I definitely think that “cloud” will become the buzzword of the year 2009. As the number of cloud-based announcements is growing, I tried to see where PLM of its into this cloud race. So far, I’ve observed three main trends companies are using to jump on the cloud-related business.
1. Develop a cloud-based platform/infrastructure
In my view, Amazon is the leader here in the way that it established an elastic cloud platform and also provided database services (Amazon Web Services, Amazon EC2, Amazon WS). Microsoft, IBM and other big IT vendors are joining the race – you can see a few announcements recently from MS and from IBM. Do a Google search for buzzwords such as SaaS, IaaS, PaaS and you will find whole bunch of relevant publications.
2. Use cloud services and/or a platform to develop new applications
This is not only a place for innovation for many big companies, but also an absolutely sweet spot for newcomers. The number of applications on top of established cloud services such as Amazon is growing. Where Amazon and Google look more infrastructure and data oriented, Facebook, and some others provide more social-oriented applications. What’s interesting here is the redevelopment of available utilities and tools that can be connected and backed up with cloud services.
3. Integrate and/or migrate existing application offering with cloud services
This is a space where existing established ISVs are trying to balance between today and tomorrow. According to the latest Forrester research “Platform-As-A-Service Reference Architecture”, at least 50% of ISVs today are developing SaaS applications. “Increasing customer demand for software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications has already convinced 50% of software vendors to deploy some of their business applications via SaaS. The approach is turning out to be a major technology challenge, as it re-opens the fundamental platform discussion. A new set of functionality in the form of platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings is leading to a new software product and services category” – says Stefan Ried, Ph.D. in his research.
What are the possible routes for PLM-related companies within this cloud-race? One route will be moving existing enterprise application architectures onto the cloud platforms. Some of IaaS/PasS providers (like Amazon EC2) allows you to run existing applications hosted on the cloud; but some of this new IaaS/PaaS development (i.e. MS Azure) assumes that you will need to adopt this to a new application development infrastructure. Another alternative is to develop services on top of established cloud platforms. In this context, I was thinking about the possible renaissance of File Explorer (yes! New Old Stuff… File Explorer is the most widely used product data management tool after MS Excel :)).
So, the cloud-based File Explorer could be easy and cheap for companies to start moving their PDM/PLM stacks onto the cloud. On one hand, it will leverage existing user experience, which is significantly important for users. , On the other hand, it will be backed up with strong and scalable cloud data services.
I’m sure we will see Cloud-based PLM services coming very soon. I will be very interested to know you’re your feelings. Perhaps, you already have some experience in this area.