What will change existing PLM paradigms?

February 26, 2015

It is not uncommon to hear about “changing paradigms” in different domains these days. We are watching Netflix and disconnecting cable TVs, using Uber instead of driving our own cars. Yesterday at PI Congress, I saw the following slide demonstrating examples of digital disruption in different industry domains.

digital-disruption-pressure

Which obviously made me think about disruption in PLM. This domain has some characteristics that make it hard to disrupt. 1 / It is dominated by a small number of very well established vendors. 2/ The barrier to entry the space is high in terms of expertise and completeness of the solution. 3/ Decision lifecycle for customers to buy a software is long and the usage lifecycle is even longer. Companies can use software for 10-15 years because of product lifecycle (eg. aero-planes). As a result of that, one of the main drivers to change PLM system is in fact because existing PLM software will no longer developed or supported by PLM vendor.

For the last decade, we’ve seen very few example of starting a fresh new paradigm in PLM system. Aras Corp came with enterprise open source Aras Innovator. It was a cool idea – think about “Linux of PLM”. It would be interesting to see how much focus Aras will put in their open source in the future.

Another fresh start was Autodesk PLM360, which introduced “cloud PLM alternative”. Even ideas of “cloud” or “hosting” aren’t new and some vendors in PLM space did it before, entrance of such a big vendor like Autodesk in this domain made a change in the industry. 3 years later, we can see all PLM vendors have “cloud” in their portfolios.

There is one thing that didn’t change in PLM and this is very painful thing. You cannot just install and start using PLM like email. In the world of PLM it called “implementation”. You need to figure out how PLM products will help to organization to use it for their product development processes. And this is all about people. Technologies are easy, but people are really hard. Therefore, in my view, PLM got stuck with people. The current paradigm assumes PLM implementation as a core fundamental part of everything. It slows down adoption and requires extensive resources and effort from organization. How to change that?

Have you heard about DevOps? If not, I recommend you to put aside whatever you do and close this educational gap. It is well known in software development and it is essentially a combination of two terms – “development” and “operations”. It became popular and it is a result of massive introduction of new software development practices combined with cloud operations. Few months ago, I mentioned devops in my post – Why to ask your cloud PLM vendor about devops and kubernetes? Business insider article Today’s IT department is in fight for its life helped me to bring my thoughts to clarity. Here is my favorite passage.

Devops is all about how do things faster,” Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst tells Business Insider. It’s the IT department’s version of Facebook’s famous mantra “go fast and break stuff.” IT departments say they had better figure out how to be faster, cheaper, and better. If they don’t, the company’s employees will no longer depend on them. They bring their own PCs, tablets and phones to work and they buy whatever cloud services they want to do their jobs. And the CIO will find his budget increasingly shifted to other manager’s pockets.

“Like the manufacturers were in the 1970s and 1980s were fighting for their lives, today’s IT departments are going to fight for their survival,” Whitehurst says. Traditional IT departments are slow and methodical. Rule no. 1 was to never bring the systems down. They would take months, even years, to roll out new new software, testing everything carefully, often spending millions in the process. Devops eliminates that. Instead, IT departments tear their projects apart into teeny components that can be implemented in tiny changes every day.

The last phrase is a key one. How to tear projects apart into teeny components to be implemented in tiny changes. It made me think about existing PLM implementation paradigm. It heavily relies on long planning cycle and business department alignment. Once this planning made, implementation takes long time and put ROI in absolutely wrong place from what organizations are demanding it to be.

So, how PLM can adopt new way to do things? It requires 3 main changes – 1/ To change state of mind. Don’t think “one big implementation”. Opposite to that, think about small steps that will make business better, faster, efficient. 2/ To bring new PLM biz development tools that can help organizations to plan into small steps. 3/ To make PLM platform capable to function in Devops mode. It requires new type of data modeling, deployment and monitoring tools.

