Mobile CAD and PLM development options

December 10, 2014

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Mobile PLM is one of the topics I’m following on my blog. You probably remember my post – How PLM vendors can find mobile moments. Today I want to speak about technological aspects of mobile development. For the last few years, mobile development took us into the world of multiple platforms and device compatibility. I posted about challenges of mobile and native web development in the past – Mobile PLM: Apps vs. Mobile Browsers? and Mobile PLM Native Apps Challenge.

If you think, mobile development is “native apps” now, there are some of good news on the horizon. ReadWrite article – What Google Has In Store For The Mobile Web brings few interesting data points about underline mobile development from Apple, Google and Microsoft. Article mentioned Apples WKWebView inclusion in iOS 8 as well as Microsoft’s WinRT. Google’s Chrome team is working to improve performance. If you want more technical details, the following article – The future of Web according to Google can give you deep insight. I found the following passage capturing the momentum well:

In other words, Google is about to bring the Web back to parity with native. In some ways, actually, it’s making the Web better than native, because the Web doesn’t have the same problem with app distribution that app stores have. As Google makes the Web a first-class citizen on mobile, there will be less cause to worry about Apple and Google duopolizing our newly mobile world.

One of the main aspect of to be in love with native mobile apps is offline. It is a huge factor and today native apps have an advantage here. However, it won’t stay that way for long time.

Offline is a big deal, it’s one of the most defining features of native apps vs. web in today’s climate. As Alex Russell put it in his talk: “It isn’t an app if it doesn’t run when you tap.” Once ServiceWorker lands [around the end of 2014], it’s only a short time later that we’ll see Push Notifications in the browser (they use ServiceWorker to coordinate). This will mean that, with a simple permission opt-in, a website will be able to notify you days, weeks, or months after you visit it. With the growing importance (and interactive nature) of notifications on mobile platforms, it’ll be great to see the web get to participate.

What is interesting that even today some iOS and Android apps are not purely native. Here is an interesting chart I captured from another ReadWrite article – HTML5 has a new best friend –and it is Apple, not Google.

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These mobile web news made me think again about what it can give to CAD and PLM developers in a near future. PLM vendors invested in mobile development and you have mobile app for almost every PLM today. It added lot of complexity to development team – getting back to web can be a good news for development and product managers working to align mobile and web features. Offline wasn’t supported for most of mobile app, so it was never a case. However, offline work can be a big deal, especially for CAD tools.

What is my conclusion? CAD and PLM development (as well as most of enterprise software) has longer lifecycle compared to consumer application. To cut development cost can be interesting option for engineering team. Users will have benefits of better alignment in functionality between mobile and web versions. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Future of design: how to connect physical and digital entities?

December 3, 2014

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Technology can help us to expand horizons of possible and impossible. I’ve been experiencing this expansion earlier today while watching AU2014 keynote session online while physically traveling to Denver, CO. Twitter and streaming video are quite efficient way to stay in touch with event virtually everywhere. If you missed AU live streaming earlier today, you can catch up on it in recording here.

Autodesk’s CEO Carl Bass was talking about changes computers bring in our lives and how it impacts engineers. He spoke about interaction between physical and digital worlds. Scott Sheppard summarized key points of Carl Bass speech here. I specially liked the following passage:

Computers and software are great tools, but only if the data they are computing is in the right form. When they know what to do, computers can do awesome things, but they are almost useless when we have problems we can’t communicate in terms they understand. Technology is the driving force behind the biggest changes in the future of how we design, engineer, and make things. There are two fundamental shifts in play: (1) The first is narrowing the gap between the physical and digital world — essentially what’s on the two sides of the screen; (2) The second big change is getting the computer to understand the relationships and interactions of the people and companies doing the work.In each case, our ability to represent the problem in the computer determines how well we can use the computer to solve it.

One of the key things I captured is related to understanding of relationships between physical and digital assets. This is where things are getting really interesting. This is also something that connected me to Jeff Kowalski’s story about design for live objects.

It made me think about how future design can be connected to real information we are capturing today online. Google is ahead of many other companies in building online knowledge base about the world we live in. It comes in variety of digital forms – maps, traffic, information about physical entities and many others. If I will try to connect Jeff’s example with self made bridge, I guess information about this bridge, city and traffic is already available on Google in different forms. So, how future design companies will create technologies with information that can be intertwined between digital and physical entities?

