How PLM platforms will survive in no-stack era

July 26, 2015

vertical-plm-platforms-and-no-stack

TechCrunch article Software for the full stack era speaks about brutal reality existing business software platforms are going through. From the beginning it speaks about reasons major business platforms were created – IBM to automate clerks’ work, SAP – to unify enterprise finance and Siebel to computerize sales rep Rolodexes.

Which made me think what problem existing CAD / PLM platform solved? My guess today’s PLM platform were born to solve a problem of complex configurable 3D digital models for aerospace, defense and automotive companies. Look around, each of these OEMs is using PLM platform from one of top 3 PLM leaders – Dassault, Siemens PLM or PTC. To made it happen companies spent a fortune on gigantic enterprise IT effort to install, configure, plan, implement, support and maintain upgrades and future business requests. The follow passage from TechCrunch article is my favorite, because it explains how it usually happens in every company.

For all the innovation these relationships have brought to business, there’s been a price: the custom patchwork of disparate technologies that now power global enterprises. Typical IT lacks flexibility and efficiency, and often fails to fulfill its promise to customers. If you look under the hood at most global businesses, what you find is something akin to a Ford Model-T that has been continuously fixed by an expert mechanic to keep it on the road for a century. It might be a feat of engineering, but there ain’t no way that car will be driverless anytime soon. Unfortunately for leaders of global businesses, these clunky technical landscapes are doing more than simply irritating employees and customers — they’re jeopardizing their long-term survival.

The last point is clearly resonating with voices of large manufacturing companies having concerns about slow ROI and the fact traditional PLM platforms reached their limits. Solving urgent business needs by integrating new technologies with existing core PLM solutions can introduce a significant problem. Sometimes, it cost so much that it drives huge platform migrations. For most of PLM systems, the architecture and technologies of core functions such as CAD data management and BOM management were designed back 10-15 years ago. To connect and interplay between heavily customized core PLM modules and expanded PLM solutions can bring significant service and implementation expenses.

Technology and architecture of existing PLM platforms are going deep back to the time when enterprise IT was a king and to run PLM system atop of proven RDBMS was a key to success. This is probably still a reality for many manufacturing OEMs. But large manufacturing OEMs are starting to think about their long-term survival. That’s why GE has FirstBuild microfactories and car manufacturers are looking at Local Motors community model.

So, what PLM platform will support future manufacturing environment? TechCrunch brings Uber model as an example of how full-stack startups like Uber built their infrastructure:

With so much outdated infrastructure from a pre-Internet era, it’s inevitable that the way we consume even the most basic services will evolve. Companies need to embrace this fact to participate in the software-defined future. But doing so requires a dramatic change in how software is perceived, developed and consumed.

So the question arises, if the tech solutions of the 1980’s and 1990’s won’t suit the needs of today’s innovators, what will? The technologies that power these businesses, no-stack technologies, tend to be API-based micro-services that package up a lot of underlying capability. Unfortunately, the similarity in terms leads many to think that these two are diametrically opposed. They’re not.

Uber, the prototypical full–stack startup, requires no-stack technologies to do so much. Instead of hiring hundreds of engineers to build out capabilities far from their core business, Uber relies on API-based services to power a lot of their communications. When you locate yourself and request a car, Google Maps helps Uber route drivers to your location (for now). When you receive a text message with a driver en-route, it’s powered by Twilio’s APIs. When your receipt appears in your inbox, it’s SendGrid’s transactional email system.

Discussion about no-stack technologies made me think again about un-bundling PLM services. This trend will be an orthogonal to the PLM verticalization we observed for the last 10-15 years when PLM vendors tried to acquire and combine their platforms into gigantic software stacks.

What is my conclusion? The odds are high that new manufacturing companies will try to buildsolutions atop of no-stack technologies. In that case, sooner than later we are going to see a competition between DIY solutions built by manufacturing companies like Tesla Motors, Local Motors, GE, etc. What will be a future role of existing PLM players in that case? How PLM platfromization trend will go alongside with no-stack reality? Interesting question to ask about from PLM analysts, architects and strategists. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 


Can BOX become a platform for PLM?