More to come, but I think, Devops ideas can inspire and educate PLM developers to think differently. How to develop PLM practices in a different way. How to bring a new feature in a day and how to test changes for the next hour. These are questions PLM business consulting, developers and business consulting should ask about.

how-to-change-plm-paradigm-with-devops

What is my conclusion? Changing paradigms is hard. For many years, PLM industry fundamental paradigm was to relies on implementation as adoption process of PLM technologies. It started from selling PLM toolkits that required long implementation. PLM vendors tried (still do) out of the box approach, which mostly ended up as a good marketing to demonstrated capabilities of PLM technologies, but required implementation anyway. Cloud approach cut the need for expensive IT involvement, but still requires implementation process. PLM industry needs to find a way to make PLM implementation simpler and easier, so people will stop thinking about PLM implementations as a mess. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


The role of product lifecycle in open source hardware

January 30, 2015

plm-for-open-source-hardware

We live in the era of changes. Think about the impact open source software (OSS) made on the software industry for the last 10-15 years. Many things we are using on daily basis today became enabled by open source software. Now, take a deep breath. The story of open source will repeat again, but with hardware. If you haven’t heard about “open source hardware” yet, it is a time for a crash course. Wikipedia article gives you the following definition:

Open-source hardware consists of physical artifacts of technology designed and offered by the open design movement. Both free and open-source software(FOSS) as well as open-source hardware is created by this open-source culture movement and applies a like concept to a variety of components. The term usually means that information about the hardware is easily discerned. Hardware design (i.e. mechanical drawings, schematics, bills of material, PCB layout data, HDLsource code and integrated circuit layout data), in addition to the software that drives the hardware, are all released with the FOSS approach

There are many examples of open hardware today. You can see a list here. It is fascinating an exposure of open source hardware in so many domains. There are many examples today. I wanted to bring one from automotive industry – OpenXC platform. In a nutshell, this is an API for your car to develop vehicle-aware applications.

OpenXC is a combination of open source hardware and software that lets you extend your vehicle with custom applications and pluggable modules. It uses standard, well-known tools to open up a wealth of data from the vehicle to developers. OpenXC is an API to your car – by installing a small hardware module to read and translate metrics from a car’s internal network, the data becomes accessible from most Android applications using the OpenXC library. You can start making vehicle-aware applications that have better interfaces based on context, can minimize distraction while driving, are integrated with other connected services, and can offer you more insight into your car’s operation.

The following video shows an example how OpenXC is used to develop an interesting version of vibrating shift knob.

Reading more about open hardware made me think about software tools used for the development of hardware platforms. It came to me as a comparison to the open source tools for software development. The large amount of software development tools we use today became available only because of open source.

So, here is a question – what tools are used today and will be used tomorrow for development and product lifecycle of open hardware platform? GitHub is widely used today to store data for software, firmware, specifications. The tools for mechanical design are separate. It seems to me a lot of siloed information is distributed between developers, contributors and consumers of open hardware platform – specification, bill of materials, production instructions, quality and testing procedures, etc. What tools can be used to manage this information? The future development of hardware platforms, interfaces and tools will create a demand for product lfiecyclce tools that can be shared and used by the community.

What is my conclusion? Open source hardware is a potentially big thing that can change the existing landscape of manufacturing as we know now. Companies are changing their perspective on IP management and looking how to innovate using open source platforms. It is already happening in many domains and open hardware can become the next big thing here. What software will help to manage open hardware lifecycle? In my view, this questions remains open. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

picture credit Wikipedia article


How to eliminate PLM customization problems?

March 28, 2014

plm-customization

I’m following strategic visions of the major PLM vendors 2014+ publication by Jim Brown – well known analyst and my blogging buddy for last few years. It started as a publication covering Autodesk, Dassault, PTC, Siemens (vendors listed alphabetically). Last week, Jim expanded his PLM vision publications by adding Aras Innovator to the list. Navigate here to read about Aras 2014+ vision. Aras is well known by their Enterprise Open Source strategy. One of the interesting differentiation I captured in Jim’s article is related to Aras’ strategy to break rules of PLM customization. Here is the passage:

Aras has decided to break the rules [of PLM customization]. They aim to become the PLM company that defies the conundrum, allowing manufacturers to customize their software and still upgrade to future releases without major disruption. They can do this because customers can update the data schema, business rules, workflows, and forms without jeopardizing the integrity of the system. How does this work? Aras’ XML-based, model-oriented approach coupled with their willingness to provide customers with the business flexibility and tools to make it feasible. Aras has effectively morphed themselves into a PLM Platform with solid core functionality with a built in ability to be extended by customers and partners. To put this strategy into action, they have told me they are “putting their money where their mouth is.” They now include upgrade services as a part of their subscription service. I haven’t seen that from anyone else anywhere, particularly while encouraging people to enhance and modify the package. This is a clear differentiator and makes Aras unique in the PLM market.