Google Knowledge Graph is one of the technological elements to represent a diverse set of information about physical and digital entities. I’ve been writing about it before. A new article caught my attention few weeks ago – Insightful Connections Between Entities on Google’s Knowledge Graph. Read the article and draw your conclusion. Here is the most interesting passage speaking about data connections:

The node in a data graph may represent an entity, such as a people, places, items, ideas, topics, abstract concepts, concrete elements, other things, or combinations of things. These entities in the graph may be related to each other by edges which connect them. Those may represent relationships between entities. For example, the data graph may have an entity that corresponds to the actor Tom Hanks and the data graph may also contain information about other entities such as movies that Tom Hanks and others have acted in.

google-data-graph-nodes-edges

Google Knowledge graph is not the only way to embrace connection in digital world. Facebook, LinkedIn and other web companies are focusing on building of information graphs about digital assets and physical entities. I’ve been touching it in my semantic enterprise graph post. Together with design and engineering information it can provide a view of future physical and digital universe.

What is my conclusion? The border between digital and physical entities is getting blurred. According to Carl Bass, in the future we will capture physical entities and re-use it for design of new products. We will capture experience of live object and build models to make analysis and improve them. It will require deep understanding and management of connections and relations to create a giant model of future hybrid universe of physical and digital world. Just my thoughts and thanks Autodesk for inspiration.

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.


Cloud PDM hack with Google Drive and other tools

November 6, 2014

google-drive-app-launch

Earlier this week I talked about future of ubiquitous CAD cloud drives. My hunch CAD and other engineering software companies will be trying to use new cloud technologies to improve the way people collaborate on design. The question what tool to use for CAD file collaboration is not simple. I discussed it last year – Top 3 pros and cons to have a special CAD file sharing tool.

Engineering software vendors are trying to bring values such as collaborative viewing, redlining and even project collaboration. At the same time, companies focused on generic file sharing and collaboration are in a full swing to improve their mainstream solutions as well.

Some interesting news came from Google yesterday. Read Google blog post – Launch desktop applications from Google Drive in Chrome. The story is quite simple – Google is chasing Dropbox in the way how to make Google Drive even more transparent to work with desktop tools.

But here’s the catch: when it comes to browsers and installed applications working well together, they aren’t quite on the same page. To change that, today we’re launching a new extension for Chrome that lets you open files from Google Drive directly into a compatible application installed on your computer. This includes apps like advanced image and video editing software, accounting and tax programs, or 3D animation and design tools. So, no matter what you keep in Drive, using the web to access and manage files doesn’t mean you’re limited to using applications that only work in your browser.

Unfortunately, CAD files are not in the list of supported file types. I guess, it may change in the future. A transparent sync of files between cloud and local file storage can open a new opportunity and hack the way to simplify future cloud PDM solutions. Still, majority of tools used by engineers today are desktop tools.

One of the biggest challenge I can see here is speed of synchronization and work with multiple dependent files. It can create an opportunity for cloud PDM vendors to innovate. Some of these problems can be solved by software technologies – cloud PDM and Dropbox Streaming Sync. CAD vendors are looking how to innovate in cloud PDM as well. Example – Autodesk adds PDM functionality to PLM360. Alternatively, I can see some potential in hardware solutions to create virtual cloud file system. Here is one possible example of such solution – Panzura Global File System.

What is my conclusion? Cloud to desktop transparency is a big deal. There is no magic. If you want to use desktop tool you need to sync files. However, technology that can make it transparent can simplify user experience and make users unaware about actual location of files and the way files are going to be synchronized. It will allow to use existing CAD tools but and manage and collaborate using cloud. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PLM collaboration – your inbox is a to-do list

November 3, 2014

plm-to-do-list

Collaboration is fascinating place. So many things were done to improve collaboration for the last decade, but it still remains a place many people are trying to improve. Technology around us is one of the reason companies are keeping to focus on collaboration. What was efficient and new 10 years ago, is completely obsolete now.

Actually not… Email is one of the things that we still keep on the top of our lists when it comes to communication and collaboration. Despite all innovations, social technologies, mobile, etc. we keep email as one of primary ways to collaborate. I touched this topic earlier few months ago in my post – How engineers find path from emails and messages to collaboration? One of the main points there – stop using inbox as a to-do list. From my experience, PLM software vendors as well as other companies focusing on collaborative software are spending a significant effort by trying to take people away from their email inboxes.

