Technological Options for PLM on the cloud

January 30, 2012

Cloud is hyping in 2012. Coming Facebook IPO can only supercharge the future of cloud computing. Last year Autodesk announcement about Nexus 360 cloud PLM created a confirmation that large CAD / PLM vendors will be interested to leverage the power of cloud. Two weeks before AU2011, during DSCC 2011, Dassault Systems confirmed their plan to continue development and investment in their Enovia cloud platform.

It takes time, but economic of cloud computing is too good to be ignored by CIO. At the time consumer market already embraced cloud computing via multiple store (but not only) options like Dropbox etc., CIOs are just coming to discover it. Navigate to the following Gigaom article – CIOs come around to cloud storage. Here is my favorite passage:

“The sheer volume and availability needs are pushing cloud storage to the forefront,” he said. They have to look at the economics of cloud compared to the high-cost, high-maintenance data center storage model, he said… In short, even the most risk-averse C-level information executives are coming to realize that if cloud storage isn’t in their current plan, it will be in the near future.

At the same time, I can hear voices of customers and vendors about the fact cloud computing is still confusing. So, in today’s post, I decided to put some practical technological options about how PLM (and not only) can be delivered on cloud today from the technological standpoint.

Amazon

Amazon is Amazon. Flexible, public, cloud. Period. It is a perfect virtual environment with dollar meter. You pay for what you use. Despite few outages, AWS is pretty stable and can provide you a reliable base as a platform for cloud PLM. Most of PLM vendors talking these days about cloud are exploring Amazon as a first option. Amazon also provides probably the best shortcut between existing PLM architectures and future cloud models.

Microsoft Azure

Azure is a different type of cloud animal. If you’re familiar with terminology, Azure is PaaS (opposite to AWS, which is IaaS). I can see many advantages of Azure. It is single development platform, tools, multi-language support. Another positive side of Azure is that Microsoft can much easier force developers follow specific rules that can prevent application from misbehave. The perception of vendors and developers is that Azure is closed platform. I’m not saying it is true, but this is what I think many people assume when they think about "Azure cloud".

OpenStack

This is a very interesting option. OpenStack pretends to become "an Android of the cloud". Open Stack achieved critical mass to become a reality. OpenStack is IaaS environment currently supported by Rackspace and NASA. Technologically, OpenStack is a combination of storage and computing library. The easiest way to start with OpenStack is to use it onRackspace. OpenStack objective is to convert cloud into commodity, which can be beneficial for many consumers of the technology. I can see an interesting option for OpenStack and PLM. OpenStack provides a very open and economic way to establish mini-cloud centers. It can be a foundation for cloud services available for large companies having concerns about public cloud.

Cloud Databases

This is an interesting option for PLM developers. Fundamentally, PDM/PLM is all about a database today. To move PLM database on the cloud, can be an interesting option. Read my post few months ago – Will Database on the cloud supercharge PLM for Small Companies? There are few providers to be mentioned here. I’d be starting from Amazon RDS. Another option is to use databases services created by enterprise software vendors – Oracle Cloud Databases,Salesforce.com Database and few others.

Don’t Forget IBM big blue

Big Blue IBM is also going to the cloud. However, IBM is doing it differently. It called IBM Smart Cloud. You can learn here about how IBM suggests to use these services here. In a nutshell, IBM idea is to wrap whatever you have with Tivoli cloud services. IBM is attacking cloud from a software perspective and looking how to build a cloud umbrella beyond your existing data center. IBM clearly is looking how to attract "enterprise dollars" from AWS, OpenStack and Azure.

What is my conclusion? I believe we can see lots of misunderstandings with the cloud computing in a near future. CAD / PLM vendors and service providers will be able to balance in order to dance on both sides of the solutions – on premise and on the cloud. Understanding of technological options is a good foundation towards reasonable decisions about the cloud in 2012. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


From iMat to iDesk: The Future of Engineering Appliance

January 28, 2012

What do you think about the future designer workspace? I assume some of my readers remember drawing board in multiple variation when it was a primary working place for engineer and designers.

