Oracle Cloud PaaS will provide a magic button for PLM

September 29, 2014

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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


Cloud PDM ban lifted. What next?

September 24, 2014

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Once upon a time "cloud" was a taboo word in PLM domain. It was hard to believe manufacturing companies will share product information and manage processes using cloud tools. The situation is different today. For the last two years all major PLM vendors announced their support for cloud and developed their own cloud strategies. Some of my previous posts outlined my take on diversity of cloud PLM strategies: Autodesk enters PLM. Everything changed…; Why Siemens can develop PaaS option; Dassault is going to support all PLM cloud option by 2015+; PLM cloud switch and PTC final click. Some of CAD and PLM companies are mentioned on the top 500 cloud apps vendor list.

At the same time, one aspect of cloud and PLM was long time undeniable. It will be very hard (or even impossible) to think about using cloud system to manage CAD data. In other words, cloud PDM possibility was questionable. In the early days of On-demand (or SaaS) software, development of CAD integration between desktop CAD systems and web (on-demand) PLM tools was quite complicated. Several companies tried to do so, but results were questionable. Most of cloud collaboration and PLM tools developed for the last few years avoided management of CAD files and limited their functionality to publishing of CAD data mostly in CAD-neutral formats.

GrabCAD was first company eager to market cloud PDM solutions. GrabCAD Workbench was introduced earlier this year and focused on providing simple CAD data management solution to engineers in GrabCAD community and other companies.

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You can read one of my takes on how GrabCAD wants to disrupt CAD file management few months ago.

Last week, at Autodesk PLM360 customer event in Boston, Autodesk’s Brian Roepke made an early preview of cloud (PDM) document management capabilities. Navigate to my blog from last week to learn more. Below you can see few pictures from demonstration.

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By introducing PLM360 CAD data management capabilities such as versioning, relationships and embedded viewing, PLM360 is going to provide an alternative to traditional PDM systems. One of biggest challenges of the cloud is connection speed and ability to work with large files. Autodesk provided some hints on how the problem of large CAD files transfer will be solved. Trademarked as "Transfer Avoidance (TM)", this technology will optimize data transfer between desktop and cloud servers.

For long period of time, CAD and PDM integration was a very boring place. All PDM/PLM vendors developed their versions of CAD integrations. Competition was mainly focused on how to access CAD APIs in a timely manner as well as to support right versions and features of new CAD packages. I covered challenges of CAD/PDM integrations few months ago – How to re-invent CAD/PDM integration? After long period of time, GrabCAD was a first company introduced new concept of CAD integration. In my view, PLM360 document management capabilities open a new page in CAD/PDM innovation including new technological solution to optimize data transfer.

What is my conclusion? You cannot stop innovation. It was only matter of time for CAD/PLM companies to discover how to leverage cloud to improve CAD/PDM integration. My hunch, it is just a beginning of "cloud PDM" revolution. Cloud PDM ban lifted. Both GrabCAD and Autodesk are pioneers in this domain. I have no doubt, sooner than later, we are going to see what other PLM vendors will develop. There is a certain advantages to be "first mover". However, coming later to the game will allow to other PLM companies to learn from mistakes. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer: I’m Autodesk employee. However, the views and opinions expressed in this blog are my own only and in no way represent the views, positions or opinions – expressed or implied – of my employer.


What cloud PLM cannot do for you?

September 19, 2014

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It has been already few years since I started to discuss cloud PLM opportunities on my blog. I found one of my early blogs about PLM and cloud – PLM and cloud: hold the promise?

So, what changed since then? Actually, quite a lot… We’ve seen massive adoption of cloud and mobile by businesses in many domains. PLM cloud adoption is growing too. Cloud is on the roadmap of all PLM vendors. It is really a question of "how to implement cloud?" rather than a question of "do we need to support cloud"? We also seen few very interesting examples of cloud applications in CAD/PLM space. I want just to mention few of them – Autodesk design tool Autodesk Fusion360, Dassault SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual, Autodesk PLM360. Siemens PLM made their TeamCenter PLM available from IaaS infrastructure. Aras announced cloud strategy and introduced cloud product available via partnership with Infor ERP – Infor PLM Innovator. Cloud PLM pioneers, Arena Solutions, introduced several new cloud tools (BOM control and Quality management). Last but not least, GrabCAD, an open community of mechanical engineers released cloud PDM tool – GrabCAD Workbench. Earlier this week, GrabCAD was acquired by 3D printing company Stratasys. According to TechCrunch, article the deal was around $100M. I’m sure missed few products and companies…

Here are things that I discussed back in 2010 – cost of the solution, delivery model, global access, faster implementation, scaling. We learned a lot of about PLM and cloud for the last four years. Today, I want to make a reality check for list of things I discussed before in lights of what cloud PLM can or cannot do.

