PLM, IoT development platforms and extended lifecycle

September 30, 2014

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IoT is a growing buzz these days. Analysts are projecting billions of devices available online very soon. The number is impressive and IoT eco-system is fueled by newcomers developing variety of connected devices and related software.

Earlier this year, PTC surprised PLM community by their strategy related to IoT by acquisition of ThingWorx. However, ThingWorx is not the only IoT platform. The following publication by SiliconAngels caught my attention this week – IoT gets new platform for developers. The article speaks about few starup companies focusing on IoT platform opportunityAt least 3 platforms mentioned in that article – Relayr, ThingWorx and SigFox. I captured few common characteristic of these products – signal processing from sensors, sending data to "connected cloud", framework for developers.

The platform play is interesting for all these products. Navigate to the following TechCrunch article – Sigfox Raises $20.6 Million To Create A Global Cellular Network For Connected Objects.

The company wants to create a global network that uses the same protocol everywhere. This network can be used, for instance, to monitor parking spots, communicate if your bus is approaching and more. And if you develop smart parking spot devices, you only need to support one network. Finally, it will cost you the same to take advantage of this network in every country.

Another article Relayr Gets $2.3M To Foster An Internet Of Things App Ecosystem also speaks about network, connected objects and data processing.

But the hardware dev kit is just one part of relayr’s vision; the larger play is a cloud services platform (that will be hardware agnostic), called the OpenSensor Cloud (OSC). In essence it wants its cloud to become a unifying platform for developers building IoT apps — acting as a central hub for data flows to and from connected sensors and the apps that leverage this data.

All these article made me think again about one of the main IoT challenges – data exchange and interoperability. Because of that, it is not surprising to see focus on development platforms and data connectivity. Will PLM vendors recognize the opportunity of IoT or PTC will be the only player in IoT platform game? IoT brings the potential to expand lifecycle of products much beyond manufacturing and build. This is a huge potential in my view.

What is my conclusion? IoT is a growing eco-system tightly connected to new type of product – connected devices. Connected devices will be here sooner than later and they will bring a new way to manage object (product) lifecycle. Network of devices reporting data and managed and supported by IoT platforms is a future extended lifecycle. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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


IoT and PLM have common problem – data interoperability

September 26, 2014

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One of the heavily debated topics in CAD/PLM industry is data interoperability. I remember discussion about data interoperability and standards 10-15 years ago. Even vendors made some progress in establishing of independent data formats, the problem is still here. At the same time, I’m convinced that successful interoperability will play one of the key roles in the future of CAD/PLM. Navigate your browser to my article with few examples showing how important data interoperability for building granular architecture of future application and collaboration.

IoT (Internet of Things) is relatively new trend. We started to discuss it recently. Applications of IoT are bringing lots of interesting opportunities in many domains- smart houses, connected devices, infrastructure operations and many others. However, here is the thing – we can see many companies looking how to get into IoT field. By nature, this field is very diverse. I can hardly can imagine single manufacturer supplying everything you need for your "smart house". So, we are getting (again) into the problem of interoperability between devices, services and processes.

Forbes article Digital Business Technologies Dominate Gartner 2014 Emerging Technologies Hype Cycle speaks about several business and technological trends. IoT is one of them. Article points on the problem of data interoperability as the one that will impact the most future progress in IoT. Here is the passage I captured:

What will slow rapid adoption of IoT? Standardization, including data standards, wireless protocols and technologies. A wide number of consortiums, standards bodies, associations and government/region policies around the globe are tackling the standards issues. Ironically, with so many entities each working on their own interests, we expect the lack of standards to remain a problem over the next three to five years. In contrast, dropping costs of technology, a larger selection of IoT-capable technology vendors and the ease of experimenting continue to push trials, business cases and implementations of IoT forward.

It made me think about two issues. The problem of standardization and data interoperability can be only solved by business interests of vendors. With absence of mutual business interests we will see dumb devices not interconnecting and managing to exchange data. The value of IoT solutions will be impacted. The second problem is related to PLM vendors consuming data from multiple devices and services to improve decision making. Standardization in that field can provide an advantage and present a solid business interests of vendors.

