Oracle Cloud PaaS will provide a magic button for PLM

September 29, 2014

oracle-hq

Cloud PLM architecture and implementations is one of the topics I’m following for the last few years. It is interesting to watch dynamics of this space from initial ignorance to careful recognition and marketing buzz. I can see differences in how PLM vendors are approaching cloud. In my view, nobody is asking a question “why cloud?” these days. At the same time, we can see large variety of strategies in cloud PLM implementations and strategies. I guess PLM vendors want to answer on the question – How to implement cloud?

The element of infrastructure is important. The strategy of Siemens PLM – one of the leaders of PLM market is heavily relying on IaaS option. I covered in my post here. At the same time, Dassault is promising to support all PLM cloud options by 2015+.

I’m following Oracle Open World these days online. Gigaom article. Earlier today, the following article caught my attention – Oracle launches upgraded cloud platform with its database and Java available as a service. One of the key elements in Oracle cloud strategy is reliance of Oracle database.

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This is my favorite passage from the article:

Oracle detailed on Sunday evening its upgraded cloud suite that includes the ability for customers to use its flagship database in the cloud as well as on-premise. Executive chairman and CTO Larry Ellison talked about the new platform, now available, during his keynote session at Oracle’s annual OpenWorld conference. Ellison (pictured above) attempted to persuade the audience that Oracle’s rejiggered cloud platform can be the all-in-one shop for users to run Oracle applications, house their data and even build out their own applications while choosing whether or not they want any or all of those items to run on the cloud. “This new Oracle in the cloud allows you to move any database from your datacenter to the cloud like pushing a button,” said Ellison. Oracle’s cloud platform consists of a software-as-a-service (SaaS), a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) in which all three are needed by Oracle to better serve its customers who have been clamoring for the company to provide cloud services, explained Ellison.

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The point of moving any database from your data center to the cloud is fascinating. It made me think about future path to the cloud for many PLM vendors. Most of them are using Oracle database for core database functions. The specific architecture of each PLM product can be different, but to have Oracle responsible for running database in cloud environment can be an interesting opportunity to simplify cloud architecture. Instead of hosting databases using IaaS platforms, PLM products can use multi-tenant Oracle PaaS.

What is my conclusion? Major PLM vendors are looking how to “cloud-enable” their existing product and software architectures. The promise to move database from data center to cloud like pushing a button might be a bit on a marketing side. This is an alert for PLM software architects. IT managers responsible for PLM implementation can take a note to ask about how to move Enovia or TeamCenter into Oracle PaaS. To have Oracle multi-tenant database running by Oracle PaaS is an interesting option, for sure. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Security and permissions are showstoppers to adopt search

June 25, 2014

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Search and information discovery is a big deal these days. Inspired by Google and other web search giants, we want information at our fingertips at the right time. I’ve been following topic of search long time. You can jump on few of my previous articles about search – Oslo & Grap – new trajectories in discovery and search; Why engineers need exploratory search? and Pintrest will teach CAD companies to search.

You may think cost and complexity are top problems of search technologies. Crunching lots of data and connecting relevant information requires application of right resources and skills. You will be surprised, but there is one more element that drives low adoption of search in manufacturing companies – security.

Information age articles Enterprise search adoption remains low – survey speaks about survey done among 300 Enterprise IT professionals conducted by Varonis Systems. According to this survey – enterprises are afraid good search solution will allow to people o find information with no permission. Here is the passage which explains that:

The respondents were surveyed at two major security-themed industry events, the RSA Conference in February and Infosecurity Europe in April. When asked to choose the biggest obstacle to enterprise search adoption, 68% cited the risk of employees locating and accessing files they should not have permission to view. Further, even if an enterprise search solution perfectly filters out results based on established permissions, the majority of respondents indicated they are not confident that their organisation’s existing permissions are accurate. Additional obstacles to enterprise search adoption most commonly cited were accuracy of the results (36%), end user adoption (29%) and the ability of solutions to scale enough to index all the data (24%).

It made me think about complexity of manufacturing companies and enterprise organization in general. Established permissions are part of the story. The search results permissions are as good as data that enterprise systems are supplying to search software. GIGO (Grabage in, Garbage out). For many IT organization, management of security and permissions is a big deal. Think about typical manufacturing company. Tomorrow, search system can find all CAD files that were occasionally copy/pasted in different locations and shared between organizations outside of existing PDM/PLM tools. What else, multiple "publishing solutions" created variety of published copies in different formats. Add SharePoint and similar technologies sometimes adopted by divisions against approvals of central IT. Good search solution can be a litmus test to many IT organizations.

