PLM App Store. Not a dream. Reality…

June 28, 2013

App Store. These two words changed our life for the last few years. You have a problem? We have an app for this. Apple and other companies came to that space and we have millions of apps solving our everyday problems. The situation is different in engineering, manufacturing and enterprise. Actually, was different…

Two years ago, I came with the following post – PLM Enterprise App Store: Bad Idea or Future Promise? The article discussed pros and cons of the model of App Store for enterprise. The promise of App stores was clear. It was hard to see how fast the model of app stores will evolve for engineering, manufacturing and enterprise communities. My main conclusion was reflecting the early stage of app store development and potential problems app store can solve. Here is the passage:

We are still in a very early beginning with regards to the adoption of cloud and enterprise app store. The current experiments made by vendors are interesting and requires learning and analyzes. However, what is clear to me that rebranding of existing products into App Store won’t solve existing problems of PLM software. I think changes need to happen with regards to how Apps (or product components) are communicating, interacting with people, exchanging data, etc.. In my view, it is too early to say something specific about how fast it will happen. We are going to learn many lessons on that way.

Fast forward into 2013. App store is not dream anymore. We can see it happens in many places. Today I wanted to come with two examples of app stores – PLM360 App Store and GrabCAD engineering apps. My opinion is obviously biased, but I found these two mostly relevant for engineering and manufacturing these days.

PLM 360 App Store

The idea of PLM360 app store is to provide a collaborative environment for processes that can be configured in a granular way. Navigate to Autodesk launches PLM360 App store to read more. The following video is self-explaining.

GrabCAD Engineering Apps

GrabCAD is a company I’m following quite long time. You probably remember one of my first blog posts about GrabCAD – Marketplaces and Engineering software published in 2010. Here is my conclusion back 3 years ago:

GrabCAD gives us some example about how to introduce a new eco-system for engineers. Together with few other examples, I can see a definite trend towards re-organizing engineering work into market place or network of engineering services. It will allow to get out of the local design places and propose their services on a global scale. There are many un-answered questions, such as IP protection, handling of proprietary information, security, licensing, models re-use and other. However, I see it as an interesting experiment.

Yesterday GrabCAD announced a major partnership with Autodesk, which will allow to GrabCAD to provide an access to Autodesk cloud tools – AutoCAD 360 and Fusion 360. Navigate here to see the current state of GrabCAD App Store. The combination of mainstream 2D tool like AutoCAD and 3D cloud design software like Fusion 360 can provide a critical mass for engineers to the job. GrabCAD Workbench provides a collaborative portal to share data between engineering including viewer. You probably remember my first experiments with GrabCAD workbench. The time came to continue the experiment with more tools. On the following video you can see Carl Bass (Autodesk CEO) and Hardi Meybaum (GrabCAD CEO) are collaborating using both Fusion 360 and AutoCAD 360 on GrabCAD.

What is my conclusion? Today we can see a first examples of real engineering and enterprise PLM app stores. What was a complete dream 3-4 years ago is a reality today. It is still new and unusual. However, I can see a community of new engineers excited and thrilled by the opportunity to use design, collaboration and lifecycle management tools coming from the cloud. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Disclosure: As Autodesk employee, I understand that my opinion about Fusion 360 and PLM can be unintentionally biased. Nevertheless, I believe the topic itself is very important, so I decided to share my thoughts anyway.


What Autodesk Fusion 360 means for PLM?

June 26, 2013

It is officially happened yesterday. Autodesk announced Fusion 360 – cloud based CAD software. Fusion leverages cloud tech to provide the ability for design team to work anywhere. It shines by the ability to support multiple platforms including OS X. It is available for $25/ month and you can try it for 90 days for free. The number of publication about Fusion 360 is trending. The few articles that really stood out to me are Develo3D and SolidSmack.

