PLM PaaS may not happen after all

April 13, 2015

PLM-PaaS-off-target

Platform is such a lovely word. Software vendors like platforms because it gives them an additional capability to partner with a community of developers. In cloud era, platform is often associated with PaaS (platform as a service). For the last few years, PaaS was mentioned as a next step in developing of cloud platforms. PaaS is often seen as a layer (together with SaaS and IaaS) in many marketing cloud slides presented by software vendors. CAD and PLM vendors are using it too.

I put some of my thoughts about PLM and PaaS earlier – Cloud PLM and PaaS dilemma. It is a difficult task to create PLM platform that can be used by other developers. In my view, none of existing cloud PLM products regardless how they call themselves cannot be qualified as PaaS. Will cloud PLM vendors develop PaaS options is a question I asked last year. I don’t think we got any good answer so far.

The usage of word platform and PaaS is often controversial as well as a definition of a platform. Meantime, the bigger world of PaaS ruled by large platform vendors (Amazon, Google and others) are going to rethink PaaS too. TechCrunch article Whatever Happened To PaaS? speaks about some interesting transformations happening with PaaS development by large cloud vendors. Companies are not rushing to provide their strong commitments to PaaS platforms. Here is the passage explaining three reasons why customers are not running towards PaaS and keep IaaS option as preferable.

App Engine’s prices drop regularly, but they’re voluminous and confusing, and a single instance — a pretty puny virtual machine — costs more than a dollar day, not counting storage or bandwidth. Same for Heroku. You get more bang-per-buck by simply buying and running your own servers. You also get enormously larger headaches, and significantly slower development time; but that tradeoff isn’t worth it for many

Then there’s lock-in. Once you build your app atop App Engine’s custom APIs, you’re committed; there’s no easy way to back away and go to another provider. The lock-in is less for other PaaS providers, but it’s still there. There is no universal PaaS equivalent of de facto IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service) standards such as OpenStack or Docker.

The third, least valid, and arguably most powerful reason is culture. Companies don’t want to give up perceived control over their systems–even if that control is never worth its associated complexity–and sysadmins, understandably, don’t want to evolve themselves out of a job.

In my view, it explains well why PLM PaaS idea may be dead on arrival. The only reason for partners and developers to use platform is cost and speed. If I can spin a new server in minutes and develop my own cloud application, why I should bother with using of PLM PaaS. The potential reason could be data access and interoperability. But it will come down fast to customer lock-in. Openness and interoperability is a big issue in engineering world. Engineers and manufacturing companies don’t like to be locked on a specific software. Even PLM PaaS will provide an attractive set of functionality, I hardly can see how developers of vertical applications and solutions will lock themselves on a specific PaaS and won’t keep an option to provide this solution for other platform and vendors.

What is my conclusion? For the moment, PaaS looks more like a marketing buzzworld used by PLM and CAD vendors. I think vendors will take time to understand what means to deliver cloud platform that will be robust enough not to break under the complexity of multiple vendor dependencies, long development and usage lifecycle and technological innovation. So, PLM PaaS is not here yet and may not happen after all. This is a not for PLM architects to watch technological trends of large vendors and think how to develop future PLM platforms. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Why all PLM software will be SaaS soon?

November 26, 2014

plm-cloud-dream

I’ve be sharing many of my thoughts about how different cloud technologies can be used to implement PLM. Nevertheless, once in a while, I’m also getting comments and questions about acceptance of cloud PLM for large companies. Usually, it comes in the intersection of security and readiness of large manufacturing companies for cloud (SaaS) software.

TechMVP article – The benefits of SaaS transformation: both the obvious and non-obvious shows some very interesting perspective on that topic. Let me go straight to security question:

The second common objection stems from the thought process amongst large enterprise CIOs regarding whether to allow certain applications to live outside of the enterprise’s firewall. IT managers and executives – sometimes speaking about legitimate security concerns and sometimes speaking to protect their jobs – stand in the way of core applications moving to the cloud via a SaaS vendor. At the same time, these same decision makers have adopted Salesforce.com for CRM, and allow unencrypted email between employees and non-employees, thus calling into question the sincerity of their argument against other SaaS applications. The successful adoption of CRM in the cloud has opened the floodgates for virtually all other types of applications to move to the cloud even over the objections of certain IT managers.