What is my conclusion? Manufacturing enterprises are complex. As I described, it driven by strategic, political and cultural lines. Search is disruptive technology that has a possibility to cross these lines and expose many elements of corporate IT problems. So, once more, we learn that only mix of technological and people skills can solve the problem. Strategists and technologist of search vendors should take a note. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

[categories Daily PLM Think Tank]


Dropbox Webhooks and Cloud PDM Pivoting

May 27, 2014

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Regardless on what CAD and PDM vendors want, engineers are going to share files on Dropbox and similar file sharing services (Google Drive, One Drive, etc.) Do you remember my PLM cloud concerns and Dropbox reality for engineers post two years ago? 34% of people in engineering departments are using Dropbox to share data. I don’t know what is the number now, but my hunch – it is not going down.

I’ve been reading about interesting functionality added to Dropbox- Webhooks. Navigate to the following Computerworld article to read more – Dropbox plays more nicely with Web apps. The following passage explains what service does:

Web developers can now configure apps to be notified immediately of changes that users make to their Dropbox files, taking some strain off Web servers and potentially giving end users a better experience. The functionality comes via a new "webhooks" API (application programming interface) for Dropbox, which lets developers set up real-time notifications for their Web apps whenever users modify a Dropbox file.

More explanations can be found in Dropbox blog – Announcing Dropbox webhooks:

In general, a webhook is a way for an app developer to specify a URI to receive notifications based on some trigger. In the case of Dropbox, notifications get sent to your webhook URI every time a user of your app makes a file change. The payload of the webhook is a list of user IDs who have changes. Your app can then use the standard delta method to see what changed and respond accordingly.

You can ask me how is that related to cloud PDM? Good question. In my view, this particular piece of Dropbox technology can simplify development of any cloud PDM system. Dropbox developed reference application in the tutorial. Another product referenced in the announcement is Picturelife. Simplify – doesn’t mean cloud PDM will ultimately relies on Dropbox. Many companies don’t want to put their data on Dropbox. Maybe your remember my blog post – How to evaluate PDM before it will ruin your personal productivity? Here is the thing – for most of cloud PDM developers, user experience is the biggest issue. Dropbox is an ideal environment to kick off your cloud PDM development experiments. The majority of companies that not using PDM these days are using Dropbox. For these users cloud PDM on top of Dropbox can be "no brainier". Later on, additional infrastructure can be build and used.

What is my conclusion? To get user traction is priceless. It requires lots of UX pivoting. To find right experience is one of the most critical first steps. Future technologies can be improved and fixed. There are many open web infrastructure these days that can be used to build enterprise products (including PDM). Startup companies can pivot and experiment with user experience with Dropbox based cloud PDM… Actually, established vendors can do the same. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

picture credit http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/


Social PLM and Mobile Dribbling

May 6, 2014

Once “social” was a hot topic for PLM developer and analysts. In my view, the hype went down. Ask PLM people about social applications and be prepared for very neutral response. I asked myself – why so? Social applications can improve the way people communicate and should bring value. Nevertheless, social revolution in PLM is kinda “postponed”. You might be interested – will social apps back, when and how?

My attention was caught by WSJ.D article – Data Point: Social Networking Is Moving on From the Desktop. These numbers made me think about potential benefits between “social” and “mobile” in PLM.

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Similar to social apps, the popularity of mobile PLM application is not skyrocketing too. Once excited about the ability to run “everything from iPad”, users got back to their desktops, CAD workstations, BOM Excels and browser applications. Did PLM vendors miss the point of mobile? I asked about that two years ago here. The confusion between “mobile web” and “native app” is probably only part of the problem. When world is going to be even more distributed than today, the efficiency of mobile PLM applications and intuitiveness of how mobile app can present the data becomes absolutely critical. However, mobile app will be used only if it is easier and brings additional value. The best example is taking picture during the presentation and sharing it via Twitters and/or Facebook.

Now I want to get back to social PLM option. I just read about new feature – you can tweet to Amazon to put a specific article or item in your shopping cart. Navigate here to read more. There is nothing very special here. It is all about efficiency. Imagine you found something you want to buy at the time you browse your twitter stream in the morning. To stay in the same environment and put an article to the Amazon shopping cart is all about efficiency. So, here is my guess. Social PLM can reinvent itself via mobile option.

What is my conclusion? The efficient interaction is very important when out of the office and not connected to your well-organized desktop. So, specially designed “social PLM” function can be very demanded on mobile devices. However, the fine tuning of functionality and mobile experience is a key. Efficient user interaction combined together with valuable scenario. This is a key for mobile PLM and social PLM to be successful. Without these two elements, customers will keep walking from social and mobile links to desktop. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo source – WSJ-D article


How cloud PLM can reuse on-premise enterprise data?