However, time is running fast, and we probably need to think about the future of engineering workspace. Few years ago, Microsoft was talking about surface computer. I was monitoring recent CES event in Las Vegas and trying to find anything that can lead me to the future trends. 82 inch Gorilla-glass multitouch display was presented by Perspective Pixel. I didn’t find any engineering and design examples of such big-screen usage, but I can imagine them.

Now let me dream a bit about the future. I was laughing some time ago, when the following set of Steve Jobs pictures was published - iPhone, iPad, iBoard, iMat.

At the same time, things can become serious. Navigate your browser to the following article in MacLife. Rethink Apple- iDesk.

What is my conclusion? Thinking 10 years ago, it was hard to predict today’s computing realities. At the time when computers soon to become accessorizes (e.g. iWatchz), the future of iDesk for engineers can become a reality in 5-7 years. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Cloud PLM and IT Basic Instinct

January 27, 2012

The amount of publications about PLM and cloud is growing. This is not surprising me. There are two reasons to that. Cloud is clearly hyping. Second – major player such as Autodesk is making their move towards the cloud. Carl Bass, Autodesk CEO announced that today’s technologies allow to Autodesk to come with a reliable and affordable PLM system. Almost at the same time, during DSCC 2011, Bernard Charles is announcing that DS invested about $2B in the development of the most sophisticated online cloud platform in the word (he was talking about Enovia platform).

I was reading ECN article Seeing Past the Clouds – PLM and what’s What? by Eric Marks. The article is speaking about trends in the cloud PLM and four possible strategies: public, private, community and hybrid. I can clearly understand the difference between public and private (read one of my previous posts – PLM Cloud: dedicated, private, public). However, the concept of community cloud is a bit complicated, since it is point on how cloud services will be used, rather on if it goes to public servers and multitenant opposite to private server placement. At the same time, I found the passage about "hybrid cloud" the most interesting. Here it is:

And lastly there are “hybrid clouds” where a private cloud can extend onto a public cloud for specific activities and on an as-need basis. The benefit of a hybrid approach that incorporates a public cloud is that it provides extra performance scalability for the private cloud that would be in use.

I can clearly see how it can make a difference. I’m sure you’re familiar with Basic Instinct movie. Let me make an association with IT. The basic IT instincts are control and cost. As I’ve been told by IT people in one of the manufacturing companies in Mid West – if the cloud is be more cost-effective for effective for us, we will be moving towards the cloud. Otherwise we stay in our racks. Hybrid model allows to keep IT on premise and extend to cloud in order to have a cost effective expansion and scale. It sounds like something that can keep everybody happy and, at the same time, it is clearly Trojan horse that cloud providers will put in organizations. As soon as such solutions will be running in production, rest of the game for cloud providers will be to leverage the economy of scale and not to blow up "security" red-herring.

Another passage from ECN article practically confirms that.

According to Edward Quinn, Mevion Medical Systems IT Manager, “to do this, Mevion is leveraging a “hybrid cloud” in order to be able to scale quickly and efficiently to distributed cloud data centers at far less cost than purchasing expensive equipment or renting/building out corporate data centers. The IT department can leverage the advanced international infrastructure already in place by leading cloud computing companies and activate and pay only for the services that its business needs.”

What is my conclusion? There are many reasons why companies can decide to move towards the cloud – better collaboration, ease of install, mobile, and many others. However, the cloud fundamental is about how to drive costs down using the economy of scale. PLM won’t be an exclusion from this game. In order to move towards that, vendors need to pass "IT police" in every organization. Hybrid cloud looks like a good weapon leveraging IT basic instincts. Just my thoughts….

Best, Oleg


Future PLM platforms and SAP / Oracle technological wars

January 26, 2012

All existing PDM / PLM technologies were created 15-20 years ago. I hope I’ve got your attention :). So, let me speak a bit more about technologies today. Past 10 years of web development for the consumer market created a significant technological foundation that cannot be ignored. Most of the enterprise software in production these days is running on the technologies created at least a decade ago.

