SaaS and Open Source: PLM Future Rides

Recent announcements about new company PLM+ stroke me to think again about these two interesting trends – On Demand (or SaaS if you will) and Open Source Software (OSS). In one of my previous posts, I talked about promising future trends for PLM. In my view, both (On Demand and OSS) are there.

On Demand
On the positive side of this model, I can figure out the following: no releases and upgrade milestones (at least an option to do so), no need for IT/Servers, completely web oriented, available everywhere, potentially much more mobile friendly. On the negative side of this model bold are security concerns, integration with organizational enterprise systems zoo and potential performance. The long future of on demand looks to me much brighter in comparison to today’s reality. Ability to deliver focused application using this model will be a key to success. Full blown PLM deployment with tight enterprise system integrations seems like not an option for 2010. PLM On Demand option was discovered by Arena and Agile (in the past). Both didn’t make it big enough yet to become mainstream option.

Open Source Software
OSS is a very interesting option for PLM. Huge customization and flexibility potential, services and partners involvement, business model benefits – all these factors are bold advantages for PLM. However, it is not clear if PLM community is big and mature enough to generate enough service business for PLM vendors today.

So, what is my conclusion today? On Demand option looks like favorable to those customers who are interested to get predefined functionality out-of-the-box. Do you think such set of functionality can be defined today similar to what happened to CRM? This is not clear. I want to quote Jos Voskuil blog saying “ERP systems came on the market 15 years before PLM, how many ERP on demand solutions do exist“. OSS is a very interesting opportunity to generate service money for PLM community. However, customer volume is the requirement to make this option viable.

I’m looking with great interest for both Arena and Aras experiments with On Demand and OSS. In my view, the potential change in this space can come either by newcomers with a new and interesting solution as well as by existing big vendors stepping into this space.

Just my thoughts. YMMV.

Best, Oleg.


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  • Stanislas

    Hello Oleg,

    Focusing on the OSS, my thoughts are that one of the major advantage of Open Source in the PLM area is that we will not be linked to an Commercial partner which is willing us to change release each year. Whith the OSS you are able to test and then move to production, but the aim of the PLM will stay at the same level, and assuming the other parts of software react the same, you can keep the tested OSS as long as you want. At the end, you will be able to switch more often that commercial ones as you will have more cash (licences fess) to test again.

  • Hi Oleg & Stanislas,

    Two points:
    – first i’d like to get back on what stanislas wrote on being linked to a commercial partner who is willing to change release each year. I think as long as an Open Source PLM solution progress, there will also be a lot of release. And even if you don’t have to upgrade, you may be forced to because all the community will move to this next release and so you might not have anymore support for your old release, and every company needs support. So ok the risk minimised but i’m not sure you can really stay a long time on an old release. I think Aras corp acknowledge that, and instead of saying: “you don’t need to upgrade with our solution”, they say: “To encourage companies to stay up to date with their PLM system release we integrate the Upgrade in our Support cost”.

    – The second point is regarding Oleg’s post. I went back to an old post of yours called “Do we need to fix PLM basics?”, and while reading it, i highlighted the following sentence: “Unfortunately, in my view, most PLM systems are not created with ‘change’ in mind. Applying changes in these systems is a very expensive and time-consuming process.” And that’s where Aras Solution is nice to work with. Easy to change as an integrator, and easy to understand and communicate the change for the customer. I had few meetings where customers where telling me that they were unable to have the DataModel big pictures from other solution vendors. As a part of the Open Source community, @ prodeos we recently developped a tool to answer their request( It makes possible at anytime and after anychange to extract your datamodel as an UML diagram. Aras Innovator already made it with an SVG viewer integrated. We just wanted to make the customer able to play with his datamodel on an separate UML file and discuss it with Product manager, IT staff…

    So to sum this up, the opportunity to keep your system without upgrading it may not be the best argument as you don’t want to be 10 releases behind because when you’ll want to upgrade, nobody might be here to support you. But the answer from Aras is to take it in charge with no additionnal cost then support.
    I see Open Source as great for change and flexibility.
    for example: we actually integrate google desktop search capabilities inside an Aras Innovator solution for a customer request, which will search inside documents in the Vault. Not sure we could make it so easily with other solutions!

    Best Regards!