April 7, 2014

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Cloud becomes more and more an obsolete additional word to call every technology we develop I hardly can image anything these days that we develop without "cloud in mind". This is absolutely true about PLM. Nowadays, it is all about how to make cloud technologies to work for you and not against you.

For cloud PLM, the question of secure data usage is one of the most critical topics. Especially, if you think about your existing large enterprise customers. These large companies started PLM adoption many years ago and developed large data assets and custom applications. For them, data is one of the most important elements that can enable use of cloud PLMs.

Networkworld article How Boeing is using the cloud caught my attention this morning. The writeup quotes Boeing chief cloud strategies David Nelson and speaks about very interesting approach Boeing is using to deploy and use on-premise data on public cloud. Here is the passage that outline the approach:

Nelson first described an application the company has developed that tracks all of the flight paths that planes take around the world. Boeing’s sales staff uses it to help sell aircraft showing how a newer, faster one could improve operations. The app incorporates both historical and real-time data, which means there are some heavy workloads. “There’s lots of detail and analysis,” he says. It takes a “boatload” of processing power to collect the data, analyze it, render it and put it into a presentable fashion.

The application started years ago by running on five laptop computers that were synced together. They got so hot running the application that measures needed to be taken to keep them cool, Nelson said. Then Nelson helped migrate the application to the cloud, but doing so took approval from internal security, legal and technology teams.

In order to protect proprietary Boeing data the company uses a process called “shred and scatter.” Using software supported by a New Zealand firm, GreenButton, Boeing takes the data it plans to put in the cloud and breaks it up into the equivalent of what Nelson called puzzle pieces. Those pieces are then encrypted and sent to Microsoft Azure’s cloud. There it is stored and processed in the cloud, but for anything actionable to be gleaned from the data, it has to be reassembled behind Boeing’s firewall.

It made me think about one of the most critical things that will define future development and success of cloud PLM technologies and products – data connectivity and on-premise/cloud data sync. Here is my take on this challenge. It is easy to deploy and start using cloud PLM these days. However, PLM system without customer data is not very helpful. Yes, you can manage processes and new projects. However, let’s state the truth – you need to get access to legacy data to fully operate your PLM software on enterprise level. Manufacturing companies are very sensitive about their data assets. So to develop kind of "shred and scatter" data sync approaches can be an interesting path to unlock cloud PLM for large enterprise customers.

What is my conclusion? I can see cloud data sync as one of the most important cloud PLM challenges these days. To retrieve data from on-premise location in a meaningful way and bring it to the cloud in a secure manner is a show stopper to start broad large enterprise adoption. By solving this problem, cloud PLM vendors will open the gate for large enterprises to leverage public cloud. It is a challenge for top enterprise PLM vendors today and clearly entrance barrier for startup companies and newcomers in PLM world. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PLM, Mass Customization and Ugly BOM vertical integration

March 19, 2014

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A car can be any color as long as it is black. This famous Henry Ford quote speaks about how manufacturing handled customization in the past. That was the era of mass production. The idea of limited customization options combined with high level of standardization and high volumes of batch production allowed to decrease cost and improve productivity. The concept of mass production is applied to different products in process and discrete industries – food, chemicals, fasteners, home appliances and automobiles.

However, mass production is getting less popular these days. What comes next you ask? The next trend in manufacturing is going to be "mass customization". This is the idea of total "custom output". Manufacturing is looking how to create a possibility to produce goods in smaller batches to meet customer specific requirements. Wikipedia article provides a good summary of mass customization concept together with explaining economical value.

The concept of mass customization is attributed to Stan Davis in Future Perfect[2] and was defined by Tseng & Jiao (2001, p. 685) as "producing goods and services to meet individual customer’s needs with near mass production efficiency". Kaplan & Haenlein (2006) concurred, calling it "a strategy that creates value by some form of company-customer interaction at the fabrication and assembly stage of the operations level to create customized products with production cost and monetary price similar to those of mass-produced products". Similarly, McCarthy (2004, p. 348) highlight that mass customization involves balancing operational drivers by defining it as "the capability to manufacture a relatively high volume of product options for a relatively large market (or collection of niche markets) that demands customization, without tradeoffs in cost, delivery and quality".