1- Cost

Cloud PLM made a mental switch in everything we knew about PLM before. According to Engineering.com article, cloud affected negatively on-premise PLM market. Cloud PLM created expectations for alternative pricing models and pushed all vendors to think how to turn PLM into service offering. Today, you can buy cloud PLM subscription with no upfront cost and hardware investment, which is a very good thing. However, I don’t think, total cost of ownership is different if you will calculate it on the period of 5 years. I’d love to see and learn more about that and love if you can share your comments.

2- Deployment, scale and IT

One of the best thing delivered by cloud PLM is related to deployment and IT cost. You can buy and deploy it instantly – almost similar to how you can open a new Gmail account. As a customer, you don’t need to worry about servers, setup cost, ordering hardware. You don’t need to negotiate with IT installation time. However, you cannot eliminate IT completely, especially if you are large company. For most of situations, you will have to discuss and make an alignment with IT about issues related to security and information access.

3- Faster Implementation

So, you can buy cloud PLM without upfront cost, you can deploy it overnight. What about PLM implementation? Implementation is an interesting thing. I’d like to speak about two aspects of implementations – 1/Configuration and customization; 2/ Implementations of business processes.

Four years ago, many companies were concerned about capability of web/cloud applications to deliver the level of flexibility, customization and configurations similar to on-premise PLM deployments. It is true, for most of situations, you cannot hack your cloud PLM with simple SQL script. However, I think, the flexibility of cloud PLM tools today is similar to on-premise PLM systems. However, flexibility of cloud PLM tools cannot provide real advantages compared to on-premise tools. Thanks for virtualization and modern collaboration technologies you can run your implementation remotely also for on-premise PLM systems.

Implementation of business processes is an interesting aspect of PLM implementation. In practice it means to define data structures and business processes. Cloud PLM won’t provide any advantages here. It is all about people, processes and organizational changes. So, the ugly truth is that cloud PLM won’t reduce your need of implementation services. In case of on-premise PLM, implementation will be done on site and collaborate with IT – installing, configuring and debugging customized software. In case of cloud PLM, you will need to work with cloud PLM vendor or hosting provider.

What is my conclusion? Cloud computing changed a lot in our life. PLM on the cloud can do many things differently. With much lower upfront cost and simple deployment, it opens PLM doors for many companies that never thought can buy and implement PLM systems before. However, when it comes to implementation and services, cloud PLM won’t do much different from on-premise PLM systems. You still need to implement it. It will require business process planning and implementation cost. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


3 security related questions to ask your PLM cloud provider

September 12, 2014

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Cloud is getting wider adoption these days. An interesting trend I observe for the last year – customer are asking less questions about security. It was different 3-5 years ago. Everyone got concerned about cloud solutions security. Specifically for PLM domain, customers got concerned about company IP (drawings and other engineering-related materials that can be easy stolen without real ability to be returned).

It seems to me, the situation with security is getting different these days. Most of cloud companies are well prepared to answers on a typical set of questions related to data center protection, data redundancy, protection of customer data, monitoring and audit. Most of cloud companies are providing information about their security policies in a transparent way. Here are few examples – Amazon Security center; Autodesk Trust center; etc. There are lot of information cloud companies are placing outside to educate customers about security.

It is getting really hard for average business decision maker to make a conclusion about cloud security. The devil in details and to ask right questions is getting even more important than before. My attention was caught by InfoWorld article – Cloud security: We’re asking the wrong questions (thanks to one of my readers for sharing). My favorite passage is related to the ability to compare specific on-premise and cloud security aspects for a company:

To get an accurate answer to that question, you’d have to compare your on-premise solution (the entirety of it, including all your relationships) to the security offered by a particular cloud vendor. That’s hard to do in real life for a few reasons, led by the fact that most companies don’t know the security reality of their on-premise solutions — and followed by the fact that most cloud vendors won’t let you do onsite, direct security auditing of their systems. It’s a guessing game.

