

Talking about other PLM, I’d be mentioning TeamCenter PLM XML schema, which is a good example of openness, in my view. You can get more details here. It is interesting to see that the same Aras was delivered Aras’ connector to TeamCenter using TeamCenter PLM XML openness. Navigate to the following press release made by Aras back in 2009 – Aras announced connector technology for Siemens PLM Software TeamCenter.

What is my conclusion? Openness is a tricky thing, in my view. It depends on environment and in many times it is a part of the company fundamental strategies. I have to say that DS API numbers and connectors to everything are really reminded me the shelf in Apple store with connectors with all possible sources of data. At the same time, I cannot completely agree that usage of right naming in a database can solve the issue of data transparency and interoperability. The fact vendors are thinking about openness is a good sign. We will watch results… What is your take on PLM openness?

Best, Oleg

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5 Responses to PLM and New Openness

  1. The PLM Dojo says:

    Regarding the statement, “This is the way the other major PLM / PDM systems were / are designed. The database table for the Part Master is not called / labelled “Part” – it’s labelled “0034543908543TG324” or something else confusing like that.”

    Teamcenter Engineering Items are stored in a table called PITEM. The item_id attribute is stored in the pitem_id column. etc. etc. If that’s obfuscation Siemens is doing a terrible job of it. I haven’t looked at the tables for TC Unified yet, but I doubt it’s changed.

    Best regards,

    Scott

  2. The PLM Dojo says:

    hrm, re-reading my previous comment I’m afraid it may come off as a bit antagonistic, which wasn’t my intention at all. I just wanted to share some relevant information about how TC stores their data.

  3. The PLM Dojo, thanks for sharing this info! I think, the ability to hear all sides is important. For the moment, I will let Marc Lind to react. Best,Oleg

  4. Cam says:

    It may seem that opening the database is required for openness, but that is not necessarily correct. A normalized relational database is not easily understood even if the table names are functionally clear. In Agile PLM the item table is called ITEM and the BOM table is called BOM. But if you look into these tables you will find ids from other tables instead of directly readable part numbers. This is not obfuscation but proper databases design for performance and scaleability. Also, in Agile you can change a part number in the UI and it will update throughout the system maintaining any existing relationships. This is example of not using the user facing ids as the database keys.

    A more important problem with direct database access is it bypasses the business logic in the middle layer of the system. That is why APIs are used. They come in above the middle layer so integrity of the data at the business logic level is not compromised.

    Cam

  5. Cam, thanks for your insight! I have to agree with you. Sometimes, usage of normalized database is not helping you to understand the data. The opposite is not always true as well. Bottom line – I think openness is not just simple “table/attributes” naming. API, data formats, schema descriptions – all need to be counted. Just my thoughts… Best, Oleg

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