January 20, 2015

box-collaboration

Platform is a topic, which comes quite often in the discussion about future of PLM. CIMdata recently came with a topic of “platformization” in PLM. You can catch up on the discussion – A CIMdata dossier: PLM platformization. I can probably divide all existing PLM platforms into two groups – 2D/3D design platform and Object Database Modeling platform. Last year, I charted some of possible options for a foundation of future PLM platform – System Engineering, 2D/3D services, product development standards, New database technologies. From another standpoint, the debates about future PLM platforms are often raising a question of single vs. federated platform for PLM.

New technological trends and demands of customers can bring new platforms into PLM world. One of them is cloud storage. I touched cloud storage topic in my article – CAD companies and cloud storage strategies. One of the points was related to longevity of “cloud storage” business. Cloud companies want to store your data. It gives them an opportunity to understand your business better. However, the prediction is that cloud storage cost is eventually coming to zero. Which leaves cloud companies with the need to develop solutions to elevate productivity and improve collaboration and document creation. This is where it comes to PLM as a future platform for product innovation.

BOX is a company which is located at the intersection of cloud storage and enterprise business. My attention was caught by BI article – In One Slide, Box Explains What Everybody’s Getting Wrong About The Company. Here is the slide:

box-enterprise-platform

Here is an interesting passage and conclusion from the article:

In an interview with Business Insider, Box CEO Aaron Levie said he knew storage business was going to turn into a commodity business back when he first started the company. Instead, he said he’s creating a platform business, where more value is added on top of things like storage, computing, and security. “It’s all about going into the top 8 to 10 industries and finding where are companies reimagining their business, where are they going digital, where are they transforming their business model, and how does Box act as a platform that could accelerate that push into the future,” he said. If the critics are right, Box is doomed. If Box is right, it has a chance at being a valuable enterprise company along the lines of Salesforce.

Looking on customers, partners and, especially BOX enterprise content collaboration platform, made me think about an interesting intersection between product lifecycle and BOX business. Of course BOX is not in the business of design and engineering software. However, enterprise collaboration has a significant overlap with what most of PLM platforms are providing – metadata, security, workflow, collaboration, content search. These are topics that always presented in PLM. It seems to me current focus of BOX is outside of manufacturing companies. However, maybe future BOX growth will take it towards manufacturing enterprises.

What is my conclusion? I don’t think BOX is focusing today on manufacturing companies. However, elements of BOX platform have a perfect sense when you think about product lifecycle collaboration. What is especially interesting is content collaboration on an enterprise scale. This is a topic, which most of PLM companies are struggling with. Existing PLM platforms have good representation in engineering domain, but lack of broad enterprise adoption. This is a place where future competition between PLM vendors and BOX (or similar companies) can occur. On the other side, BOX can become a platform to take PLM collaboration forward in enterprise companies. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture credits box.com


Identity management in future PLM platforms

December 8, 2014

federated-sso

Identity is a topic that raises lot of attention over the course of last few years. As a number of cloud application is growing, the question of management of identity and access rights online becomes more important.

Federation was one of the topics that was discussed in my last posts about future PLM platforms. It is a broad topic. One of the aspects of "federation" is the ability to manage "federated identity". I’ve been reading DarkReading article Identity Management In The Cloud during the weekend. It is worth reading. It speaks about current practices of identity management through Active Directory (AD) and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol. It also speaks about importance of federated identity and integration of cloud application into federated SSO. Here is a passage I captured:

An employee using a federated single sign-on system is given one set of credentials to access multiple cloud accounts. This user is only authorized to use those cloud accounts permitted by the group he or she belongs to. For example, if a user is in the sales group in Active Directory, he or she would be given secure access to Salesforce.com as well as the enterprise’s in-house sales applications. This approach aids the rapid rollout of new cloud services to large groups of users. Even more importantly, using AD to aggregate identities in cloud environments speeds up the deprovisioning of cloud applications to employees when they leave the company or change roles. "Enforcing the use of federated SSO — and not using passwords with cloud apps — means that users can only log in to cloud apps if they have an account in AD," says Patrick Harding, CTO of cloud IAM company Ping Identity. "Terminated users are usually immediately disabled in AD by IT and will not be able to access any cloud apps."