Companies have serious dilemma with regards to cloud adoption and security. On one side – anti-cloud specialists are keeping to buzz about cloud vulnerability and every security breach. On the other side, let’s face it, employees are using public and free cloud solutions anyway without IT approvals. It is important to come with a practical approach that helps company to make risk assessment with regards to cloud applications. InfoWorld article made me think about some set of initial questions that will help you to build an understanding of what "cloud solution" vendor is providing and how it does fit your company IT infrastructure. Here is the list I had in my mind this morning:

1- Account management. How cloud vendor manage user information and how company user database is mapped, used and / or imported into cloud infrastructure? The information about users and user-related characteristics is one of the most critical places for security breach. It is important to align it with your corporate directory management strategy. Specifically, check how to prevent potential APT (Advanced persistent threat).

2- Understand storage strategy. The risk of cloud implementation is a potential exposure of storage with sensitive data (eg. IP, documents, drawings, etc.). For short term storage oriented products it can be less sensitive. You maybe less concerned about storage for simulation results or visualization. However, storage of native CAD files with actual data can impose a different security risk.

3- Computing infrastructure. Cloud is a buzzword everyone use these days. However, behind fuzzy cloud words, actually you can find more info about specific computing infrastructure – IaaS, hosting, servers, operation systems, geographical locations and many others. Computing infrastructure strategy can be different and in many cases you can either ask vendor to disclose this information or find it by yourself. Usage of Google or Amazon won’t guarantee a specific security level. However, understanding of that, will help you to compare with your on-premise security level and assess your risks.

What is my conclusion? It is not simple to make a decision about your company readiness for cloud applications However, we need to face a reality, regardless on IT and management decision, the high probability is that your employees are already using cloud services. Engineers are placing documents on dropbox and using web email to send messages when your corporate email server stuck. Some of free collaboration software services are more efficient and/or more capable than your corporate PDM/PLM tools. So, better than ban cloud in your company, you should come with the list of questions that can help you to evaluate and build your path to the cloud. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


CAD, PLM and Top 500 cloud app vendors list

September 5, 2014

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The cloud is growing. Few years ago, some of us had a concern if cloud is fad and it will over fast. Since that time, we can see many new companies in cloud space as well as many companies turned their development efforts completely towards the cloud eco-system.

If you like research, ranks and comparison of vendors, you may find the following list of vendors interesting. Apps Run The Cloud web site published the list of Cloud Top 500 Applications Vendors. You can see list of companies and detailed information about top 50 vendors for free. More detailed information requires subscription.

I’ve been trying to see what companies from CAD/PLM space made it to the list. Here is the list of companies with rank (assigned by Apps Run The Cloud) and domain (CAD or PLM):

120 – Autodesk (CAD)

158 – Altair Engineering, Inc. (CAD)

291 – Dassault Systems (PLM)

377 – Arena Solutions (PLM)

407 – Siemens PLM software (PLM)

What is my conclusion? Cloud is here to stay. The question is not "why the cloud?", but "how and what cloud vendor to choose?". I’ve been blogged about it before – PDM/PLM: Why the cloud? Wrong question… The growth of cloud software is fascinating. The fact 3 top CAD providers are in the list confirms the commitment of companies to cloud strategies and development. I didn’t find few names from CAD/PLM domain that I expected to see. I hope we will see more analysis and comparison of cloud strategies and cloud platforms in CAD/PLM space.

Best, Oleg


What the Dropbox price drop means for engineers and cloud PDM?

September 2, 2014

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Cloud storage is an interesting place these days. In my article CAD companies and cloud storage strategy few weeks ago, I discussed the aspect of cloud storage business. Cloud storage companies want your data and for that purpose they will make it very easy for you to sync your data into cloud storage.

Dropbox just made another move and simplified their cloud storage pricing model. Navigate to the following Business Insider article to see some interesting aspects of comparison between cloud storage providers. The most interesting part of the article speaks about specific cloud storage features – view only, password protection, time expiration and remote delete.

Dropbox’s new Pro plan also offers a few collaboration features, including “view-only” permissions, which is helpful for freelancers and contractors that want to show mockups to their clients without letting them make any changes. Dropbox Pro also lets users password-protect their links to any folders or documents, and even apply expiration dates to those items. As PCWorld’s Zach Miners points out, this would be useful for wedding photographers that only want to allow access to a particular album of photos for a limited time. Finally, Dropbox Pro will also let you delete any Dropbox files from a lost or stolen device while keeping those same files backed up in Dropbox’s cloud, which will be a relief for many who have ever worried about losing sensitive data on a misplaced device.

