Will ERP be on cloud ahead of PLM?

July 31, 2012

What do you think about PLM vs. ERP competition? Err… Good question, right? In my view, PLM sales people are long time jealous about ERP sales success. The mainstream adoption, CxO focus, the amount of money organizations are spending on ERP and many other factors. PLM companies felt like a step child in front of ERP success. I have to say, situation changed a bit for last 3-5 years. The adoption of PLM is growing enterprise companies more often mention PLM as a strategic investment. Nevertheless, the question of the potential overlaps between PLM and ERP functionality is not unusual when it comes to discussions about Bill of Material, Manufacturing planning, Supply Chain and some others.

Cloud is trending these days. I’m following many discussions about cloud, enterprise software and cloud PLM, specifically. The topic is still very far the consensus. Opinions go sometimes in opposite directions from total adoption of cloud computing and cloud enterprise systems and up to significant concerns about security, performance, licenses and availability. Nevertheless, “cloud” made me think about “what if…”, PLM software can use cloud as “a secret weapon” to outperform ERP companies?

Thinking about that yesterday, I stumbled on the following blog post from CloudAve – Cloud ERP Starts to Break Out–NetSuite Reports Good Numbers. The article speaks about NetSuite. For many people NetSuite doesn’t say much. I’ve been following NetSuite cloud product offering for the last few years and find it very interesting. CloudAve article shed some lights to NetSuite financial performance. Here is what I learned first:

  • Subscription and support revenue was $61.0 million, a 27 percent increase on an annual basis
  • Cash flows from operations were $15.2 million, up by 80 percent from Q2 2011

The increase of subscription for 27 percent sounds to me like a very healthy performance. Remember, we are talking about cloud systems where subscription is the main source of revenues. Article also hints that such a good performance of NetSuite can be a foundation for a future acquisition by Oracle and confrontation with SAP. Here is the passage:

With NetSuite reporting such good numbers, and its success in moving up the food chain, even more credence is given to the “two-tier ERP” notion it’s been evangelizing. I’ve long said that it was only a matter of time before Oracle swoops in to acquire the company (especially so given the fact that Larry Ellison is the biggest shareholder already) and more tightly integrates it in with core Oracle offerings. The acquisition of SuccessFactors by SAP and the corresponding disruption it brings have brought both oracle and NetSuite some breathing room. I suspect however that new SAP Cloud Tzar Lars Dalgaard is working hard on a credible two tier and cloud plan and oracle and NetSuite need to plan for when this comes to fruition.

What is my conclusion? In my view, the jury is still out to judge cloud enterprise offering. Even such companies like Salesforce.com can be considered as well-know leaders of cloud enterprise systems, the coverage of ERP and PLM offering using cloud systems is still very low. Will PLM company miss an opportunity again and lost cloud battle to ERP giants? This is a very valid and important question to ask.

Best, Oleg


COFES 2012 and Cloud Discussion: Why? Why Not? How?

April 17, 2012

One of the topics of second COFES 2012 Congress was about the cloud. I want to refer to one of the most interesting quotes related cloud / internet from Alan Kay keynote at COFES 2012: Since its inception (1969) the internet was never shut down/rebooted! Which other system can boast such performance? Alan Kay at #COFES2012

The discussion during the second-day Congress was moderated by Brad Holtz and Monica Schnitger. In my view, it was one of the most interesting discussions during COFES 2012. Below, I put few tweet messages from #COFES2012 twitter stream that can give you some reflection on what was going on.

 

 

 

 

 

Cloud: Why? Why Not? How?

I think cloud discussions matured over the past 12-24 months. I can clearly see it in the reaction of companies and vendors. 3-4 years ago, cloud was a promise. Few vendors demonstrated successful solutions using cloud software. Among them Google, Microsoft, Salesforce.com and few others. The difference cloud made over the past years turned cloud into a platform. This is an important difference we need to mention. When I first started to blog about cloud solutions in PLM, the most frequent question people asked was “why”? With more and more examples of mainstream cloud deployments, it changed into “Why not”? It became obvious when few cloud services such as dropbox and some others became a mainstream. So, the question I can hear now is mostly “How?” to make cloud work in a most efficient way for a specific customer or user situation.