Let’s talk first about major 4 PLM providers – Dassault Systems, PTC, Siemens PLM and the platform they use for their flagship PLM products. Enovia from Dassault technological foundation came from MatrixOne acquisition formerMatrixOne/Adra development 15-20 years ago. PTC is using Windchill coming back in 1998 from CV acquisition. Siemens PLM platform – TeamCenter is also coming from acquired and transformed product lines of Metaphase and IMAN.

Thinking about PLM platforms, you cannot avoid and not to speak about long time pure-PLM rivals coming from ERP software – SAP and Oracle. Oracle is leading the way towards full-fledged usage of Oracle Fusion platform. Despite multiple delays and re-orgs, it seems to me the way Oracle is thinking about business application platform for enterprise. Oracle is also leveraging their in-house innovation of database technologies.

I was reading an interesting article by ArnoldIT – SAP: Lemons from Lemonade for Search vendors. The article referencing technology coming from SAP called HANA. According to SAP blog:

HANA is the foundation and the core of all that we do now and going forward for existing products, new products and entirely new frontiers. We are transforming enterprise software with HANA, and we are transforming our entire product portfolio,” Sikka said in a statement earlier this week announcing that SAP HANA is now generally available worldwide. “But HANA is more than a product,” Sikka continued. “It is a new paradigm, an entirely new way to build applications. It is the basis for our own intellectual renewal internally at SAP—where we rethink how we design, build, deploy, service and sell products—and the basis for our customers’ and partners’ intellectual renewal—where we help customers rethink existing business problems and help them solve entirely new challenges using design-thinking.” (Source: The Top 10 Reasons SAP HANA Is Disrupting Larry Ellison’s Grand Plans]

Take a look on a very interesting video about HANA evolution.

Few screenshots I captured from this video (below) clearly shows the technological problem PLM vendors are trying to solve already for many years- creating a scalable business application platform capable of handling the complexity of data needed for product development and manufacturers.

Typical problem of enterprise applications.

The complexity of platforms and solutions today.

HANA way to solve the problem.

What is my conclusion? The complexity of enterprise PLM software is skyrocketing. PLM products are running on proven, but outdated platforms. My hunch – all major PLM vendors having some future technology platform projects on their back-burner. I don’t know if it comes as Enovia V7, TeamCenter Future or Creo Enterprise. What is clear to me is that PLM companies need to come with the next technological platforms to leverage last 10 years development of web and consumer space. Otherwise, they will be dismissed by newcomers. ERP vendors such as Oracle and SAP also keep stakes in this enterprise software game and need to be watched carefully by PLM players. Just my thoughts..

Best, Oleg

Freebie. SAP didn’t pay me to write this post.


Gartner, PLM Social Networking and Technological Enablers

January 25, 2012

plm-social-network.jpgI want to talk about a social-networking topic again. I was reading Gartner Top Vertical Industry Prediction for 2012 and Beyond. Spend some time reading the short summary provided by Gartner. Navigate here if you want to get a full report. Gartner emphasized significantly the value of social networking. Read this passage:

Cloud computing and social media will continue to provide industries with new avenues for effective customer communication and engagement, facilitating increased revenue and sustainable interaction with key customers…

One of the predictions related to "social networking" and PLM caught my attention.

By 2014, the five largest PLM software providers will make social networking an integral part of their solution.

So, who are these companies? In my view, top 5 are Dassault Systems, Oracle, PTC, SAP, and Siemens PLM. The question is if we need to include Autodesk in this list. After the announcement about Nexus 360 – a new cloud based PLM, we probably need to counter Autodesk at least in the list of pretenders.