So, I wanted to get back to this question again. How to kill email inbox? Here are two examples I wanted to bring into this discussion today. One of them is a very recent announcement of Google about new app – Inbox. If you haven’t heard about that, navigate here to learn more. The following video can give you an additional idea of what Google is up to.

In a nutshell, Inbox looks like a sort of intelligent combination of everything we’ve been trying to accomplish with email- invitations, reminders, todo lists, messages, etc. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, but I’m sure will share more as soon as I do that.

Another example of innovation in collaboration comes from Slack. I’ve been looking on Slack some time ago. It caught my attention again by TechCrunch article – Slack confirms $120M fundraise led by Google Ventures and KPCB at $1.12B valuation. Slack is an interesting combination of twitter streams, cloud file storage and messaging service. I’m trying Slack with some of my personal projects and share some thoughts about my experience soon.

What is my conclusion? Two examples of applications I shared is demonstrating a bit different approach how to disconnect us from email inbox. Google Inbox is organizing your work by extracting data intelligently from other Google apps and email itself. Slack is integrating activities via many other services, but keeps you focused on collaborative channels. In my view, both services are sharing one important characteristic – integration of information in a single place. This is one of the main reasons many of us stick with email. It is hard to following multiple places and channels to get your work done. So, I wonder, what will become the next place for engineers to communicate and collaborate. Just my thoughts…

Best Oleg

photo credit: @superamit via photopin cc


Why to ask cloud PLM vendor about Devops and Kubernetes

October 23, 2014

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I want to continue the theme of how do we move to the cloud. While Amazon remains one of the major providers of elastic computing services, other options are emerging too. If you consider to move your PLM initiatives to the cloud, you might do some analysis about how actually cloud PLM can be made. Few weeks ago I was talking about large manufacturing and public cloud. Public cloud is an interesting option. At the same time, regulated manufacturing and companies with significant security restrictions can question this path. One of the alternatives for these companies can be just announced Azure Cloud System from Microsoft/Dell. It will take time for PLM vendors to support it, but Cloud PLM In Azure Box can become a reality soon.

Today I want to speak more about some trends in cloud computing and how it can be related to you future cloud PLM project. Remember my article What cloud PLM cannot do for you? The biggest achievements of cloud PLM today is removal of IT hassle and complexity. With cloud PLM you don’t need to think about servers, installations and even upgrades. However, here is the thing. The number of cloud applications is growing. Application lifecycle is getting more interesting these days. Large enough company can easy face the situation of management of multiple clouds – public and private at the same time. Complexity of manufacturing organization, supply chain, security or other IT-related reasons can easy bring you to such situation. These are not simple questions and it is very important to create a right strategy for your IT organization managing cloud PLM and other application providers.

Devops

You can consider “devops” as a new buzzword. It comes from a combination of “development” and “operations”. Bricks and mortar PLM software vendors were doing development only. They developed, tested and shipped CAD, PDM and PLM software on CDs and you had to hire IT specialists to install, configure and run it. Now, it is different with cloud software. By removing IT hassle from customer, software vendor is taking a role of IT too. It created a new paradigm of development+operations together. Think about engineering and manufacturing. They have to go together to make it work.

InfoWorld article Devops has moved out of the cloud speaks more about devops trend. I like the way it makes demystification of cloud by explaining how the same infrastructure can be used for both cloud and non-cloud development and IT environments. It also helps you to understand the importance of operation to achieve the quality of cloud services. Here is my favorite passage:

Many people attribute the rise of devops directly to the growth of cloud computing. The connection: It’s easy to continuously update cloud applications and infrastructure. For example, a SaaS application typically requires 1,000 lines or more of changed or added code each time you use it. Its functionality is continuously updated, which makes the cloud-delivered application, platform, or infrastructure more valuable to the users. Gone are the days when you received CDs or DVDs in the mail and had to manually update the servers. Although the cloud is certainly a better place for devops, I don’t believe that devops should be used only in cloud deployments. Instead, you should use devops approaches and enabling tools such as Puppet or Chef in most of the development you do these days — both cloud and on-premises.

Kubernetes

We need to thank Amazon EC and other IaaS vendors for incredible success of cloud computing we have today. However, technology doesn’t stay still. For the last decade public web companies learned many lessons how to manage infrastructure and software development on demand and on scale.

