I think cloud / SaaS option for PLM can become a reality earlier than expected. Listening to customers, vendors as well as reading all news and buzz stream, I can definitely see a changing trend with regards to cloud based solutions. There is an increased trend of discussion about possible PLM scenarios to introduce a cloud based and SaaS solutions. I can recommend to read the following posts from Jim Brown blog – Cloud and Multi-touch CAD/PLM: Engineer’s Nightmare , Josh Mings’ SolidSmack about SolidWorks on the Cloud. In addition, you can take a look on a very interesting presentation about Cloud/SaaS and PLM strategy by Tata Consultancy Services from PDT Europe last year. You can download slides from this location and, dispite “the confidential note”, these slides contain some excellent thoughts about PLM SaaS, PaaS and IaaS offerings.
Cloud and PLMosaurs
In my view, existing PLM vendors are facing significant disruption from the side of agile and lean vision of PLM/SaaS. Why I’m saying a vision? Because, realistically, I don’t see a significant presence of SaaS / Cloud based offering on the market. It seems to me, existing vendors have hard time to make solutions co-exist (i.e. PTC/IBM or Oracle Agile). The issue of security is a nuclear weapon that on premise vendors put in front of the customers when a discussion about moving to SaaS becomes really hot. As part of this discussion, the story of private cloud comes up, and I can see a tendency of PLM providers to think about moving existing PLM solutions hosted by public or private clouds. What will happen to existing PLMs? Is there a possibility for existing PLMs to survive and successfully squeeze into a cloud, or they will become PLMosaurs? This is a very good question, and I think, we’ll experience multiple trials of existing PLM solutions jumping on the cloud soon.
Lightweight and Granular
Life on cloud is not as easy, and if I’m looking on the experience of Salesforce.com, PLM vendors need to think twice before moving current product offering on the cloud. I’d recommend an excellent reading Behind The Cloud by Marc Benioff. Current monolithic architectures may have potential problems and will require re-engineering. Cloud will require a different content creation and application granularity techniques. Current solutions have a potential to re-use expertise and leveraging existing customer base, but this is going to be a challenging path.
PLM SaaS Newbies
There is a small presence of new companies in this space. PLM+ made a splash last year by their announcement, Vuuch is another interesting solution that can pretend on some of the space covered today by existing PLM products. I was reading Jim Brown’s write up about the future of engineering software strategies. He mentioned fewer new entrances and, at the same time, stated that “to innovate in a garage” is much easier than doing the same in a big company.
What is my conclusion? It seems to me PLM companies need to think how to ramp up with SaaS solutions. My concern is that hosting current product offerings as a SaaS by moving them to the cloud is one possible strategy, and it will be realized by PLM mindshare leaders soon. There are some advantages together with some disadvantages and a danger to end up moving all existing PLM problems on the cloud. I think, PLM needs to find an alternative way to solve manufacturing problems by providing granular SaaS solutions. This is the time to learn from the past experience of Arena, PTC/IBM and other pioneers of SaaS PLM offering and think about the future.
Just my thoughts…