PLM vendors and Social Networking platform

The companies I mentioned above already spent significant efforts in implementation social networking and social platforms. Dassault Systems development 3DSwYm platform. I wrote about it multiple times. You can start here. Oracle presented few research and development projects in this space as well. The one I noted was Oracle Web Center. PTC made significant effort to develop social platform development capabilities called Windchill Social Link. During my last visit to PTC, I had a chance to speak recently with David Blair, VP of social product development. Navigate here to read more. SAP development product called SAP StreamWork. I probably less familiar with what Siemens PLM is doing. However, TeamCenter Community product is clearly focused on some sort of social networking and collaboration. You can read more here – Siemens augment social product development.

Social Platforms and Technological Enablers

I found a question of what technology PLM vendors are using to implement social networking and social collaboration quite fascinating. From user perspective the functionality provided in these platforms can be considered as very similar. Some of the vendors – Dassault, SAP, Oracle development their own platforms. PTC and Siemens PLM are relying on Microsoft SharePoint as a technological platform. In that context, I’ve read the following interesting article – 5 myths about SharePoint as a Enterprise Social Platform. Have a read and make your conclusion. The following passage was one of my favorites:

When SharePoint 2010 arrived in the marketplace, the platform included new social capabilities to improve productivity and collaboration. However, as the consumer social web exploded, it became clear that the 2010 platform only provided the basic building blocks of social computing.

What is my conclusion? A little more than two years ago, I asked a question – How many social platforms we need for enterprise? In my view, this question is still valid. The run of all PLM vendors towards developing social platforms will re-create one of the existing problem in enterprise software – silos and fragmentation. I’d expect customers to ask questions about what platform to use in case more than one vendor involved and how to integrate social platform capabilities coming from multiple providers. So, what do we have – an old problem with a new face?. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image credit Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


PLM: Mobile-Optimized Sites vs. Mobile Apps

January 24, 2012

For most non-technology-savvy people, the title of this post can sound like a joke. Mobile apps are trending today. App store, Android stores, Microsoft is planning to re-born Windows phone with future versions of Windows and mobile app. How it can die? Looking on this following graph from article (Apps user overtakes web) on Mashable last year, you can hardly predict something wrong may happen to mobile apps.

However, among technology people the discussion about apps vs. web is not unusual. Those of use, who stays long enough in the business, still remember multi-platform discussions of Unix vs. Windows. You can catch up on my previous post on this topic - PLM and Multi-platform development. I did catch the following picture on on the web polls (unfortunately lost the link). The context of the audience was development people. This is indeed important to mention. You can clearly see people are focusing the development on mobile-oriented sites.

Mobile-Optimized Sites vs. Mobile Apps

The development side of this story is simple. Mobile Apps is our back to multi-platform development. It cost additional money and requires more complicated development organization compared to mobile-optimized websites that can provide some pain relief. You can take a look on a good comparison of two strategies on devbridge blog. I believe, the discussion is on the way, and it is far from a final word. You certainly need to remember the right keyword for the future - HTML 5.You can read more about this on one of my older posts.

What is my conclusion? I’m going to make my conclusion specifically talking about PLM mobile apps. PLM vendors followed technological and consumer trends to develop mobile applications. It sounds as a very important strategy these days, which cause huge interest from companies, users, analysts and industry watchers. Taking into account the long development cycle of enterprise applications and speed of adoption in manufacturing domain, I think software companies better have been not only short – term, but some longer-term development strategy that will allow them to jump to the next trend when it comes. For the moment, let’s rock available PLM mobile apps on iTunes app store and Android Market. I’m certainly interested to hear what do you think. And if you’re developing PLM apps, I like to know what is your opinion. Speak your mind.

Best, Oleg


CAD & PLM CEOs and Social Channels

January 22, 2012

Brian Shepherd joins twitter. Earlier this week, I learn from Alan Belniak (@abelniak) twitter, that he helped Brian Shepherd at PTC to get going on twitter. First of all – welcome on Twitter, Brian! This event made me think and search for other CAD / PLM execs on twitter.