What is my conclusion? Cloud is a new platform. This is the best conclusion for cloud discussion at COFES 2012. Vendors will have to figure out how to make their solution leveraging this new platform and provide value for customers. Cloud platform will require us to rethink many existing concepts. It will relate to quality, speed, price, openness and many others. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Corporate iCloud, iPLM Future and Google’s Apps?

June 8, 2011

Well…It happened. The marketing machine of Apple meets the cloud and cloud marketing. The result is predicted – iCloud. If you haven’t had a chance to watch Apple shows this week, you can do. Spend 7.5 min and enjoy the remarkable presentation made by Steve Jobs, including statements “it just works” and lesson learned from mobile.me experiments.

Corporate Cloud

The obvious question I was asking myself was about what is a potential influence of coming iCloud to enterprise software in general and specifically for engineering and manufacturing companies. Some of the scenarios and challenges presented by CAD and PLM vendors can be (with a bit oversimplification) presented as a synchronization of the content from iCloud to multiple places. The first obvious scenario is synchronization of libraries and content between OEM and Suppliers. Other scenarios are possible as well. I read the following article on PC Word – ICloud and IOS 5: New Challenges for Business. Take a time, have a read and make your opinion. I found the following passage resonating:

Lion Server delivers wireless file sharing for iPad. When you enable WebDAV in Lion Server, you can access, copy, and share documents on the server from applications such as Keynote, Numbers, and Pages.

While Apple specifically references its iWork apps here, it seems pretty clear that the company is using them merely as examples. That makes sense because Apple used them to demo iCloud’s document capabilities. But it seems clear that this feature will extend to other apps as well.

Some of the features mentioned by PC Word article as well as some announcements made by Apple in the context of new Lion Server can be interesting. Wireless file sharing on the iPad is probably a feature that can become a favorite among managers in every manufacturing (and not only) company.

The future of iPLM?

I tried to marry iCloud to PLM. So, it turns out my experiment was bad. Actually, iPLM already exists and eventrademarked by Dassault Systems. So, without knowing if Steve Jobs is planning to come to manufacturing companies, the place already taken Enovia V6 iPLM. I wasn’t able to find much about Dassault iPLM strategy and development, except of the following picture.

iCloud and Google Apps

When I was listening to Jobs’ demo (which was obviously brilliant), I tried to find what features of coming iCloud strategy cannot be realized today using Google Apps. Here is my net-net: I can access mails, calendars, documents from any devices. The notion of push synchronization promoted by Apple is important. It solves many scenarios related to content access.

What is my conclusion? The key word for the next revolution in enterprise belongs to “device” and “mobility”. iCloud seems to solve the key problem available everywhere – synchronization. The situation was bad on a single computer (i.e. Mac). However, the synchronization is really bad behind the firewall. The solution that solves this problem can provide a significant leapfrog in the corporate IT and engineering and manufacturing applications. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Open Cloud, PLM Backbone and Vendor Lock-In

November 30, 2010

Picture-41-300x199.pngVendor Lock-In is painful. I think, customers in the space of CAD/PLM even more sensitive to this issue. Proprietary CAD formats used by vendors many years, which allowed them to charge premium fees. Recently, we learned that Data Backbone lock-in can be even more dangerous. Customers are spending millions in their data management infrastructures and proprietary platforms. It helps them later to navigate customers like Daimler to right decisions.

I just learned about IBM VISION Cloud initiative. More about IBM VISION Cloud in IBM press release. Navigate your browser to the following link and read the interview from Dr, Yaron Wolfsthal, IBM’s senior manager responsible for VISION Cloud.

The EU-funded VISION Cloud initiative, led by IBM, has been launched and is focused on creating a metadata format that will enable users’ data to be interoperable among Cloud service providers. This is potentially a huge development for all business, but especially small businesses, which run the risk of vendor lock-in and general unhappiness when they find that it’s not cost-effective to switch Cloud vendors should they encounter problems.

As far as I understand, IBM is investigating how to develop a cloud storage that can be used for future internet data services. Here is a very interesting quote from Dr. Wolfsthal interview:

In principle we are targeting an open specification, open APIs etc. The participation of the SNIA.Europe (this is the European chapter of the Storage Networking Industry Association) will help us promote the open Specifications and standards developed/extended by the project beyond the boundaries of the project.