What is my conclusion? We can see an entire new industry of IoT is under development these days. Data interoperability is a problem that needs to be resolved earlier than later. Roots of data interoperability problems are usually related to hidden business interests of vendors. Learning from previous mistakes of CAD/PLM industry can help. CAD/PLM vendors can provide tools that helping manufacturing companies to build a better connected devices. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PLM and Big Data Driven Product Design

September 25, 2014

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One of the most interesting trends to watch these days is big data. It started few years ago and I can see different dynamics related to usage and value proposition of big data. It certainly started as a technology that revolutionized the way we can capture and process large amount of data. This is where everybody get into Hadoop. However, to have a possibility to process data is just a beginning. What and how can we get value of this data? How can we efficiently use this data for decision processes? These are the most important questions on the table of data scientists, data architects, IT managers and software vendors.

I touched big data topics on my blog several time before. In one of my earlier posts – Will PLM vendors dig into Big Data? two years ago, I discussed big data opportunity and adoption rate in different industries. However, in many situations, I’ve seen vendors are approaching big data in a too wide and abstract way. It sounds like “just collect data and see the magic”. Take a look on my writeup for more details – Why PLM cannot adopt Big Data now?

I’ve been tying to come with more specific examples of how companies can use data. My attention caught by smart data collective article – Data Driven Lingerie few days ago. It speaks about company True&Co, which is focusing on design and e-commerce lingerie based on absolutely incredible data driven approach. Here is a short passage from article, which explains that:

True & co is an interesting company that combines data and design to create an opportunity for consumers to share data with the company, thereby improving the appropriateness of the product to the customer. True & co claims to be the first company to fit women into their favourite bra with a fit quiz – no fitting rooms, no measuring tape, no photos. The data they collect allows them to match the customer to over 6000 body types on their database.

I recommend you to spend 12 minutes of your time and watch True&Co CEO Michelle Lam speaks about data driven product experience.

I found very interesting to see how True&C use data not only to empower e-commerce experience, but actually design products with a specific requirements. It is fascinating example of how specific data collected from millions of customers can be used to classify product requirements, distinguish product configurations and optimize supply chain.

trueco-product-data-driven-design

Product configuration is a very complex field. Traditional PLM implementations typically demonstrating aerospace and automotive industries to describe the complexity of configurations. It is unusual and interesting to see 6000 product configurations of bras tailored to specific customer requirements. This is a very unique experience and good example of specific big data applications.

What is my conclusion? With growing interest in product customization, we are going to see requirements to manage product configurations everywhere. Sometimes it is driven by personalization and sometimes it is driven by diverse set of customer requirements. The example of True&Co is maybe unique these days. However, I think, the trend is towards empower designers and manufacturing companies with data insight to develop better product. Big data can help companies to create a unique product experience, to design better products and optimize resources. This is a future as I can see today. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


IoT data will blow up traditional PLM databases

September 23, 2014

plm-iot-data-explosion

IoT is one of the recent popular buzzwords in business and consumer world. I’ve been touching it in few of my previous posts – 3 Things PLM can do with IoT tomorrow and PLM and IoT common trajectories . Things changed from 2009 when I first time touched PLM and Internet of Things. The opportunity to connect huge amount of devices to the internet looks like a reality we are going to face tomorrow. Gartner’s Hype Cycle Special Report for 2014 report put Internet of Things on the top of the curve indicating – Peak of Inflated Expectations.

Hypercycle_Gartner_2014-2

So, what can we do about that? My attention was caught by Joe Barkai’s article – The Emergence of Application-Specific IoT. Read the article and draw your opinion. My favorite passage from the article was about "Content and IoT" – a tremendous value of content coming from connected devices.

The business potential is not in the conduit, or the “plumbing” of the IoT; it is in the content. However, the data streams of disparate devices cannot be simply connected. Nor can the portfolio of dissimilar applications communicating with these devices be simply daisy-chained as depicted by those futuristic scenarios. Data interoperability is critical to harvest the potential value of the IoT’s content and to enable new meaningful business models that utilize its data. That means not only compatible and interoperable data protocols, but also, more critically, data models and common semantics, so that disparate devices and services can be linked, aggregated and harmonized to form an IoT solution.