The topic about what is the appropriated “social level” for CEOs and other execs is widely discussed. Many blogs and books provide multiple recommendation about how to manage an appropriate social CEO image. Navigate to the following link to read series of Forrester posts – Social CEO. You can find many other publications about the same topic. Speaking about execs on social channels, I can bring quite interesting publication about Google’s execs on Google+.

Carl Bass, Autodesk CEO is on twitter, and I can confirm he is a real person. I followed his tweets during past AU2011 and can confirm he is real on twitter.

I found an interesting twitter account – Jim Hepplemann Ghost. The account is actually real fake of Jim Hepplemann.

I didn’t find twitter accounts of Bernard Charles and Tony Affuso.

What is my conclusion? I think the decision to join social channels is personal and corporate at the same time. The most important is personal commitment. Forrester provided reasonable recommendation, in my view. So, I’m glad to see “social CEOs” and other execs and, at the same time, can understand others. Just my thoughts… YMMV.

Best, Oleg


PLM, Expensive Documentation and Cheap Texbooks

January 21, 2012

Apple is going to eduction. Bam… It sounds fantastic. Textbooks are on the iPad. I was screening few publications about this event yesterday. One of them specifically caught my attention – Publisher Terry McGraw on Steve Jobs and Digital Textbooks: “This Was His Vision”. Another one from Mashable – Why the iPad Won’t Transform Education — Yet. You can ask me – how is iPad educational story is related to PLM? Here is what I’m thinking…

Technical Publication

The topic of product documentation is very important to manufacturing companies. Customer demands with regards to the product documentation are growing. It should be rich and precise. The stuff that was completely appropriate 5 years ago, today is obsolete. Customers are interested how to have a high-quality documentation, technical instructions and maintenance manuals. I’d like to quote Jim Brown of Tech-Clarity. Here is the passage from his paper "The business of 3D Technical communication":

3D product communication goes beyond flat, static documents to incorporate richer, interactive, more realistic representation of products.

PLM vendors started to think about applications in this field already 5-6 years ago. It ended in multiple acquisitions and partnerships. PTC acquired Abotext back in 2006. Dassault acquired Seemage (aka 3DVIA Composer) in about the same timeframe. I can bring few more examples.

Tablet Computer and Technical Publication Platforms

iPad introduction and following golden rush of alternative post-PC platforms are presented new opportunity to PLM software vendors. You can see how companies are trying to approach a tablet platform for delivery of technical publication stuff. Below you can see two examples – one from PTC Arbotext and the second one is coming from Cortona3d

PLM and Technical Documentation

In my view, the value of product documentation and technical publicaton is clear. An interesting point if you think will be possible to convert high-quality product documentation into sellable assets. Actually, in my view, companies can try to do so. What if manufacturing companies will start selling (or renting) product documentation the same way Apple plan to sell textbooks? I don’t think it is crazy.

What is my conclusion? Do you think PLM vendors, and their partners will start buying iPad maintenance textbook on the iPad? Who knows? At least, it becomes obvious that sometime the most successful business models are sounds like a crap in the beginning. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Aras Corp: Different PLM and New Open Office

January 19, 2012

I’ve been visited Aras Corp. office yesterday night. Marc Lind, Aras VP Marketing invited me to join Aras Open House celebration of new office. Aras Corp. located in Andover MA stays outside PLM highway, but still relatively close to my place. In addition to having a Aras office tour with Marc Lind, I had a chance to speak with other members of Aras team and guests.

New office and new plans

Aras has very ambition plans for 2012. Quoting Marc Lind, Aras plans to double headcount of their worldwide employees. From what I’ve seen, Aras has lots of empty seats in the office. So, you want to send your resume to Aras – it is a time to apply your resume (:)).

The layout of the office contains lots of open space. Following my previous conversation with Jeff Ray during my visit to new Dassault System office in Waltham, MA, I can see it as a trend among the companies to cultivate collaboration and team work.

