PLM systems and web scale API trajectories

APIs. Just to eliminate any possible confusion, API stands for Application Programming Interface. Wikipedia provides very straightforward definition of API here. For many years, API was an important element of PDM, PLM and other enterprise software business. APIs enabled the possibility of any system to be expanded, customized and tailored to any customer needs. For many years, the availability of API was considered as ‘must have’ feature during any PDM/PLM system evaluation. Thinking about API usage in PDM/PLM system, I can segment it into two different aspects 1- ability to customize a specific system behavior such as data model, user interface appearance; 2- ability to integrate system with surrounding eco-system (eg. desktop applications, other enterprise application, etc.)

The second aspect of usage API to integrate with surrounding eco-system is getting more and more interesting. Almost a year ago, I posted on my blog – Why PLM need to learn Web APIs? If you haven’t had a chance to read it, catch up now, please. For me, growing web ecosystem provides an interesting prediction about what is going to happen next in enterprise software world. In parallel, I can remind you another blog – Mobile PLM and BaaS. Web provides a good oriented of how systems can be expanded. Web and mobile Apps expansion. This a way systems will expand, grow, gets customized and tailored in the future.

The following article was published on TechCrunch just few hours ago – Facebook And The Sudden Wake Up About The API Economy. Take a read – I found this article very solid. It made me think that importance of Web API infrastructure and openness among PLM system will be growing faster than I thought last year. Few acquisitions and partnership in the world of API makers – Intel / Mashery, Mulesoft / Programmable Web and very recently Facebook / Parse demonstrated, in my view, that the interest to back end application data combined with mobile app development is skyrocketing. API is a key how to make this data available and turn into profitable mobile (and other Apps). Here is an interesting passage from TechCrunch article.

With that scaling in number of APIs comes a virtuous circle for the developers that build compelling apps and APIs. The APIs extend the apps reach as they become part of distributed data network. As more people use the APIs so the app developer generates more data. As the data increases in scope, often the service will become an API. Facebook needs new streams of data to keep rolling out new digital products. Back end as a service providers like Parse provide SDKs and APIs that give developers access to infrastructure for storing basic data types, locations and photos. How Facebook uses this data is a question mark. But regardless, Pare serves as a constant replenishing source, nourished by the apps on the Parse platform that use APIs. Facebook now will decide how to package and segment that data to push more relevant advertising to its 1 billion users.

What is my conclusion? I would like to make a parallel between web platforms scaling to billion users and PLM platforms searching for a runway to grow up in every manufacturing company and to link manufacturers with customers, suppliers and business eco-system. Distributed data network is a key thing. Current PLM platforms were designed for “inside-firewall” reality have hard time to scale to web reality. To future PLM customers and evaluators – check your PLM platform of choice for the ability to grow beyond servers located in your backyard. PLM vendors must take a note about their future scale and ability to expand the ecosystem. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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