1TB is a lot of data. Even if you think about heavy CAD files, it is a lot. My guess 1TB can cover a storage for CAD and related Office files in many companies. But features differentiation is more important in my view. Dropbox price drop and attempt to introduce important features made me think about future trajectories of cloud storage and how it will related to engineers and growing number of cloud PDM solutions.

1- Cloud sync. Cloud storage will be free very soon. It will not be a differentiation factor to decide what solution to choose. The ability to bring your data to the cloud and bring it back at the time you need in a secure manner will be a key thing to evaluate. You can see how Apple, Google, Microsoft, Dropbox and other vendors are trying to simplify the cloud sync story for their eco-systems. So, think about your tools (CAD systems first!) and they way you work with your data before deciding to sync your files into one of major cloud storage service. To simplify data sync for CAD and other tools can be a first place to show advantages of cloud PDM.

2- Data access control. This is another fundamental functionality. Engineering data contains lots of dependencies. People are re-using the data between projects, working in teams and with different outsource providers. To support access control schema that can support individuals, small companies and teams in large companies can be a challenging task. This is a place where cloud PDM vendors can show a second advantage vs. generic cloud storage providers. For many companies, this is a showstopper to move into cloud solution.

3- Viewing service. It is extremely important to view files and data remotely without downloading file(s) to your computer and mobile devices. Engineering data stored in a very specific formats. To be able to access this data when it located remotely in the cloud can be a third important advantage of cloud PDM tools.

What is my conclusion? The time to pay for cloud storage is almost over. The next battle in cloud solutions competitive race will require to show functionality specifically tuned for engineering data. Cloud sync, access control and viewing is top 3 elements of any cloud PDM solution. The solution that will get it right, has a chance to win cloud PDM competition game. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Why now is the right time to reinvent PDM?

August 15, 2014

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Product Data Management (PDM) isn’t a new domain. The first PDM systems were invented 20-30 years ago with a simple objective – to manage product data. The scope of PDM was heavily debated and included design, engineering BOMs, ECO and even supply chain. However, the most widely accepted role of PDM is to manage CAD files and their revisions.

For long time, PDM was recognized as somewhat you only need to consider if a size of your engineering department is large enough. Even starting price to implement PDM solution went down significantly for the last 20 years, my hunch average PDM solution starting cost for engineering organization with 10-15 people will be about $30-50K. Cost and implementation complexity made PDM business limited to larger companies and was mostly handled by resellers with special skills and knowledge. Most of them associated with a specific CAD vendor channel.

CAD vendors recognized the need and complexity of PDM. For most of vendors the answer on PDM demand was to develop (or acquire) a dedicated PDM system bundled with their CAD software. As a result of that, most of PDM players were acquired. Most of existing (remaining) PDM vendors are either focusing on a specific geographical niche or developed additional solutions usually branded with "PLM" buzzword and strategy.

My hunch is that until last year, PDM market was somewhat stalled and focusing on replacing of outdated versions of PDM software as well as support of new CAD software releases. Then something happens… For the last months, I can see an increased interested in PDM software. I noticed few focused researches and articles in the field of PDM – Expert Guide to the Next Generation of PDM; TechClarity Expert Guide for Basic CAD management and few others.

Also I want to mention few activities by vendors focusing on basic PDM functionality. It started from more traditional OOTB approach made by PTC Windchill PDM Essentials, SolidEdge SP focusing on SharePoint platform leverage and GrabCAD Workbench using "cloud platform" as a differentiation strategy.

Consilia Vector published CAMScore report for GrabCAD Workbench where CAMS stands for Cloud, Analytics, Mobile, Social. In my view, these major trends are making a renaissance in the space of PDM.

As I mentioned before, because of cost and complexity, PDM software was out of reach for many smaller companies and engineering departments. DIY (Do it yourself) PDM approach combining network file share, Excel files and FTP is a solution for probably 60-70% of market. For many years, to share files using network and USB drives was "good enough solution". But the era of file sharing changed forever with coming trend of social networks, mobile and cloud. So called YAPSA (Yet Another Photo Sharing Apps) became widely available in our everyday life. The question why PDM is so complex and why we cannot manage and access CAD data similar to what we do with photos and videos brings PDM solution back to the innovation room.

What is my conclusion? Cloud, web and social technologies in consumer space reached the level of maturity. It comes to the point where new tech and awareness of cloud and social approach are going to challenge a traditional PDM space. In addition to that, looks like an existing approach to use network drives and file sharing to manage CAD files is coming to logical end. People will be looking how to copy YAPSA approach into PDM space. So, it is time for PDM to change. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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