Open Source and Different PLM

I was tracking Aras PLM for last few years. You probably had a chance to read some of my posts about Aras. The main message I’ve heard back last year and before was about Enterprise Open Source. Aras differentiated themselves as a PLM company using Open Source and Free license distribution model. This time, I’ve heard a slightly different story. In a nutshell, it sounds like “Aras is different PLM”. What stands behind? Aras claims it is about technology, business model and attitude. According to the members of Aras team, Aras technology is competitive against TeamCenter, Enovia and Windchill- major PLM vendors. Enterprise Open source business model allows to them to decrease cost of sales and build community of customers and partners.

What is my conclusion? I found Aras more focused on the competition with major PLM suppliers – TeamCenter, Enovia and Windchill than before. To me, it is good and bad signs at the same time. It is presents the level of maturity of Aras platform and solutions – it is interesting to see how emerging platform like Aras can compete with mature products coming from large top 3 PLM vendors. Even so, I’d like to hear more about Aras community. I found some community examples such as “feature roadmap voting” interesting. However, I haven’t seen any public numbers about how Aras community is growing. Strong community base can become a much stronger competitive factor for Aras than a feature by feature comparison with TeamCenter and other PLM vendors. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Freebie. Aras didn’t pay me to write this post. However, I enjoyed free food and beverages during Aras reception.

 


PLM and Process Tools: Opportunity or Complication?

January 18, 2012

I’d like to talk about BPM again. I was writing about BPM in the past. Navigate to this link to take a look on few pasts topics related to Business Process Management. Almost four years ago, I asked a question – Should PLM develop its own process tools? I think, the question is still not answered. Here is a quote from my historical article about what is the place PLM can take in the BPM game:

So where does PLM play into this game? I see two possible options: (1) PLM providers will focus on the development of process management tools; (2) PLM providers will allow the integration of PLM information and IP (Intellectual Property) into existing process tools provided by platforms. I believe that option (1) will be very helpful in integrating PLM systems into the enterprise software already available within the vast zoo of software within the organization, option (2) can simplify deployment and and keep the implementation of PLM simple.

I was reading Beth Stackpole Design News article PLM startup targets efficiency. It is a short article. Have a read and make your opinion. Don’t miss also comments to the article too. Based on what Kenesto is saying, manufacturing companies are still looking for good process management solutions. I found the following passage interesting:

…PLM’s tight ties to CAD still limit its use beyond engineering — a fact Kenesto is hoping to avoid with its process-automation-for-anyone approach…. traditional PLM is basically a process automation tool that is too complex to use effectively, prompting many users to circumvent it, using spreadsheets or email to share critical product data….Kenesto isn’t a replacement for PLM systems, but rather a different approach for solving the process automation piece of facilitating engineering workflows. Kenesto, which is cloud-based software, employs conventions that most users understand, like sending and receiving attachments, so it feels in many ways like a familiar email system…

The idea seems to me simple and interesting. Kenesto will be on the cloud, disconnected from CAD, providing graphical DIY tools to engineers to route documents and messages.

BPM and PLM: Integration Complexity

One of the biggest problems of BPM in the past was a problem of integration. Tools like SharePoint, WebSphere, and many others provided quite powerful solution to support processes in your organization. However, when companies tried to implement it, organization faced significant complexity to integrate existing “content oriented” systems (i.e. ERP, CRM, PLM) with process management tools (BPM). Most of BPM tools ended up acquired by large platform tools, and you can find them as part of larger platforms.

What is my conclusion? It seems to me “cloud” is a game changer in Kenesto play. By introducing solution in the cloud, Kenesto will try to simplify the process of integration with existing CAD, PLM and other enterprise tools. DIY approach can simplify IT life in organizing engineering processes. At the same time, it can introduce a challenge for IT trying to rule application and business processes and not interested to give it up to end users. The simplicity claimed by Kenesto can be another game changer. Kenesto is searching for beta customers. You can read more here. You can watch Kenesto in action to prove it right. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Disclosure: I’m serving as an external advisor to Kenesto


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