PLM customization is a tricky deal. Honestly, nobody is dreaming to make PLM implementation with zero customization effort. It all starts from flexible data modeling, which imply certain level of data customization. Time ago, I posted – Is PLM customization a data management Titanic? Earlier this year, I’ve been discussing options and reasons on How to de-customize PLM? The story of PLM customization is tightly related to PLM system flexibility data modeling. Typically, every PLM implementation contains some portion of customization that usually done by service organization and/or internal IT department. Lifecycle rules, data import, workflows, integration with other enterprise systems – this is only a very short list of customizations done during PLM deployment. Another huge aspect of customization is related to system upgrades. That one is actually mentioned by Jim Brown in his Aras’ review.

So, is there a way to solve customization problem? In my view, the answer is – it depends. In my view, you cannot eliminate specific implementation activities. Adding of new features and infrastructure technologies (eg. RDBMS) will require certain upgrade activity to happen. However, if you are selling services, the interest will be to optimize this work. Cloud vendors have similar incentive to optimize infrastructure upgrades and maintenance, otherwise operational cost will go up. So, smart technology can optimize cost and customization efforts.

What is my conclusion? Business and technology are going together. To have good business incentive to optimize technologies is always helpful and can put pressure on development organization to optimize cost of infrastructure upgrades. Service based offering (open source and cloud) are two great examples where business interests of vendors and customers are going at the same direction. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PLM Open Source Future – Cloud Services?

February 17, 2014

plm-open-source-cloud

For the last few years, open source was one of the major disruptive factor in tech. Open source powers world’s leading tech companies. Tech giants like Google, Facebook, Amazon and many others would not exist without open source. The success of RedHat put a very optimistic business projection on the future disruption of industry by open source. Since then, we’ve seen many companies that started their business trajectory as “Red Hat of XYZ” with the objective to disrupt a particular industry segment. Many of them became very successful in what they do. However, what happened with their “open source” messages?

My attention was caught by two articles speaking about current trajectories of companies building their business model around Open Source software. Peter Levine, partner at Andreessen Horowitz started this conversation in his – Why There Will Never Be Another RedHat: The Economics Of Open Source and ReadWrite article was following TechCrunch article – Why Open Source Is Disappearing From Open Source Companies? Have a read – good articles with lots of interesting examples and data points. According to the Peter Levine, the main reasons why open source companies cannot compete successfully with their proprietary rivals are simple – money and inability to keep stabilized roadmap development. Here are two notable passages from TechCrunch:

There are many reasons why the Red Hat model doesn’t work, but its key point of failure is that the business model simply does not enable adequate funding of ongoing investments. The consequence of the model is minimal product differentiation resulting in limited pricing power and corresponding lack of revenue. As shown below, the open source support model generates a fraction of the revenue of other licensing models. For that reason it’s nearly impossible to properly invest in product development, support, or sales the way that companies like Microsoft or Oracle or Amazon can.

2013-revenues-open-source-vs-others

And if that weren’t tough enough, pure open source companies have other factors stacked against them. Product roadmaps and requirements are often left to a distributed group of developers. Unless a company employs a majority of the inventors of a particular open source project, there is a high likelihood that the project never gains traction or another company decides to create a fork of the technology. The complexities of defining and controlling a stable roadmap versus innovating quickly enough to prevent a fork is vicious and complex for small organizations.

ReadWrite article brings list of companies started as “open source” and moving now towards different messages.

In 2010, SugarCRM’s main landing page prominently advertised itself as open source. Today? Not a single mention. In February 2009, Alfresco declared itself “the open source alternative for Enterprise Content Management.” No mention of open source on the home page today. The same goes for Acquia, the Drupal company (see 2009 vs. today), and most every other significant company that sells support or software around an open-source project.