In 10 days, I will be attending first COFES-Israel forum. COFES is a unique event where Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction Software industry executives can share their view and discuss innovative ideas. Part of the extended forum agenda is visiting Israeli companies and local branches and development offices of international companies located in Israel. We will be visiting IBM Haifa Lab and I hope to learn more.

Open Cloud
We need to come to the idea of Open Cloud. Focus on open standards that can facilitate data exchange and data openness can be an important factor in customer’s decision to move to cloud solutions. The potential winners will be companies investing in open platforms and not lock-in their customers in proprietary PLM backbones. Will PLM on the cloud initiative is the next mouse-trap for customers similar to what CAD format was last 20 years? Time will show.

What is my conclusion? In my view, the question of openness on the cloud is an unread chapter. Cloud lock-in can be even more dangerous than file format or data backbone lock-in. Important.

Best, Oleg


CAD: From Files to Database and Cloud…

November 17, 2010

I had a chance to read Matt Lombard’s – What if you CAD data were in a database? The discussion around this post made me think more about CAD data organizations, CAD-PDM development, new technologies and some trends such as cloud and noSQL. The initial triggers for the conversations came from some new products, releases and announcements by CAD/PLM vendors over the past years. Autodesk, Dassault and SolidWorks were first to push “cloud race” start button. So, the question about what will happen with one of the biggest assets in manufacturing – CAD data, getting more and more priorities in discussions. The introduction of Dassault V6 put an additional priority. DS made their decision to bundle CATIA and ENOVIA V6 database. By doing so, Dassault opens a new round in the development of CAD-PDM dependencies.

Files, Desktop, Cloud

One of the most fundamental abstraction computer software holds for almost 4 decades is the abstraction of a computer file. Combined with desktop metaphor, developed by Windows and Mac software, it used by the majority of users today. During the last ten years, the internet development created some ideas for how post-desktop world may look like. It is still a big question if all “beyond desktop” stories can make a reality. There is a great read about a future of post-desktop world, I can recommend you – Design Integrated Digital Work Environment. At the same time, the simplicity of “file-based” metaphor and large amount of existing application and CAD data can make vendors to duplicate this abstraction level on the cloud. Remember – simplicity always wins!

CAD+PDM=No Files?

CAD was a first tool that went to mainstream in manufacturing organizations. Obviously, CAD application, as a desktop tool started to work with file. Later, the issue of controlling files and managing of CAD data came into the game. PDM served needs of the customers to organize CAD data storage. PDM can remove the need of file management. I just discussed this topic on my blog few days ago – Why do we struggle with file names in PDM/PLM?However, at the same time, the complexity of CAD/PDM interfaces and implementation cost slowed down distribution of PDM tools. The latest trend I discovered is that PDM interfaces have a tendency to be standardized by CAD manufacturers. The next expected step in this direction is to make PDM a standard functionality of CAD system. The real showstopper in this direction is a complexity. Many of the users today are continuing using CAD tools and see PDM as something that only makes their work more complicated. The future step in achievement of simplicity is to bind PDM into CAD and make them inseparable. There are advantages and disadvantages. It can simplify the tool and user interface. At the same time, usage of multiple CAD systems and other customer’s reality are stopping customers from implementing these strategies.

Technological Trends

There are few interesting trends I want to mention. Last ten years of the internet introduced additional technologies in the data management space. Relational databases are still the data management mainstream. However, thinking about noSQL solutions, graph databases, proprietary data stores like Google Big Table, Open Source solutions and others, created some opportunity to change “SQL-only” paradigm used by PDM/PLM systems. I can see two most important parameters that will drive cloud-based-data technologies. Scale and Cost of Change. “File” is a well-understood user paradigm and companies can continue to use it even when the cloud will use different storage technologies.

Vendors

What happens on the side of vendors? I think, CAD/PLM vendors started to watch space more closely. Autodesk experimented with cloud technologies and introduced few products (including acquisition of Israel-based Visual Tao). Dassault announced about their plans to bring V6 platform to the cloud.