Al Dean of Develop 3D in his Autodesk Fusion 360 is go article provided a good review of functions. The following passage is the my favorite:

Let me repeat. It’s $25 a month. Twenty five dollars. A month. Whether you’ll get access as part of an Inventor subscription isn’t clear. But that represents massive value for money. This is the first time that a vendor has announced pricing for cloud-based design tools. The Dassault guys have had Catia running on the cloud for some time, but haven’t released it because the first to do so sets the benchmark for the rest. Launching Fusion 360 at this price point, Autodesk pretty much tore up the playbook while they did it.

SolidSmack’s article emphasize collaborative capabilities of Fusion 360 as well as the ability to share data online in external communities such as GrabCAD. Here is an interesting passage:

Where Fusion 360 really shines though is in it’s ability to be used anywhere, by anyone. With access tied to a login (be it a PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone, etc), it’s possible for all members of a project both inside and out of the industrial/mechanical design department to have access to the project throughout its development….even in real-time over coffee at Starbucks on a phone.

However today’s announcement from Autodesk doesn’t end with Fusion 360′s modeling and team collaboration features: a new partnership with GrabCAD will allow users to publish directly from Fusion 360 to GrabCAD seamlessly…effectively tying the existing GrabCAD community into the Fusion 360 base and vice-versa, which ultimately means even more assets to help speed up your modeling process.

Another article by Design and Motion provides a nice set of screenshots. One of them is presenting how Fusion 360 social collaboration user experience. That was another topic discussed in blogosphere long time.

So, with all hype about designing online, what does it mean for product lifecycle management and why is it so important, in my view. Here is my top 3 things:

1. Data management experience is part of Fusion 360. It uses PLM 360 to store and manage data. The focus is on designer’s workflow and not on data management tasks. This is a big deal and important trend. Everybody needs data, but nobody wants to do data management. The trend towards "invisible data management" will continue.

2. Data collaboration. It is easy to share data outside of Fusion 360. GrabCAD is a good example of that. The online norms of sharing data on the web are coming to design environment.

3. Future of web integration. Fusion 360 clearly shows the future opportunity of web integrations. Before Fusion 360, the meaning of CAD integration was to run a code on the desktop Not anymore. Whoever wants to intertwine processes and connect with Fusion will be able to do it in the web environment. Remember Why PLM needs to learn Web APIs article? Fusion will be coming there.

What is my conclusion? Fusion 360 is a big deal for PLM in the future. It combines two important things – the ability to run PLM system in the background of design software, leveraging cloud infrastructure and opens new ways to integrate design with other processes in the organization and extended enterprise. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Disclosure: As Autodesk employee, I understand that my opinion about Fusion 360 and PLM can be unintentionally biased. Nevertheless, I believe the topic itself is very important, so I decided to share my thoughts anyway.


PLM Cloud or Virtualization Alternative?

June 24, 2013

The two terms "cloud computing" and "virtualization" have many things in common. From a specific technological standpoint, we can even call both of these terms identical. The ability to virtualize computing power and provide them with easy and painless way was one of the roots behind what is known today as Amazon Elastic Cloud (EC2). However, it is not the same when it comes to technological marketing.

For many years, cloud was a tabu word for many PLM companies. BOM.COM and later one Arena was a pioneering ideas of SaaS and On-Demand software delivery. Agile Advantage module is going trough many transformations after the acquisition by Oracle. Autodesk – the first large CAD vendor announced Autodesk PLM360 last year. Bernad Charles of Dassault System announced $2B investment in creating of one of the most advanced cloud platforms – Enovia V6. Siemens PLM announced that TeamCenter will support cloud via IaaS deployment using Amazon and other IaaS providers. Aras made very similar steps by announcing Aras cloud strategy.