Towards this end, we have seen in recent years the advent of ERP (FinancialForce, Workday), Marketing Automation (Eloqua, Marketo), and Software Development or ALM (GIT and Rally Software) in the cloud. These types of applications manage information that is often considered the “crown jewels” of corporate data, and thus are the types of applications that some thought would never take root in the cloud.

I can observe a significant growth of SaaS software adoption by manufacturing outside of pure engineering domain. You can see software in different categories – ERP, CRM, marketing, project management, software lifecycle management and many others. Imagine manufacturing product with software code managed using GIT? What will be the point to reject PLM system managing engineering bill of materials in the cloud?

Another interesting perspective is related to creation of new software companies. The graph below demonstrate a complete dominance of news business starting SaaS companies.

saasapps

One more data point is coming closer to PLM business and related to implementation of ERP systems. Panorama consulting solutions published an interesting 2014 ERP report, which speaks about type of ERP systems implemented in 2013. As you can see on-premise and hosted system is accounting together for 96% of all systems.

type-of-erp-software-2013

What is my conclusion? I wonder what percentage of new PLM systems implemented in 2014 will be SaaS. The number is probably not very high. However, traditionally, it takes long time to decide about PLM system. My hunch, that broad adoption of SaaS software in other domains will push manufacturing companies to evaluate more PLM systems and make their decision faster than before. SaaS lower risks and upfront cost, which can be an additional factor for manufacturing companies to taste cloud PLM sooner than later. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit: Robert Hensley via photopin cc


PLM vertical PaaS strategies

July 25, 2014

PaaS-plm-large-manufacturing

SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, DMaaS, … I’m sure marketing folks are having lots fun of new xaaS acronyms. The amount of publication about various strategies of services is skyrocketing. EDACafe article – The Platform-as-a-Service Provides European Aerospace & Defence OEMs and Partners with Greater Collaboration Capabilities brings a story of “AirDesign” – the European aerospace and defense industry’s collaboration platform by BoostAeroSpace and Dassault System. The article taste a bit marketing. Nevertheless, I found the following passage capture the rationale behind what AirDesign supposed to provide:

AirDesign drastically reduces operational costs for all partners through a single infrastructure, common exchange methods, open standards and easy access, all without adversely impacting existing information systems. All the primary European OEMs jointly requested and defined this platform in order to facilitate exchanges, support their suppliers’ ecosystems and generate new opportunities with services.

MMT article provides more analyzes on what Dassault and BoostAerospace are doing:

To manage the exchange of PLM data between all partners whatever their systems may be, AirDesign delivers three key capabilities through its digital exchange hub: 1/ The first allows an OEM to organize exchanges in the context of programs and projects, including the delegation of administrative roles; 2/The second is an integrated, secured and automatic technical data package exchange. The traceability needed for complex programs is a native capability, ensuring proper management of large technical files between OEMs and suppliers; 3/The third capability consists of access to a wide variety of services, including converters based on standards or approval services that a partner can use during an exchange.

The set of functionality above aren’t new. Large PLM implementation did it in the past. The problem of standardization and platform cost in supply chain eco-systems is critical. So, it is not unusual for partners to share single enterprise software infrastructure for design supply chain and more.

However, the notion of PaaS (Platform as a Service) is interesting. I’ve been blogging about that earlier – Will Cloud PLM develop PaaS option? and Cloud PLM and PaaS dilemma. It looks like PLM vendors is moving towards more vertical platform architecture. Especially for large companies and business eco-systems, PaaS can provide an interesting solution – standardization and cost benefits. The information about private cloud deployment by AirDesign confirms earlier news about Dassault developing all cloud PLM options.

What is my conclusion? I think we are going to see lots of PLM PaaS variations in a near term future. Large manufacturing companies are looking how to optimize cost and standartize infrastructure. This is an opportunity for PLM vendors to re-establish and sometimes re-develop their legacy systems in a new way. I’m sure lots of ENOVIA applications will be used in announced AirDesign PaaS. Overall looks like PaaS is another way to sell PLM cloud system to large manufacturing eco-system. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

picture credit to MMT article

 

 


Why Siemens PLM can develop PaaS option

July 16, 2014

cloud-paas

PaaS is a category of cloud computing service providing platform and solution stack. This service model is including not only computing infrastructure (IaaS), but also application design, development, testing, team collaboration, integration features, database integration, scalability, security and others. In addition to that, it might provide service management capabilities such as monitoring, workflow management, etc.

