I’m getting back to the topic of persistent storage of PLM data. In my previous posts, I touched on this a few times.
First of all, I will try to define functional scope for product persistent storage: In my view, there are five groups of product information that need to be included in this storage: (1) product geometry and models; (2) drawings; (3) knowledge representation (how-to; reasoning; math…); (4) Technical data such as suppliers, manufacturing, etc. and finally (5) meta-data describing all the product data together.
While I see a growing interest and demand for a solution that could possibly covering all the five topics I mentioned above, I don’t see technologies mature enough to provide an answer and allow practical implementation of such a solution in the field. I will try to cover briefly what I found available and what I see practically possible today.
I see STEP as a very solid and mature format that probably can consolidate geometry, model, and sometime additional product information. At the same time, raster formats (IGES, TIFF) and some others can be used to represent drawings for the long-term. Broad usage of PDF makes this format a reliable and stable option for long-term persistent storage as well. On top of PDF, I’ve seen some development such as PDF/A (for document archiving). Even if this format cannot be used as is for product-related data, this is the direction that can be taken to develop extensions for PDF that can support needs for representation of additional technical data.
I didn’t find any reliable technologies that can be used to store meta-data and technical data, rather than existing database and XML technologies. Even if these (Database and XML) technologies prove themselves for transactional usages, I haven’t found practical reference on using databases for data storage over a long time..
Apart from the above-mentioned technologies, I didn’t find mature technologies that can be used. There are a few research projects that I found in this space – LOTAR and some developments done by OMG, OASIS, and W3C. All these development are mostly research in character and contain research and development of models for persistent storage. At the same time, I don’t see them ready for production deployment.
So far, storage has become less expensive and we continue to produce a massive amount of new data on a daily basis. I see persistent storage as a very interesting opportunity for development that we’ll be able to see in the near future.