PTC was long time standing aside of mainstream cloud roads. Probably PTC learned their lessons by hosting PDMLink via IBM. However, two weeks ago, during PTCLive 2013 event, PTC announced their Creo products to support "virtualization". Read the following article by Graphic Speak – PTC joins the ranks of companies enabling virtualization. Here is the news in a nutshell:

At PTC’s worldwide conference this year, PTC Live 2013, the company announced an agreement between IBM, Nvidia, and Citrix to enable PTC customers to take advantage of virtualization. The capability is available for Creo Parametric, Creo Direct, Creo Layout, Creo Options Modeler, Creo Simulate. These products represent the start of PTC’s effort to enable virtualization and remote computing throughout their product line. Mike Campbell, EVP CAD segment at PTC told press and analysts these products were announced, because “they’re what we had ready.” Though obviously, these are also the core PTC products that people would want to use in a virtualization mode.

You may ask me – what about Windchill? The same article provide a glimpse of what PTC is planning with regards to Windchill and cloud / virtualization. Here is the passage I specially liked:

PTC says that one of the benefits of virtualization is more efficient integration between the company’s Windchill line of PLM products and its Creo design tools. Also, virtualization gives IT the ability to keep data and programs on the server, meaning company IP is safer than it is in a world full of Dropboxes and thumb drives. Virualization also gives IT better control over software installations. Depending on the configuration, whole groups of people can be served by updating a single server .

What is my conclusion? It is hard to ignore "cloud" word these days. Formally, PTC didn’t announce the cloud availability of their products. At the same time, who will prevent Creo and Windchill to run via Amazon Web Services? Will it become a single cloud PLM platform from Windchill? Good question to ask. It is interesting to see PTC approach to cloud and virtualization. I’m sure next option will come soon and Creo will become available from AWS servers. Pure speculation and only my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Disclosure: I’m responsible for PLM and Data Management product development at Autodesk.


Amazon, CIA and Future of PLM Private Clouds

June 24, 2013

Cloud. Public. Private. Dedicated. Secured. Security topic can detonate and destabilize any discussion about cloud deployment. Tell people about security and discussion will be derailed for the next 30 min… I’ve been discussing cloud security on my blog many times. You probably can skim few notable discussions by reading – Cloud PLM and Good Enough Security and Thoughts about cloud PLM security and iPhone 5.

Big companies and cloud providers are moving forward to improve cloud security and certification. Maybe you remember this one – Cloud PLM and Security Certification. Google App Engine is officially secured now. Large PLM providers are checking Cloud IaaS options. Over the weekend I stumbled on interesting Quartz article – Amazon is staffing up for its 600 million cloud for spooks. Here is an interesting passage:

On Friday June 14, a US Government Accountability Office (GAO) report elaborated on previous reports that Amazon had won a $600 million contract to build a “private cloud” for the CIA. (The GAO report was generated when IBM, which had been competing for the contract, protested that it had lost unfairly.) More than half a billion dollars will buy you a lot of cloud computing, and now, according to postings on Amazon’s own jobs site, the company is staffing up to meet the demand the new contract will require. Specifically, Amazon is looking for engineers who already have a “Top Secret / Sensitive Compartmented Information” clearance, or are willing to go through the elaborate screening process required to get it. TS/SCI is the highest security clearance offered by the US government, and getting it requires having your background thoroughly vetted.

So, Amazon is staffing for systems engineers —government cleared. Eventually, it means Amazon will be gathering top knowledge about security and certification. It can be a good news for large PLM vendors looking for experience in heavy PLM implementations for large OEMs.

What is my conclusion? My hunch, CIA security requirements should be in-line with requirements of big manufacturing firms. Security is not a simple act or feature. To ensure security of large OEMs requires time and experience. Leading PLM vendors are trying to figure out how to expand their platforms to cloud environments and security experience can become hot topic for them. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Total PLMification and Paper vs. Software Thoughts

June 20, 2013

"Hardware is what it is. Software is what it does". I’ve got this brilliant quote from Dick Morley at COFES Russia last month. It made me think about frustration people have sometimes working with Product Lifecycle Management systems. From my personal experience, the biggest lesson PLM industry must learn is the negative impact of brutal marketing and overselling. It is not unusual to see sales and marketing promoting PLM values to support every process in every organization – to improve performance, reduce cost, innovate, revolutionize collaboration, streamline processes, optimize supply chain, etc. Sounds familiar? If you are with PLM industry at least for few years, you’ve heard a lot of these… With my historical past, it reminds me some Soviet plans from previous century. One of them, almost 100 years old, plan GOELRO.