Kubernetes is an example how web companies can scale using cloud infrastructure. Navigate to ComputerWeekly article – Demystifying Kubernetes: the tool to manage Google-scale workloads in the cloud and spend some time even you will consider it a bit technical. In a nutshell it speaks about new technology of cloud deployment – containers, which comes to replace well-known VMs (Virtual Machines). Here is the most important passage in my view:

Kubernetes and Docker deliver the promise of PaaS through a simplified mechanism. Once the system administrators configure and deploy Kubernetes on a specific infrastructure, developers can start pushing the code into the clusters. This hides the complexity of dealing with the command line tools, APIs and dashboards of specific IaaS providers. Developers can define the application stack in a declarative form and Kubernetes will use that information to provision and manage he pods. If the code, the container or the VM experience disruption, Kubernetes will replace that entity with a healthy one.

containers-vs-VMs

While it may sounds too complex, the key issue here is related to the lifecycle of complex cloud PLM environments. At the end of the day, cloud PLM vendors will have to manage updates, introduce new features, maintain data and more. This technical example can show you the gap between new type of cloud infrastructure and opportunity to move an existing PLM server from your server room to the cloud.

What is my conclusion? We should move beyond “cloud PLM” buzzword. Enterprise software vendors are moving from shipping CDs towards selling software services. It simplifies customer experience, but creates new layers of complexity in vendor’s organization. It moves software development to devops and creates technologies that capable to manage application lifecycle easier. It ends up with the quality of PLM cloud service. Keep it in mind when you evaluate you future cloud PLM project. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PLM vendors, large manufacturers and public cloud

October 14, 2014

google-data-center

Companies are moving to cloud these days. The question vendors and customers are asking today is how do we move to the cloud. I’ve been asking this question in my post few month ago – PLM / PDM: Why the cloud? Wrong question… I discovered multiple options for customers to start their move to the cloud – mainstream cloud productivity tools to share data and collaborate, to migrate existing PLM platforms to cloud using IaaS strategies as well as to build new type of platforms and tools using new type of cloud platforms and infrastructure.

Today, I want to show the perspective on public cloud from both sides – large provider of public cloud infrastructure (Google) and large manufacturing company (GE) and to see what is the intersection between their strategies.

Google – example of public cloud platform

My attention caught Google presentation – The next generation of Cloud. Navigate your browser to the following link to watch it. Besides the fact it was inspiring by the exact same question – “How to you move to the cloud”, it provided a very interesting insight on the aspect of Google public cloud platform.

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google-2

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Hardware cost is declining and Google is adjusting public cloud to match economic realities. Together with economic of scale and utilization, I can see a trajectory towards decreased of public cloud cost even more in the future.

Large manufacturers move to the cloud

So, what customers are thinking about public cloud? Inforworld article just published an article presenting GE strategy to go all-in with public cloud. Presented as an interview with GE COO Chris Drumgoole, article outlines his aggressive plans to migrate to public cloud services — and how they support GE’s organizational goals. Read the article and draw your opinion. Here is my favorite passage:

Drumgoole won’t talk specific numbers, but he claims that “north of 90 percent” of the apps deployed by GE this year have been in a public cloud environment. We’re big fans of the idea that everything ends up in the public cloud utility model eventually. “Eventually” is the big caveat, because some people within GE would argue that should be tomorrow, while others would tell you it’s 15 years from now. It’s a subject of good debate. But either way, the regulatory environment we live in right now prohibits it. In a lot of spaces, when we say technically that we think something should be public, and we’re comfortable with it being public, the regulatory environment and the regulators aren’t quite there yet and we end up having to do some sort of private or hybrid cloud. That’s probably one of the biggest barriers to us moving more public.

Drumgoole speaks about connected devices, big data and analytics as a significant driver to move data to the cloud. I reminded me one of my previous posts – IoT data will blow up traditional PLM databases (http://beyondplm.com/2014/09/23/iot-data-will-blow-up-traditional-plm-databases/). The amount of data is huge and it will certainly require new approach in data management. Here is the example of how much data produced by jet engine these days:

Take one of the jet engines we make, and if it’s fully instrumented. On a typical flight, it’s going to generate about two terabytes of data. Not everybody fully instruments them, but if you instrument it the way people would like in order to get predictive data, you’re talking about 500GB per engine per flight. A flight with a GE engine takes off or lands every three seconds. All of a sudden, the data gets very, very large very, very fast.

PLM vendors and public cloud

As for today, I’m not aware about any PDM/PLM software using Google Cloud as a platform. The majority of cloud PLM software built on top of infrastructure provided by collocated hosting services and variety of Amazon cloud infrastructure. Dassault Systems and Siemens PLM made few public statements about support of diverse set of cloud options and IaaS infrastructure. It would be interesting to see future evolution of PLM cloud platforms.