Data Lock-in

Even if the cloud-y future looks very promising, the question of data lock-in is an important and requires special attention. There are few issues related to the lock-in. As soon as you have your CAD data in files, you physically own it. So, even if you migrate to another CAD system, it is up to you (and translation tools, of course) to move it to another system. However, when you need to pull your data from cloud it can be different. For example, try to pull your emails from Gmail. Google watches very carefully large data volume migrations. We don’t know yet what path CAD companies will choose in their decision to move your CAD data on the cloud. What if you will be licensing your traffic volume? C’mon… It can be just crazy.

What is my conclusion? File-paradigm was born as a technology. However, for the moment, it is just a matter of usability and portability. The internet creates new paradigms that will proliferate into engineering system space. The dilemma to store CAD data in a file vs. database will become an issue of technology. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

[categories CAD, Cloud, Database, Files, Dassault, Autodesk]


Free CAD File Conversion In The Cloud?

July 9, 2010

The problem of CAD file conversion in old and has never been easy. Engineers are working in multiple CAD systems and conversion is a real problem. Quite many companies are in business of CAD conversion. The policy and practice of CAD vendors with regards to their ability to open/save competitor’s files are different. The person who needs to solve this problem is either engineer in a small company or CAD manager or IT in a bigger one. What if… we can find a solution for this problem by leveraging internet scale and cloud availability?

I found an interesting web site http://www.online-convert.com/. The idea behind is pretty simple – you have your file to convert, and you can use services. I found it quite useful for myself.


I tried to Google “CAD File Conversion service online” and wasn’t able to find any similar online service for CAD data. I know, many companies have different solutions and services that either provide you with conversion service or selling a translation software. Is it a time to think how to convert it into an online service? I can think about several monetizing strategies of this service. It sounds simple and viable. What do you think about that? Do you know somebody who tried to accomplish it in the past?

Best, Oleg

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How PLM Can Catch Up Cloud 2?

July 2, 2010

I have been discussing Cloud-related topics on PLM Think Tank actively since last year. I think, the term is hugely overloaded, I can see horizons where cloud becomes a kind of reality for engineering and manufacturing software. This is still not much real, up and running solutions. However, there is a constant stream of attention, awareness and trials that is coming from multiple providers in CAD/PLM space.

So, Cloud is coming and this is a perfect time to talk about… Cloud 2. It sounds crazy… huh? No, I don’t think so. On September 23, Salesforce.com released Salesforce.com Chatter. Mark Benioff and the team presented his vision of Cloud 2 on their conference couple of a month ago. I had chance to get some materials and videos about that reviewed during this week. It made me to think about some interesting behaviors and characteristics Salesforce’s Cloud 2 definition in the context of Product Lifecycle Management.

If you have time, take yourself on the following two videos, otherwise, proceed to my takeaways below.

Cloud 2: Takeaways

There is a huge shift happens in how we are using devices. The massive increase in notebook and mobility created a structural shift in how people are starting to use the internet. This is going to impact the environment in the offices and other professional zones.

Cost, ease of use, infrastructure, content creation, services are in the past of Cloud 1. The fundamental shift is going towards to the collaborative environment of the future – new devices, real time, social environment.

Thank you Amazon, welcome Facebook! This is another major shift in application behavior. It is worth reading some of Benioff’s posts about Facebook’s imperative.

Here are some of my Cloud-2 thinking about how it impacts PLM.

Organization Is Flat and Real-Timed
This is a major organizational shift that PLM needs to learn. Fewer processes, fewer hierarchies, fewer predefined events. More flexibility, ad-hoc, connections and real-time updates.

Product Data with no boundaries
Data need to be available to be able to collaborate on top of all ad-hoc processes. You cannot lock it down to formats, applications, departments. Company’s strategies on data lock-in and data protection are going to die under the pressure of customers to be able to collaborate and share.

Context, Context, Context…
The next king on the road is a context. To be able to work, contextually and having all what you need for decision making, becomes a key. It will be very interesting to see how to bring a new contextual formula to engineers in the organization.

What is my conclusion today? Cloud 2 is coming. Regardless on our agreement and disagreement on names, we are going to see a significant shift in the way application will be delivered and used in the social environment. The question is not how to develop social applications. The right question is how to help people to live in a new environment and achieve their operational goals?  Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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