GOELRO plan (Russian: план ГОЭЛРО) was the first-ever Soviet plan for national economic recovery and development. It became the prototype for subsequent Five-Year Plans drafted by Gosplan. GOELRO is the transliteration of the Russian abbreviation for "State Commission for Electrification of Russia". Lenin’s belief in the central importance of electrificaton to the achievement of communism is represented by his statement that Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country.—Vladimir Lenin, [1]

While I certainly believe electrical power was an important factor to drive a progress and economic development of Soviet Union back 100 years ago, it overemphasizes the ability of technology to change social organization. Getting back to PLM, I can see how very often PLM propaganda trying to prove that PLM control and processes will automatically improve your organization. It is certainly not true. One size doesn’t fit all.

I’ve been reading an interesting article – Productivity tip: When and How to use paper vs. software. Navigate to this link and read the article. It is worthwhile reading. Simple summary – right tool for a right job. This message is not new. However, the examples author brings in the article comparing use cases for software and computers vs. old fashion paper are interesting. This is my favorite passage:

When it comes to notes and creating tasks, it all depends on how much you have to share with others and your own personal style. If you are building a spaceship, you’re probably going to need some pretty complex project management tools, and paper will likely reduce your efficiency. If you juggle a couple of things a day, it’s really satisfying to whip out a sheet of paper or note card and start crossing off tasks through the day.

PLM is a lot about task management processes and related data. The situation when total PLMification happens in a company can make engineers and other people in organization hate PLM. You need to decide how to get things done in an efficient way. Don’t overkill companies with complicated PLM technologies.

What is my conclusion? Software is what it does. Remember it and pickup the right one for a job. Don’t overkill 5 people team with complicated PLM technologies. At the same time, PLM vendors need to think about how to hide the complexity. Cloud PLM solves problem of installation and IT management. I believe PLM vendors should focus on new technologies and products that will make PLM transparent in many situations. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Excel Kingdom and Thoughts about PLM Data Openness

June 19, 2013

Data is a fascinating topic these days. The amount of data is growing and it raises lots of concerns on both – consumers and business sides of the world. Last week I’ve been blogging about web data common project. Openness is another interesting issue that debates by many people today. Semantic web blog posted about session discussing open data on the web at the Semantic Tech and Business conference last week made by W3C eGov consultant Phil Archer. Navigate here to read more. Most of us is associating open data with linked data. One of the most interesting discovery mentioned by the article was the fact of Excel data dominance on the web. Here is an interesting passage:

“JSON and CSVs are the kings,” he said. “If you look at open data portals, CSVs [which get converted to JSON files] outweigh Linked Data by a mile,”

He brings an interesting story about Open Knowledge Foundation describing CKAN platform enabling publishing CSV files in a semantic way to the net.

The OKF is responsible for the CKAN platform that the U.S. open government data portal, data.gov, now incorporates. “CKAN,” Archer said during his presentation, “is a really important platform and basically it’s about publishing CSVs, and it spits out a bit of RDF data.” He also noted that Dr. Rufus Pollock, founder and co-director of the Open Knowledge Foundation, has proposed a new standard for a data package that includes CSV and JSON. Frictionless Data, now in alpha, includes as principles using web-native formats like JSON. It defines a data package for delivery, installation and management of datasets, with a Simple Data Format (SDF) at heart whose key features are CSV for data, single JSON file (datapackage.json) to describe the dataset including a schema for data files, and the reuse wherever possible of existing work including other Data Protocols specifications.

The story of CSV dominance on the web made me think about the future of open data in manufacturing and enterprise organizations. Organizations have zillons of Excel files located everywhere. Packaging of data in a semantic way makes a lot of sense and it increases the openness of enterprise software platforms including PLM.