What is my conclusion? The technology and economic of cloud is changing these days. My hunch, it will pull more vendors and companies to use public cloud in the next few years. Software companies will try to balance between leveraging technological platforms and cost. At the same time, customers will try to balance between regulatory requirements and opportunities to make data accessible and scale without limits. Interesting time and significant opportunity. Just my thoughts..

Best, Oleg


How cloud pricing war will affect PLM?

October 3, 2014

plm-and-cloud-price-war

Large infrastructure cloud providers are slashing prices. TechCrunch article Nobody Can Win The Cloud Pricing Wars is providing some additional details about the situation. The same article speaks about the moment when CIOs won’t be able to ignore the pricing advantage:

Earlier this week, Google lowered prices 10 percent across the board on their Google Compute Engine cloud platform . The cost is getting so low, it’s almost trivial for anyone to absorb the costs of running infrastructure in the cloud, but you have to wonder as the cloud pricing wars continue, how low can they go and if it’s a war anyone can win.

In spite of the low prices, there are still plenty of companies talking about the cloud with disdain and fear, but the fact is how long can CIOs ignore pricing as it goes this low? It doesn’t make good business sense, and whatever risks a large enterprise believe they might face with cloud services, it has to be offset by the plunging costs.

Are you confused by comparison of cloud infrastructure prices? You are not along. GigaOM article provides one easy chart that will help you to demystify cloud prices.

RBC’s formula condenses cloud services into one unit price based on “total spend per GB of RAM,” which includes storage, compute, memory, I/O and other base features. That makes it easier to compare cloud pricing across vendors. Per a research note from RBC analyst Jonathan Atkin this week, the second half of 2014 saw less price cutting than the first half — which included a round robin of competitive cuts from Google, Amazon and Microsoft in March.

RBC-cloud-price-per-GB-RAM1

The devil is in details and I’m obviously interested to see how it will impact (or not) PLM vendors. When it comes to "cloud", not all PLM vendors are the same. While most of them are publicly announced cloud strategy, the diversity of cloud solutions is pretty much high – public cloud platform, leveraging IaaS cloud layer and developing of colo-hosting solutions.

It is important to see business aspects of cloud PLM. Thomasnet article by Verfi Ogewell PLM Market Faces Challenges, Hints at Possibilities provides an interesting perspective on PLM market and impact cloud PLM created. Read the following passage:

One problem in assessing PLM investments for 2013 and beyond has to do with the changing licensing models, a matter which to some extent is connected to merging technology platforms, like the cloud. Increasingly, vendors are moving from paid-up licensing models to subscription models. Paid-up models have annual maintenance fees in the range of 18 to 22 percent of the license purchase price. Subscription models demand payment each year that is in the range of 30 to 40 percent of today’s list software pricing.

Has the hype around PLM in the cloud resulted in customer investments? So far, the answer is no. In fact, it may be the other way around. The cloud has affected the pricing and results on the on-premise market negatively, plus, while many PLM vendors have offerings, most have yet to see any real returns on their investments. Meanwhile, the discussion of SaaS (software-as-a-service) has created expectations of at least more effective pricing models. This picture may change quickly if the new business models for delivery and support of PLM act as triggers for greater investments.

So, what will cloud infrastructure price drop means for PLM vendors? My hunch, this is a good news for PLM vendors hosting their solution on IaaS infrastructure. This is very costly option, especially with existing "on-premise" single tenant PLM architecture. Lower price will allow to PLM vendor to adjust their expenses. It can be even more beneficial for vendors building optimized cloud PLM multi-tenant architecture. However, it probably won’t impact vendors focusing on private and hybrid cloud infrastructure. While regardless on PLM architecture, 50% of PLM project is services cost provided by vendors and implementers, the overall impact of infrastructure cost will have less impact.

What is my conclusion? Cloud pricing war will impact customer mindset. It will increase customer demand to lower cost of PLM solutions. It will shift CIO’s perspective on how to leverage cloud infrastructure in their business. Low cloud infrastructure cost won’t make cloud PLM software free tomorrow. At the same time, it will help PLM vendors to adjust overall cost of PLM services and implementations. Better architecture of cloud PLM solutions will help vendors leverage offsets in infrastructure cost to bring more cost effective PLM cloud services. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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