The number of cloud identity management software is growing these days. You might noticed products from Amazon Identity Manager, Microsoft Azure Identity and Salesforce. Startup companies are entering the space of IAM as well.

I captured the following diagram showing current status of cloud identity usage.

plm-federated-sso

It made me think about growing usage of cloud services for design, engineering and manufacturing. Modern transformation of product lifecycle will require usage of multiple online services. To integrate them together using singe security access layer can be a significant challenge.

What is my conclusion? I can see identity management as an important first step in the future PLM platforms. The ability to manage access to diverse data sets (on premises and using cloud applications) will become a first test of future PLM platforms in their ability to manage federated data. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


How to migrate into “future PLM platform”?

December 6, 2014

plm-platform-migration

One of the topics I touched in my yesterday post about future PLM platforms is platform migration. The ability of customer to make a move is significantly dependent on how existing environment can be migrated. You can catch up on some of my earlier thoughts about PLM migrations by reading the following posts – PLM upgrades, release cycle and legacy software; PLM migration and product data rock-n-roll; PLM cloud and future of upgrades.

Most of large manufacturing companies (and even smaller companies) already made some sort of investment in PLM products. What is ROI of move to a new platform? How to calculate it? How not to get troubled by supporting multiple versions of applications and environment? These are good questions. Customers and PLM vendors are equally interested how to manage it in a right way.

My attention caught Dassault Systemes’ 3Dperspective blog post – Top Three Considerations for Planning Your Move to the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform. It speaks about how customer can migrate into new 3DEXPERIENCE platform. Here is an interesting passage:

The same data model and business process rules that power the 3DEXPERIENCE platform also powered the ENOVIA platform. In fact, the same basic approach also powered the MatrixOne platform. This is why so many of ENOVIA’s current customers have been able to successfully upgrade since their first implementation in the mid to late 1990’s.

The following picture shows the history of 3DEXPERIENCE platform evolution. It basically means that the say foundation platform used by all MatrixOne and ENOVIA customers and migration is effortless. I’m not sure if I’m happy to know that the same data technology used by all generation of systems from mid 1990s. However, it is clear benefit for customers looking how to migrate data between different versions of MatrixOne and ENOVIA V6.

3D-experience-platform-evolution

Dassault System’s rival – Siemens PLM and its TeamCenter platform also has long history of transformations. I didn’t find specific public references on compatibility between data models and application among TeamCenter versions. However, the following article from Tech-Clarity blog by Jim Brown presents an interesting diagram of TeamCenter evolution – Siemens PLM vision 2014+.

TeamCenter platform evolution

More information about evolution of TeamCenter can be found in the following CIMdata document – TeamCenter “unified”. The following passage speaks about “migration” issues:

Siemens PLM will continue to support Teamcenter Engineering and Enterprise for those customers that have them in production. Importantly, with each release of these older products, they have updated the underlying architecture and technology so that when a customer decides to change, the transition to the unified Teamcenter solutions will be easier. They have also developed a robust suite of migration tools that can be used when moving from earlier versions of Teamcenter products to the unified platform.

What is my conclusion? The migration is a complex topic. It is probably one of the most important topics that will define ability of large vendors to move into bright future of next generation PLM platforms. Regardless on what platform customer is going to move, migration will have cost that must be calculated and validated. The idea of “federated platforms” brings some promise of minimizing of migration cost. However, the mechanics of this process is not very clear. At the end of the day, data must be brutally dumped out and transferred. Application migration is even more complex. Users must be re-trained. All together, it is not a simple task. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Future PLM platforms: between a rock and hard place

December 4, 2014

plm-platform-hard-rock-place

Manufacturing landscape and technology are changing fast these days. Most of existing PLM platforms were developed 15+ years ago. Therefore, a question about new PLM platforms is getting more vocal. What will be a foundation for that platform? How existing implementations and technologies evolve? What will be a role of standards in a future PLM platforms.