As cloud market becomes mature, IT, customers and application development are looking into complete solutions. All PLM vendors are in full swing into IaaS cloud PLM option. Cloud PLM experience brings the need to dig more into nuts and bolts of cloud business. It includes understanding of cost, scale, service maintenance, application development, partnership. So, fundamental question many vendors and customers have is what is the best way to make cloud PLM efficient? Understanding of PaaS option is an important step. I shared some of my thoughts about PaaS and PLM before- Cloud PLM and PaaS dilemma, Will cloud PLM develop PaaS options?

My blogging buddy and well known PLM analyst Chad Jackson tweetstormed what he learned at Siemens PLM about furure TeamCenter platform development. While I’m still waiting for full blog post on Chad’s Lifecycle Insight, the following filtered tweetstorm can give some idea about Siemens PLM platform strategy:

chad-jackson-siemens-plm-tweetstorm

It resonated with my previous thoughts about cloud PLM and PaaS and made me think why Siemens PLM as well as any other PLM vendor can consider PaaS as a right option for their cloud PLM strategy. Here are my 3 reasons to develop PLM PaaS:

1- Agile development.

Vendors should be able to go fast in the development of applications, ability to customize existing features and supporting new opportunities. Businesses are much more dynamic these days. Everyone wants to be agile. PLM vendors too. So, to get up to speed with business, PLM vendors need to have a stable platform to build on. PLM PaaS can be one.

2- Better upgrade strategies

Let’s take marketing gloves off. Regardless on deployment options (on premise; private cloud; public cloud), you need to deal with upgrades. Databases, services, data model changes- this is only a very short list. PaaS can hide upgrades from customer and application developers by providing a stable platform layer. This layer requires less frequent upgrades.

3- Scaling factor and cost.

Cost is important. Cloud is not cheap as many of us thoughts from the beginning. Customers are demanding new business models and optimized cost. The development and customization cost is another problem. Scaling and keeping cost low is also huge challenge. Utilization of enterprise servers is still relatively low. PaaS can answer on the question how to share resources and scale with low cost.

What is my conclusion? Most of PLM vendors took IaaS option as a starting point to develop cloud business. It is okay and will provide important experience from different perspective – technologies, business, user interface. However, IaaS won’t remove fundamental enterprise PLM issues – implementation complexity, upgrade challenges, high diversity of requirements and business changes. PaaS option can become the next logical step to optimize platform and application for agile delivery. It looks like Siemens is making steps towards this direction. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Why cloud won’t solve CAD/PDM/PLM integration problem tomorrow?

October 17, 2013

cloud-cad-pdm-plm-integration

All roads lead to Rome. Sometimes, I have a feeling whatever discussion happens in CAD, engineering and manufacturing world, it will lead to PDM and PLM. My earlier conversation about pros and cons of having special CAD file sharing tools started here, ended up on GrabCAD blog by Hardi Meybaum here with a conversation about what system should be used in organization to manage data, users and workflows and how to integrate these systems. Here is the passage:

In addition to the cons Oleg brought up I actually see a bigger issue – integration. A good thing about a generic/horizontal file sharing tool is that everyone is using the same system so it’s easy to manage data, users and workflows. Conversely, a manufacturing company might have someone who only needs to access very specific CAD data once or twice a quarter. Does this person really need access to your manufacturing-specific tool to get it? I think overcoming this problem is going to be an important obstacle to address in the next 3-5 years.

Another interesting point raised by Hardi, was the role of VAR is changing cloud/SaaS software role. In the past I discussed the future of PLM VARs last year here – What is the future of PLM VARs? My main point was that technical experience will become one of the main differentiation factors for future SaaS VARs. GrabCAD blog practically in the same way.

The benefit of VARs repositioning within the CAD space is that most of them have offered value implementing rather complicated engineering systems to customers already. They understand the customer well and have software knowledge within the company. I believe the new model for VARs in the next 5 years will be reinvention – some will become software companies providing specific integration like Zapier and others will focus on very specific workflow integrations between horizontal products.