However, to turn manufacturing from Ford-T production mode to mass-customizable requires lots of changes in the way companies design and build products. My attention caught by McKinsey article – How technology can drive the next wave of mass customization. Read the article and draw your opinion. Author speaks about mass customization trends in manufacturing and how it potentially impact enterprise software and IT. Look on the following picture – the list of "new customizable products" looks very impressive.

plm-mass-customization-options-mckinsey

New technologies in manufacturing are going to make mass production possible – social and crowdsourcing, customer facing product configurators, 3D scanning, dynamic pricing and many others. Clearly, I can see lots of opportunities in new tech development for software and hardware companies. It also requires structural changes in product development and process organization.

You can ask me how is it related to PLM? I’ve been posting about PLM role in mass customization before. PLM becomes one of the most critical drivers in the way development and manufacturing will be organized. Now, I’d like to be more specific. In my view, it is heavily comes down to the way product information and bill of materials related processes will be managed. The ability to have customer facing configurator, with dynamic pricing, optimizing company manufacturing facilities requires significant vertical integration. Today these processes heavily disconnected and implemented in silos. This is not how things should work in 21st century. To connect custom bill of material with specific engineering option and make product delivery lead time short is an interesting process, communication, collaboration and planning challenge. I found the following passage from McKinsey article connected to that -

True scale in mass customization can only be achieved with an integrated approach where technologies complement one another across a company’s various functions to add customization value for the consumer, bring down transaction costs and lead times, and control the cost of customized production

What is my conclusion? Mass customization ends up with ugly bill of materials (BOM) integration challenge. By enabling BOM vertical integration, future PLM systems will make mass customization processes possible, shorten time from the moment customer hits company e-commerce web site and until the moment, product will be shipped. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

[categories Daily PLM Think Tank]


Future CAD Platforms and Google Chrome Native Client

September 20, 2013

Our life is getting more and more web-like. Think about applications and tools we use in our everyday life 10 years ago and now – you can see how many of them moved from your Windows desktops to web browsers and mobile devices. However, if you are engineer using CAD application and/or simulation tool, most probably, you are still anchored to your desktop machines. The same you can probably say about photo and video editing applications. The common thing between CAD and photo / video editing is related to the need to use extensive computation and/or graphic resources.

Speaking about photo editing applications, Google is clearly making a leapfrog activity in this space. Google+ photo editing application is getting better everyday. Many times in my personal life of photo hobbyist I ended up with editing photos using Google+ without reaching to my usual Photoshop tools.

I’ve been reading TechCrunch article earlier this week – Google’s Bet On Native Client Brings Chrome And Google+ Photos Closer Together. This article confirms my guess about Google technologies behind new Google+ photo editing tools as well as made me think about some potential opportunities in CAD / PLM space. Here is an interesting passage from the article.

As you’ve probably heard a thousand times now, it’s virtually impossible to build great photo apps that can rival the likes of Photoshop in HTML5. That’s where Native Client comes it. This technology allows developers to execute native code in a sandbox in the browser. It can execute C and C++ code at native speeds and with the ability to, for example, render 2D and 3D graphics, run on multiple threads and access your computer’s memory directly. All of that gives it a massive speed bump over more traditional HTML5 apps.

If you want to learn more about Google Native Client, you probably can start here. Google Developers website provides a good set of information well organized with use cases, videos, documents and references. Navigate here to read more.

It is interesting to see common use cases presented on Google Developers website. Some of them are very relevant to CAD / PLM domain – enterprise applications and legacy desktop applications. Another interesting use case is related to existing software components. You may think about Geometric modelers as one example of existing components that can run inside of Google Native client. Look on how Google phrase this use case on the development website:

Existing software components: With its native language support (currently C and C++), Native Client enables you to reuse current software modules in a web app—you don’t need to spend time reinventing and debugging code that’s already proven to work well.

Compiling existing native code for your app helps protect the investment you’ve made in research and development. In addition to the protection offered by Native Client compile-time restrictions, users benefit from the security offered by its runtime validator. The validator decodes modules and limits the instructions that can run in the browser, and the sandboxed environment proxies system calls.

Let me speculate a bit here – recent announcement of Siemens PLM about licensing of Parasolid components to Belmont Technologies developing cloud CAD can provide a potential use case. So, maybe future cloud CAD of Jon Hirschtick with use Google Native Client… who knows?

The following video provide you short summary of how Google Native App works.

What is my conclusion? Web is a future platform for everything. Engineering and manufacturing applications are not exclusion from this rule. However, it will not happen overnight. Companies made significant investment in existing technologies and products. How to move from today’s mostly desktop CAD into future cloud design platforms? This is a good question to ask CAD technologists, industry pundits and internet developers. Google Chrome Native Client provide an interesting technological set to consider. Today Google Chrome Native apps directory contains only games. But who knows what will be tomorrow? Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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