What is my conclusion? Openness is important. Companies of all sizes are struggling with the amount of data located in Excel files. It is not reliable and actually not open. To access data from Excel files and make it available across the organization can be interesting imperative forcing company to be more open. PLM original intent was to drive companies stop poisoning organizations with Excel infusions. However, the implementation is far from the ideal. PLM technology providers should make a note. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Cloud PLM and Google Loon Sunday Dreams

June 17, 2013

Sunday is a good day to dream and think about something completely crazy and impossible. More than four years ago I started to explore the potential of cloud PLM on my blog. If you are long time readers you can probably remember my Where is PLM on industry cloud map? or PLMosaur, Traditional PLM and SaaS Newbies. Cloud PLM is a real thing these days. PLM vendors are approaching cloud PLM is a different ways. Nevertheless, cloud PLM is here and real manufacturing companies are using cloud PLM every day.

However, here is the thing – you can solve technical issues related to configuration of cloud-based software, you can improve security and certification. However, even if it sounds strange, the connection to internet is something that really hard to get in some places in our planet today.

I’ve been reading about Google Project Loon during the weekend. Navigate to Google’s blog to read more. Google has an ambitious plans to bring internet to places in the planet that today are disconnected. It also means that cost of internet connection will be going down. Take a look on the video explaining Google tech in details.

What is my conclusion? Yes, Google Loon is still a dream. However, think about some tech that we keep in our hands these days. Even 5-10 year ago we didn’t think it would be impossible to run video calls from mobile phone and use cloud based software on tablets to solve engineering simulation tasks. Maybe in 5 years, Google Loon will solve internet connectivity problem and open an additional opportunities for engineering and manufacturing? Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Cloud PLM and disruptive technology economic impact

June 14, 2013

We love word “disruptive”. It is so nice and tasty. However, very often, we use it without thinking twice what does it mean. Read materials from many startups and large companies – you found lots of statements about “disruptive technology” or “disruptive innovation”. Wikipedia article provides a very decent definition of what disruptive innovation and technology mean.

A disruptive innovation is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually goes on to disrupt an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology. The term is used in business and technology literature to describe innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically first by designing for a different set of consumers in the new market and later by lowering prices in the existing market. The term “disruptive technology” has been widely used as a synonym of “disruptive innovation”, but the latter is now preferred, because market disruption has been found to be a function usually not of technology itself but rather of its changing application. Sustaining innovations are typically innovations intechnology, whereas disruptive innovations change entire markets.

I’ve been reading McKinsey Names the Most Over-Hyped (and Under-Hyped) Major Technologies Out There article earlier this week. McKinsey made an analyzes of projected economic impact of disruptive technologies. I found the diagram interesting.

Navigate here if you want to read a full report. I also found the following passage notable.

In its latest report, MGI set out to answer an even more unanswerable question: What will be the economic impact of the dozen most “disruptive” technologies, including utility devices that talk to each other, cars that drive themselves, and printers that can print printers? Their summary graph is the image that kicks off this post. In a sentence: There’s mobile Internet, and then there’s everything else.

What is my conclusion? To predict a future is one of the most risky things. McKinsey ranked cloud as #4 by a potential economic impact. In my view, cloud can make a difference. Will cloud drive future difference of enterprise software and PLM systems? Pure speculations… Nevertheless, I like McKensey’s numeric approach. PLM vendors must take note – the time of fluffy marketing is about to end. Data first. I’m looking forward to see numbers presenting an economic impact of cloud enterprise systems and to compare with a traditional enterprise software stack. Interesting time. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


CAD, Cloud Folders and Search Apps

June 13, 2013

Dear Mr. Manufacturing CIO. I have good news for you – engineers in your your organization are already using cloud services. However, let me point on bad news too – people in your organization are using cloud services. Navigate to my previous blog – PLM cloud concerns and Dropbox reality for engineers. You can learn that 34% of engineering department is second biggest group of people saving data in the Dropbox. Which means CAD files and Excel spreadsheets are going to the cloud.

