PLM and Open Source Checking Tips

Open Source Software (OSS) is a wonderful thing. For the last decade, open source changed the world of software development. PLM industry has their own open source rock stars. While I can see less hype around ‘open source’, I keep watching open source initiatives in PLM space. One of the things that very often debated in open source community is the definition of open source. In my view, the definition of open source provided by Wikipedia is getting better. Here is the one I captured today:

Open-source software (OSS) is computer software that is available in source code form: the source code and certain other rights normally reserved for copyright holders are provided under an open-source license that permits users to study, change, improve and at times also to distribute the software. Open-source software is very often developed in a public, collaborative manner. Open-source software is the most prominent example of open-source development and often compared to (technically defined) user-generated content or (legally defined) open content movements.[1]

However, this definition is still very vague. In order to prevent usage of the open-source software term as a meaningless marketing buzzword, we need to apply some rules. Usually, the discussion focuses on what type of OSS license is used. However, I think it is not enough. Few days ago, I bumped into the following article – How to evaluate open-source software. The article is short and worth reading. I found it very practical. It provides 7 checking tips for OSS: license, activity, age of project, unit test, code quality, basic use test, and modification test.

Does Open Source PLM fail the test?

There are few open-source PLM products, initiatives and projects I’m following. They are not equal and clearly cannot be compared. At the same time, I tried to poke open source PLM websites and tried to make some initial conclusion about how these products and projects are compatible with 7 points checking tips.

1. Aras PLM. Aras is the most visible player in open source PLM community. It includes a mature product, many reference customers and well-established community of developers and service providers. Aras is using "enterprise open source" term to describe Aras model. You can get most of the information about Aras including licensing here. Aras relies on several open source licenses. You can get Aras’ source, but for my best knowledge, it requires a specific subscription level.

2. Open PLM. Open PLM project started few years ago. Open PLM focuses on ECM (I assume "content management") around product data. The project is using Django framework and includes some other OSS like Apache and PostgreSQL. It uses GPLv3 license.

3. Open ERP / PLM. Another project I tracked connected to open source PLM space. This project is connected to OmniaSolutions. You can get more details here. It features many typical PLM functionalities starting from CAD integration and ending with BOM management and Manufacturing processes. Here is the link to Open PLM ERP wiki with documentation, video and downloads.

4. Open Source PLM activity from Prodeos. The website is a codeplex link to variety of PLM-related project and tools. Most of them related to Aras PLM and quite outdated (2010). Nevertheless, the project list is interesting and includes some utilities you can probably use not only for Aras – Office connector, AutoCAD 2011 connector, 3Dxml viewer, etc. It uses Microsoft Public License (Ms-PL).

What is my conclusion? Aras is clearly the most mature and dominant player in "open source PLM" eco-system. From the standpoint of compliance to 7 points check list, I think three of them are the most important – license, update history and code quality / unit test. Coming to OSS, you first check you license rules. Then you check how many people are using that and trying to see how to re-use the code for your project. I’m interested to learn about additional OSS PLM initiatives. If you know them, please contact me. Also, I’m very interested to learn more about your open-source experience. Speak your mind.

Best, Oleg

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