  • Stanislas, agree with you on the topic of change. This is a potential to today’s licensed releases and scheduling. However, if we will have a system with massive deployment of changes, OSS can start to behave as a normal software release and can become unstable very easy. To make it work smooth, in my view, is part of the community work. My concern is that PLM OSS will not be able to grow to the required level. Thanks for discussion! Oleg

  • Yoann, Thanks for your comment. Agree, OSS can be provide a significant flexibility relief. However, community work and massive updates can drive system to unstable state or requires a significant upgrade resources. Large and mature community is a guarantee for OSS to be stable and open, in my view. I’d expect existing or new PLM vendor can discover opportunity behind OSS and turns partially to this model. Their critical mass can be something that will change PLM OSS from experimental status Aras is dealing now to streamline. Best, Oleg

  • Hi all,

    these are definitely two important topics.

    First of all, I must say that using Open Source components saves a huge amount of money to develop software that works, so anyone who has a good understanding of customer needs can design a nice data model, program a nice UI using technology like GWT and then get a nice PDM system that really works (it would not have been so a few years ago).

    Then, there is another question about the PDM system itself being Open Source. This is more of a challenge, since I have the impression that many of the Open Source projects that have a UI part, end with a poor ergonomy. Probably because it is easier to have a single view of what the product should do than *how* it should do it.

    Concerning the SaaS model, this is yet another problem. All the services that are usually sold with PDMs (customization, training, …) have to be either removed or doable online (customizing the data model, managing rights, …etc), either through templates or interactively. And this is not an easy task. It is doable though (we do it at HD3D). But I guess that this is the bottleneck for SaaS.



    PS: I wrote PDM and not PLM to make sure the scope is well defined. I do not think that we are getting any close to having a high level Open Source CAD system.

  • Am glad to see continued discussion on these two different approaches. I believe these are the two most important topics in PLM and in enterprise software in general.

    There is something that is misunderstood about Aras in this discussion however. It’s important to note that “open source” is not the key to the Aras flexibility and upgradability. The reason data model modifications can be made in minutes and heavily customized systems can be upgraded in hours is not because it’s open source.

    The secret sauce (i.e. true innovation) is the Model-based SOA framework. Run-time modeling INSTEAD of programming is what allows data schema changes in real-time. Graphical solution modeling means you draw flowcharts for processes and drag-and-drop pictures for screens WITHOUT the need for complex coding.

    The underlying SOA is independent of the data model and there are no hard coded business objects… just the Services. That means that the SOA framework and the XML models are separate. Which in turn means that the Models are portable and can be moved from system to system in minutes.

    New release… no problem. Just move the Model. Vuala, system is upgraded!

    We were talking with a company yesterday and wanted to show them a totally custom implementation that had been done a couple years ago on an old release. While the group talked, the upgrade was performed in less than 5 minutes. No one could believe it… especially having struggled with enterprise PLM / PDM system upgrades in the past.

    It’s advanced technology (i.e. Modeling) that makes Aras able to include upgrades in the standard subscription for no charge – no matter how much customization your company has done.

    Enterprise open source produces a lot of compelling benefits, particularly for large-scale enterprise PLM deployments – No PLM Licenses, Predictable fixed cost structure, etc, etc, etc… however, the flexibility is really due to the Model-based SOA – No complex programming required, real-time changes, rapid upgrades, etc.

    Hope this helps clarify.


  • Laurent, Thanks for figuring out this important point related to components & technologies to develop PDM and PDM itself. What you say about ergonomic characteristics and UI make sense, however it depends on how you develop OSS product. You probably right in case of community development. However, in case of product converted to OSS (this is case of Aras) it can be differently. So, if existing PDM/PLM vendor will decide to convert part of the portfolio to open source it will be different too.
    SaaS and customization- this is probably one of the most critical elements that criticized when discussing possible enterprise SaaS deployment. Some lessons can be learned from what did, but I don’t see it finally resolved and this will be a very challenging topic too.
    Great discussion! Thanks for your comments! Best, Oleg

  • AndyF

    Aras is a new way to provide PLM functionality to the business. The OSS aspect of Aras is cool, but it isn’t the really important feature. The key point is that Aras can be made to work, the other PLM solutions on the market quite frankly don’t work. The value proposition is quite compelling: zero cost software that works vs. paying millions for stuff that doesn’t work.

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