The last thing about linking, aggregating and harmonizing information coming from connected devices contains huge potential for design and product lifecycle management. We can certainly dream about how to bring all information into PLM applications. However, here is the thing… Will existing PLM data architecture is capable to handle such data scale? Remember my "Will PLM data reach yottabytes?" article.

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I want to come back to my thoughts about future of data management and PLM. Existing data architectures were developed back 10-20 years ago. It looks like vendors will have to re-tool PLM platforms with new technologies and capabilities coming from a modern PLM data management landscape.

What is my conclusion? IoT is going to change the scale of data that modern product development and manufacturing companies are consuming. It is not about managing of documents or even bill of materials. The tremendous amount of data will be collected from connected devices and transformed into consumable information assets. I don’t think somebody can predict where this process can take us today. However, it is coming, for sure. It is an alarm for PLM architects, data scientists and IT managers in manufacturing companies. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


How PLM vendors will develop next security technologies

September 22, 2014

future-security-tech

The world is a scare place today. Every day we hear about different security problems – very large retail network informed me that their payment system was breached; large organization informes that customer databases with account information leaked, proprietary photos of celebrities available for general public, credit card numbers compromised. You can continue this list…

If you are responsible for IT organization, you should be scary to death. Think about engineering and manufacturing organization. How can you insure the protection of sensitive information assets? The time when a potential solution was just to cut a network cable into engineering working room is probably in the past. Even if you do that, mobile devices, global environment and need for supply chain access will simply put your effort in a trash can. EBNonline published a very interesting infographic called – The iPhone 6 Saga. It presents Apple’s global supply chain. I have no specific information about how Apple support security in their engineering, manufacturing and supply chains systems. What is clear – security is not optional there.

Security is well known topic in PLM community. Manufacturing companies are afraid of IP leaks for their most important intellectual assets. The question about how to protect data is on the top of the list when you evaluate PLM system. Introducing of cloud technologies and cloud PLM systems just raised the sense of urgency towards protecting highly sensible engineering and manufacturing assets.

Security of information in PLM system is multi-dimensional problem.. These days vendors are very vocal about their commitment to insure information is secured. It is easy to find this information available from vendors’ website and published white papers. A very simple Google search for “PLM security” returned a bunch of documents from Aras, Autodesk PLM360, Dassault Systems,  Siemens PLM, Oracle Agile PLM and few others. Take a look on links and draw your opinion.

It made me think, security management is not a topic that can be covered by one vendor. In modern manufacturing world, you hardly can find a company that using engineering, data management and manufacturing software from a single software vendor. The situation won’t be different in a future. It means manufacturing companies will have to insure security of sensitive IP. My hunch, software vendors will have to talk to develop future security technologies and systems together.

My attention caught THEINQUIRER article Google, Dropbox and others launch Simply Secure to ensure open security. Simply Secure is an organization that aims to work on how to solve the problem of security in an open source community.

A collection of firms and internet thinkers have gathered under a Simply Secure banner and promised to make security and privacy tools that protect and serve. Google and Dropbox are players in the Simply Secure support group and are joined by the Open Technology Fund. Together they all hope to address web users’ concerns about their content and connections. “Internet software links us to our friends, allows us to transact across oceans, and forms a digital space for culture and society. Because these technologies provide forums for sensitive discourse and expression, we are all concerned about their security and privacy.

The world of product lifecycle management is very competitive. Vendors are in a constant search how to differentiate their solution. However, security technology is a thing that can benefit a community of customers to adopt technologies and to work together. Modern enterprise software is quickly adopting best technological practices and tools coming from open source and web world. Security best practice can be next place where adopting of some industry and open source standards can be beneficial.

What is my conclusion? Security is a big deal. By developing future security technologies and adopting some well known best practices, PLM vendors can raise the bar for how they can protect customers from security breaches. The world around us is highly connected these days. To solve security problems is not an optional thing. It impacts every company in modern global manufacturing world.

Best, Oleg


What cloud PLM cannot do for you?

September 19, 2014

no-cloud-magic-plm

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


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