PLM industry has their list of open source companies. You can count several product today branded themselves as “PLM open source”. The most notable, Aras created innovative model called “Enterprise Open Source”. To core part of Aras was never open sourced. However, Aras developed significant community network of supporters implementing Aras Innovator software and building applications on top of Aras core platform. Aras keeps fairly large reference customer base supporting and advocating for Aras enterprise open source strategy. According to them, it brings predictable license cost model combined with open software platform, which differentiate Aras from other PLM companies.

TechCrunch article made me think what will be the future turn in development of PLM open source? Would “cloud services” become a future strategic exit for Aras and other open source PLM companies? According to Mr. Levine, SaaS and appliance business model can be a good match to Open Source projects. Here is a formula:

This recipe – combining open source with a service or appliance model – is producing staggering results across the software landscape. Cloud and SaaS adoption is accelerating at an order of magnitude faster than on-premise deployments, and open source has been the enabler of this transformation.Beyond SaaS, I would expect there to be future models for Open Source monetization, which is great for the industry.

What is my conclusion? There is no clear conclusion today. In my view, PLM industry is still waiting for big “disruption moment”. Will it come from cloud PLM alternatives, open source PLM provided as cloud services or just service projects using open source software? Time will show. It seems to me “value” and “maturity” are two main differentiations PLM companies need to focus these days. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PLM Software and Open Source Contribution

February 11, 2014

plm-future-open-source-contribution

Open source is a topic that raised many controversy in the last decade. Especially if you speak about enterprise software. The trajectory of open source software moved from absolute prohibition to high level of popularization. In my view, the situation is interesting in the context of PLM software. The specific characteristic of PLM is related to a very long life span of the software. PLM system developed and deployed 10-15 years ago are continue to be in active production mode by many customers. However, the question of how PLM software can leverage the value of open source software remains open.

Readwrite article Open Source Should Thank These Five Companies put an interesting perspective of the value of open source software for enterprise community. In my view, the article brings examples of software components that can be re-used by enterprise vendors. However, technology is not everything. People and culture is another important element of open source contribution. Here is my favorite passage from the article:

"To encourage excellence, you need to do things out in the open,” Kreps [Jay Kreps of LinkedIn] said. “Engineers are like everyone else—if everybody’s watching, they want to look good. Otherwise we’re building a crappy internal tool that’s just good enough to meet our immediate needs.”

I have to admit, open source initiatives didn’t start in web companies only. During the past decade we’ve seen significant contribution to open source made by major software vendors like IBM and some others specifically if you speak about massive investment in Linux projects. Another Readwrite article is trying to establish balance in open source contribution debates. However, the main conclusion remains the same – web companies these days leads the way for open and innovative technological development. I found conclusion interesting:

"…old school" companies like IBM don’t get the credit they deserve. But it is the Web companies that are building data superstructure on the Internet".

I found the comment about data superstructure important in the context of our PLM software discussion. The replacement of Windows servers and other backend infrastructure by Linux and other open source software is just a matter of time. Also, I believe this is an active process for many enterprise IT organizations these days. However, the question of data management foundation for future PLM software remains hugely open.

What is my conclusion? Open source can re-shape the landscape and future technological trajectories of PLM software. Technologies polished and contributed by web giants to open source community can provide a solid foundation to existing PLM vendors and startup companies to develop future foundation of scalable enterprise product data management solutions. Open culture combined with public quality acceptance can be another major shift that to differentiate future enterprise software developers. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Will Open Source Databases Make PLM Affordable?

November 7, 2013

db-license-cost

Budget and cost. These are important elements of every IT solution. PLM is not an exclusion from this list. There are lots of debates about PLM systems cost lately. Few days ago, I was discussing one element of PLM system total cost of ownership related to "up-front cost" – The Future battle of PLM upfront cost. Move to services / subscription model is clearly one of transformation in PLM TCO. Thinking more about PLM cost structure, I wanted to point on the cost of database licenses. My hunch, the majority of PLM software today runs on enterprise RDBMS platforms such as Oracle and MS SQL Server.

My attention was caught by the following article Feds Move To Open Source Databases Pressures Oracle on IW Gov blog. The affordability of open source database solutions has government IT attention. I specially liked the beginning of the article

Under implacable pressure to slash spending, government agencies are increasingly embracing open source, object-relational database software at the expense of costly, proprietary database platforms. That’s putting new pressure on traditional enterprise software providers, including Oracle, to refine their product lineups as well as their licensing arrangements.