However, let me get back to CAD, PDM, PLM and integration topic. While CAD File Sharing is highly demanded by almost all organizations these days, customer requirements are moving very fast from pure need to share information to questions and requirements how to control CAD data and manage change processes.

In the early beginning, PLM vendors and implementers were trying to get deep associations with CAD roots. This is not true anymore. One of the latest trend is to focus PLM on the business level of the company and how to improve company business processes. In one of my early articles CAD data and PLM, I described this position talking about CAD Rootless PLMs and importance of integration between CAD and PLM.

At the same time, the center of integration gravity is still positioned on integration of CAD and PDM. The complication of this type of integration is related to multi-CAD nature of CAD data. Companies are using different CAD systems. Some of CAD systems can dominant, but you always can find data from multiple CAD systems in every organization. GrabCAD post mentioned that as well. In the early days, PDM vendors were focusing on how to develop plug-ins for every CAD. This is still true for many vendors. However, next trend, in my view, would be future openness of CAD systems toward providing interfaces integrating to many PDM systems. You can read more about it in my post – Multi-CAD integration: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow .

Last, but not least topic is related to Cloud/SaaS solutions. This is a place where Hardi Meybaum of GrabCAD believe the most. Here is an interesting passage from GrabCAD post:

It will only be solved once there is enough adoption in the general market for the next generation of SaaS CAD tools like GrabCAD Workbench, Autodesk PLM360, TeamPlatform. At that point the integration challenges will evolve.

I can see a clear point of movement to the cloud / SaaS trajectory. However, in my view, despite a significant growths in design domain, co-existence will be probably the right word to describe the reality of coming few years. I want to stress this point – CAD will be the latest application in the list of PDM, PLM and other business services to move to the cloud. What is interesting to me is how vendors are going to support this “cloud transition”. Companies clearly won’t be able to move all in a single shot. You can take a look on how I can see a transition in my blot post – PDM/PLM Evolution: Final Step and Cloud / On-Premises Integration.

What is my conclusion? Integration is a complicated and important topic. However, to think integration will disappear with movement to the cloud is too naive position. Cloud/SaaS can clearly simplify some technological aspects of integrations. However, the complexity of design, data management and processes in an organization will be very hard to overcome only by the change of technological foundation. The "transition phase" will be another reason why vendors and customers will have to deal with integration for coming decade, at least. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Midsize PLM: Forget old SaaS, new cloud is coming to disrupt you?

August 19, 2013

The technology trends are interesting these days. You think what can be more disruptive than cloud. Indeed, cloud, social and mobile are there major trends and forces to drive innovation in enterprise organizations now. However, here is the thing – I can see more and more confirmations about readiness of customers to go forward with cloud solutions. At the same time, the question that companies and individuals are raising are more towards understanding of "what" cloud means for them and "how" to implement cloud solutions. I raised this question in my recent post – Dassault IFWE and PLM Cloud Switch.

Yesterday, I’ve been reading venture bit article – How SaaS is triggering the rise of mid market companies. Navigate to the article, have a read and make your opinion. It speaks a lot about cloud "hows" in the context of cloud technology trends. It was the first time I’ve seen people mentioning "old cloud vs. new cloud". Here is the passage I found inspiring:

Startup software vendors can take advantage of new technology and infrastructure better than decade-old vendors in this new reality. They have an immense advantage over established players struggling to adapt legacy web 1.0 products to the new paradigm. As Salesforce approaches its 15th birthday, the SaaS market it pioneered so disruptively is itself feeling disrupted.

It sounds like "new cloud" positioned itself somewhat different from bigger cloud providers, by reaching better flexibility, data access, intuitiveness. One of the key elements is usage mobile devices and natural collaborativeness inherited from new mobile applications. Native mobility becomes one of the key advantages of "new cloud trend". It appears not only in the way application can be used, but also in the way application can be sold and implemented. Here is another interesting passage:

The SaaS paradigm also reduces the cost of selling to mid-size businesses. Since products are web-based, they can easily be demonstrated remotely. In addition, search engine and social technologies make it much easier for customers to find software vendors. These inbound tactics combine synergistically with outbound e-mail and telemarketing campaigns, eliminating the need to send a salesperson to each company.