Engineering.com article Product Innovation Platform: Plug’n’play in next generation PLM – TV-report caught my attention yesterday with the discussion about what will become a future PLM platform. Verdi Ogewell speaks about multiple dimensions of future PLM platform – federation, standards, behaviors as well as brings opinions of customers on how they see future of PLM platforms. The key question debated in the article was raised in the beginning and related to “single system”. Here is my favorite passage:

Can a single system cover everything from product realization to distribution, from services to smart products and maintenance? There are certainly those who thinks so. Dassault Systèms, Siemens PLM and PTC have set their sights on an ambitious vision of the PLM market. But there are sceptical voices too, like analyst Gartner’s Marc Halpern and CIMdata’s Peter Bilello. “No, this will not be,” they asserted during the recent PDT Europe conference in Paris where the main theme was, “Shaping the PLM platform of the future”.

It made me think about future PLM platforms in the context of marketing and technological dynamics. PLM market is very competitive. At the same time, most of the decisions usually have very long time impact. Therefore every customer win is long term win. In my old article – PLM platform wars: who is right or who is left?, I’ve been talking about ‘openness’ as a strategic advantage. In my view, it is still very important factor. Customers dislike “closed” systems. From technological and business standpoint, what can become a foundation for a new platform? Navigate to my blog –The foundation for next PLM platforms. I outlined four potential developments that can form a new PLM platform – (1) model based system engineering, (2) unbundled 3D service, (3) product development standard, (3) database technology and web infrastructure. These things can interplay together.

At the same time I can clearly see two major trends in establishment of new PLM platforms – (1) single platform trend; (2) federated platform. I want to elaborate a bit more about these options.

1- Single platform. For many years it was a strategy for almost every PLM vendor. Seriously, I don’t believe somebody realistically can think these days about single vendor providing a complete set of tools for OEM manufacturing company. Nevertheless, vendors are developing tools and acquiring technologies to create the most comprehensive product suites. At the same time, a single platform is a high risk for manufacturers. Customers are trying to diversify their investment between multiple vendors and products.

2- Federated platform. Customers and vendors are often articulating ‘federation’ as a very desired state of future platforms. Here is a thing. Federation is a good vision. The implementation is hard and expensive. For last few decades, PLM vendors invested huge amount of resources in development and implementation of enterprise integration middlewares, technologies and projects. To implement federation is quite expensive and time consuming. I can see some technological promise here coming from modern web and cloud technologies, but taking into account existing enterprise assets it is still highly sophisticated task.

What is my conclusion? Growing complexity and longevity of manufacturing products are raising questions about future PLM platforms. One of the the biggest problems is set of conflicting constraints. Customers are afraid to risk and put all product information into a single vendor systems. At the same time, federated platform is more miracle and vision rather than reality that you can get and implement tomorrow. Standard-based approaches are promising, but slow to ramp up. And, last but not least, new platform ROI is a biggest issue. Imagine, we have a future federated PLM innovation platform built as a result of multiple vendor effort and leveraging existing industry standard. To migrate existing disparate customer environments into a new platform will be multi-year project with very high cost and questionable ROI. I have no doubt, time is coming to rethink the concept of PLM platform. How to do so is a big question. Can manufacturing industry collectively afford it? This is a another good question to ask. Just my thoughts…

Best Oleg


PLM and Almost Enterprise Apps?

April 29, 2011

The cost of development enterprise apps was one of the topics discussed among the people on Aras ACE 2011 conference earlier this week in Detroit, MI. Where the future is taking us? The development and customization of full blown PLM suite can be long, expensive and not very cost-effective these days. During the Beyond PLM panel discussion, I raised the question about the future of agile business apps that can provide value and won’t take manufacturing companies to the hell of product suites. The approach I discussed was introduced by Dion Hinchcliffe in hisNext Gen Enterprise blog.