Future in the article, there is an assessment how much companies can save as a result of moving to open source database solutions such as PostgreSQL.

Moving to open source software can help agencies slice database costs by as much as 80% because open source providers aren’t hamstrung by the conventional business and licensing practices employed by large database companies such as Oracle, IBM, Microsoft and Sybase, according to Boyajian. "The traditional, burdensome licensing practices of the big proprietary guys have really started to put new kinds of pressure on government agencies," he said. "Most of the licensing firms have come up with very inventive ways to make sure the price per year goes up and not down, and that’s in direct conflict with the way government agencies are trying to operate now."

What is my conclusion? I smell the change towards free and/or low cost software. It comes with broader use of open source and expansion of service based business models. The combination may work as well. For those companies that feel comfortable with open source, it can provide a significant cut in IT expenses. It would be interesting to see if existing PLM providers will roll out a support for open source databases such as MySQL and PostgreSQL in a near future. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Future of PDM: complexity, functionality and open source

November 1, 2013

engineering-community-pdm

Product Data Management (PDM) is recently getting more focus and traction. You might think why so? PDM is a mature field with well known behavior, functions and value proposition. For example, if you follow Jim Brown of TechClarity, you can find a very nice infographic explaining the value of product data management (PDM). Another publication of TechClarity  – The business value of product data management can be found here. Note, the research was sponsored Siemens PLM, so you will need to get registered on Siemens PLM website to get access to the full report.

However, world is changing and so the technology around us. I’ve been reading GrabCAD blog earlier today – Interview: What hardware developers can learn from software developers. Read the full story and you will find some interesting facts related to development of Poppy Project – robot using an open-source humanoid platform based on robust, flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. The part of the article I specially like was related to how engineers at Poppy Project are using PDM and other collaborative tools such as software source control. The comparison between PDM and SCM tools was stroke me as something very interesting. Here is my favorite passage:

With software development version control is important. Our software team uses Git, for example.  Now I can’t work without it even for CAD. Our robotics project is open source so I need to use developmental branches for this type of work. I use Git flows to keep repositories organized. What else have you used to manage your files? I tried SolidWorks PDM but it’s not great. For one, its too complicated. A simple interface is important because we want to attract people to participate not scare them away. I couldn’t find anything like SVN (Apache Subversion) or any modern source control system. At this point it looks like we’re probably going to use Git for individual work and GrabCAD Workbench for sharing work with others.

It is absolutely not surprising to hear about complexity of PDM tools. Even my truly believe, SolidWorks PDM is not the most complicated PDM tool, it was still okay to say SVN is simpler. However, what is specially interesting, Poppy Project people found PDM tool lacking some important functions such as branching, forking and merging requests. The following passage is nailing down the difference between collaboration of people in traditional engineering processes compared to open source projects.

With an open source project, especially an open source robot, people are making their own modifications but they don’t have editing rights for the main repository. They need to be able to make merge requests- send notifications from their repository to ours so their changes can be merged upstream. That’s better than everyone working on the exact same version.

It made me think more about why PDM should change these days. Our working environment is changing fast. What was strictly prohibited yesterday, becomes a norm today. Open source is one of these things. The new trend is to re-use models, software code and other elements of design from outside of your organization (or in the community). This is a new field for engineering organization and manufacturing companies these days. It brings a new requirement to PDM.

CAD/PDM integration and new functional challenges

New PDM functional requirements will point back on some fundamental problems of PDM such as deep integration with CAD tools. Navigate to one of my previous articles Multi-CAD PDM integration: yesterday, today and tomorrow. The complexity of CAD/PDM integration is going to be tightly dependent on functionality of CAD that needs to be supported by PDM. The ability of branch and merge version is tightly coupled with this cross CAD-PDM functional bundle. In my view, to merge CAD models is much more complicated task than merging software source code text files. There is no reliable technology today that can help you to do it easy.

What is my conclusion? Even PDM is 25+ years mature technology, it is a time for PDM to change. The changes are coming from the huge demand for simplification driven by consumer tools and technologies. At the same time, new functionality driven by trends such as social product development, open source and development communities will be challenging PDM vendors. In particular, CAD-PDM integration will be one of them. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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