What is my conclusion? The speed of business changes is dramatic these days. Only few years ago, we mentioned cloud pioneers like Salesforce.com as a company on the bleeding edge of technology and business model. It is interesting today, how new waves of disruption are going to open a new decade of cloud applications. Does it mean something for PLM companies and PLM implementations? I don’t think we have an answer. The question about speeding up transition of customers to the cloud solution is still not answered, in my view. Industry was changed by bringing new technologies to revolutionizing manufacturing business these days. What will be the next steps? It is a right time to ask about. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Cloud PLM and PaaS Dilemma

June 4, 2013

IaaS, PaaS, SaaS… Most probably you are familiar with this abbreviations. These are fundamental layers in cloud computing these days. IaaS stands for Infrastructure as a service. PaaS stands for Platform as a Service and, finally, SaaS stands for Software as a Service. These concepts were around for some time. SaaS is probably one of the earliest and it became a delivery model for many software providers these days. Salesforce.com, Google Apps, Workday – this is a very short list of notable SaaS providers. On the opposite side, IaaS offers virtual computing power – virtual machines, servers, storage, networks, etc. Amazon delivered the most reliable IaaS infrastructure today – AWS. Other competitors are scratching their heads these days trying to understand how to compete with that.

Let me get back to engineering, manufacturing, PDM and PLM. IaaS and specifically AWS became a mainstream for almost everybody. It is hard to find development organization that is not using AWS for some purposes. Massive amount of cloud applications today are dependent on IaaS cloud infrastructure. Some of PLM vendors decided to to leverage the power of IaaS to turn their existing solutions into cloud ones. I covered this topic couple of months ago here – Cloud PLM and IaaS Option.

The part of SaaS is clear as well. We can see a growing number of cloud (SaaS) applications. Notable vendors in PLM are Arena Solutions, Autodesk and some others. The topic I want to discuss today is PaaS. According to PaaS wikipedia definition

Platform as a service (PaaS) is a category of cloud computing services that provides a computing platform and a solution stack as a service.[1] Along with software as a service (SaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS), it is a service model of cloud computing. In this model, the consumer creates the software using tools and/or libraries from the provider. The consumer also controls software deployment and configuration settings. The provider provides the networks, servers, storage and other services.[2] PaaS offerings facilitate the deployment of applications without the cost and complexity of buying and managing the underlying hardware and software and provisioning hosting capabilities.[3]

Here are few examples of notable PaaS providers – Heroku, Windows Azure, Google App Engine, and few others. If I think back to the idea of turning you PDM/PLM application to a platform in a conventional (pre- PaaS world), than I will think about usage of PLM as a platform to develop variety of applications and implementations. If you remember history of PDM /PLM platforms, you probably agree with me that it took a significant effort and time to leading PLM vendors to create platforms that can be easy used and evolve in the future is incredibly complicated tasks. Still existing platforms such as Enovia, TeamCenter and Windchill are complex and hard to use. It made me think more about PaaS and ability of PLM to leverage PaaS in the future.

The following article caught my attention last week – The problem with PaaS. Read this article and make your opinion. According to the article, the central paradigm of PaaS is to provide development and deployment environment to the user. I found the following passage interesting. It describes the problem very well. Take a read.

The central idea of PaaS is the CSP provides a development and deployment environment to the user. True, PaaS abstracts the underlying infrastructure, but that’s the role of the IaaS underneath the PaaS platform. The goal of PaaS is to abstract the development environment details themselves. Unfortunately, building an abstraction at this level is extraordinarily difficult, because developers typically require fine-grained, hands-on control of their development environments. Change a classpath or config file setting or environment variable or any number of other nuts and bolts that make up a coder’s day-to-day work environment, and everything the developer has built will crash and burn.

What is my conclusion? What is the future of PLM and PaaS? It is a complicate task to build a scalable, flexible and expandable PLM platform in the cloud. Some vendors are following this path now and some of PLM vendors are looking how to turn their existing systems into cloud PaaS. I can hardly see how cloud vendors will be able to leverage existing PaaS because of complexity of implementations, integrations and system conflicts. It would be very interesting to see if one of the existing cloud PLM products will turn into scalable PLM PaaS. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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