On my way back to Boston I read Deloitte’s report “Technology Trends 2011. The Natural Convergence of Business and IT". Download this report, read and make your opinion. On of the topics of the report is about so called "Almost enterprise Applications". The idea resonated with my thoughts about how manufacturing organization can develop applications to be used by design engineers, managers, manufacturing planners, quality planners without taking organization into the two-year cycle of PLM suite deployment. I found the following example of "almost enterprise app" interesting:

A chemical products manufacturer had been an early adopter of Google Enterprise Apps engine – focusing on building almost-enterprise applications anchored in the productivity and collaboration suites. One example was a series of Gmail plug-ins that read the subject of emails and automatically retrieve CRM and HR workfl ow documents from SAP, with embedded controls for taking action that, in turn, execute back-offi ce transactions. Another was the ability to automatically update call notes in their CRM system with chat or voice transcripts, removing what was historically 90 seconds of low-value activity at the end of each customer service call.

PLM: Platforms and Applications

The notion of a platform in product lifycle management becomes interesting, in my view. The context of business apps can provide a new angle in a company strategy to develop a platform to serve the needs of product development processes. The focus on the platform will be in product data management rather than in business processes. Information services provided by a platform can be used to develop apps (Almost Enterprise Apps) highly focused on a particular engineers and other user’s needs.

What is my conclusion? The idea of "amost enterprise apps" is fascinating. It is easy to follow the concept of development apps based on any available services in the company. In the past, it led companies to the "excel hell". However, combination of a platform provided information services and agile practices of small apps development have in chance to develop an efficient solution. What is your opinion about that?

Best, Oleg


PLM Platforms and PLM Automotive Future

March 7, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, I posted PLM Platform Wars: Who is Right or Who is Left? The following short article in Dasssault 3D Perspective struck me to think more about the future PLM technologies and innovation. Watch the video and make your opinion.

Kate is asking: “Can the automotive industry build cars of the future with old technology?” In my view, devil is in details. PLM is a bit different from iPad 2. Despite some marketing presentations showing V6 as a PLM 2.0 technology, PLM technologies are not created from scratch every 2-3 years.

PLM Platforms

The notion of a platform in enterprise software is very specific, in my view. When we are talking about software platforms, we often can think about .NET, Java, iOS or similar stuff. Platform is an obvious target for every technology. By achieving the level of a platform, your technology can leverage value of all applications running on top of this platform.

However, the enterprise software created a special notion of “platform” in my view. In such a context, platform always becomes a set of technologies coming out of a specific software vendor successfully created a rich set of applications and dependent products. There are few enterprise software platforms that approached a high level of partner’s software development. However, enterprise platforms are controlling the ability of additional software components to run on top of so called “platform” in a strong way.

PLM mindshare vendors are often using the term “platform”. TeamCenter platform, Windchill platform, V6 platform. In my view, these solutions are more representing a rich set of vertical and horizontal applications rather than a software platform. The core of all these platforms is database-oriented software product. These products are supporting core data modeling capabilities of these platforms. Until the recent time, the integration between these data management components and CAD elements was very weak.

PDM in CAD Innovation

One of the innovations created by Dassault V6 platform was bundling of Enovia V6 (platform) with CATIA technologies. By providing CATIA with RDBMS based data modeling backbone, DS created few very interesting capabilities in management of CAD data as well as product development processes. Other PLM vendors approached a slightly different scenario. At the same time, the recent announcement about PTC Creo came with a definition of something called “common data model”. For me, it is not clear what will be relationships between “common data model” and Windchill platform capabilities.

Do you think combining of PDM and CAD is a fundamental PLM innovation of 2010s? Well, the CAD/PDM integration was always a complicated part of the game. The ability to achieve a successful integration was a critical element in most of CAD/PDM/PLM implementations. The fact PLM vendors decided to solve it by providing tighter bundling between CAD and PDM tools is extremely positive. However, as a result, we are going to see a larger amount vertically integrated product suites. It can make many customers happy. However, the same solution can make a lot of complications in case of companies’ mergers, usage of heterogeneous products, etc.

What is my conclusion? Building large vertically integrated product suites is not a new approach. It can be very successful. However, we cannot mislead ourselves- companies are running heterogeneous application set. In my view, this is a reality. To have the ability to implement a granular solution set, with the intensive support of Open Standards can be a key for a future success. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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