Thinking about expanding of cloud services in engineering and manufacturing departments, you find Folder paradigm as a dominant one dragging people and data to the cloud. You can easy come with a long list of well established companies and many startups – Dropbox, Google, Microsoft, etc. Only very lazy people these days are not developing a service that store your data to the cloud.

However, by making access to cloud folders easy, these vendors created an opportunity for engineers to bypass PDM vendors (again :)) and just use cloud folders exactly in the same way they’ve been using local and network drives to store and share engineering data. Maybe you remember my old blog – A moment before CAD files cloud mess… A year ago, I discussed what will happen if uncontrolled stream of CAD file data will be placed on the cloud. So, it happens now. Mr. CIO has nothing to do with that, in my view. People like to collaborate using Google Drive and Dropbox.

Here is the question – how to organize a mess? I want to get back to search topic again. In my view, search might be a good solution for that. Think about finding a way of organizing data by searching the right content and exposing information in an easy digestible way. I’ve been watching videos about startup Docurated – NY based startup focusing on how to get an easy access to documents by providing search, classification and visualization of documents

What is my conclusion? The idea of organizing data via search is not new. However, the tricky part is to do it in a way which will allow easy and painless way to get access to folders and files. Another aspects – focused application for a specific tasks. People are tired of complicated product suites. Simple apps is valuable alternative. To have small app to get job done is right way is a sweet spot for many startup companies these days. Maybe not only for startups… PLM vendors need to take a note here. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


About PLM Islands and Russian Search

June 11, 2013

Recently, I’ve been talking a lot of search paradigm and findability in PLM. In many aspects, web search changed our life. Search remains one of the fundamental user experience in consumer space and web. We search for tasks, locations, emails, friends, events and many other things. Search is different when we speak about business. Enterprise search as a software that helps to search information inside applications data sources inside a company is around many years. However it is a different type of solution even today. In PLM domain, we can different patterns of search development by vendors. I described some of them here – Multiple Facets of PLM search.

One of the most interesting patterns related to search are actually starts after you find a desired sources of information. One of the trends here is to simplify user experience and make search rich and actionable. You probably familiar with Google Rich Snippet functionality. It presents a combined set of information about the result and some actions (sometimes buttons and sometimes other user interface elements) that can lead you to a target web site or specific activities. However, Google is not alone in their strategy to make information access easier and actionable.

Here is another example of actionable search user experience. It called Islands and it presented by Russian search company – Yandex. Navigate your browser to the following article – Think Google’s rich snippets are useful? Russia’s Yandex goes one better. The following passage explains how Yandex islands functionality works:

Let’s say the user searches for “Moscow Berlin air tickets.” A normal search result will link to an airline’s website. A rich snippet will also present direct links to the airline’s booking or special offers pages, perhaps along with the airline’s telephone booking number and its opening times. An island, or interactive snippet, could present a form through which the user can check into their flight online or begin the booking process based on real-time data – right from within Yandex’s search results.

Yandex Islands and Google Rich snippets made me think about some user experience transformations in PLM user experience. Think about transforming results into actionable information. Couple of examples. Working with document reviews scenario. You search for documents and have the ability to access multiple viewable including sharing and review actions. Another one is more related to structured processes like engineering change order (ECO). This scenario can start from ECO search. When you found a specific ECO, can get an access to important ECO details (description, dependencies) as well as make action (review, approve, etc.). I’m sure can come with more examples how to turn regular PLM scenarios easier with the use of rich search user interface.

What is my conclusion? User experience excellence. This is what matters these days. It is about how to innovate by focusing on small details of interaction between users and software. It is about how to optimize information and action flow. To eliminate additional clicks, switches between screens and bring some consumer practice to enterprise systems like PLM is the goal. It can be an interesting step towards future PLM excellence. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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