SAP Goes for Database, What Is PLM Path?

Last week announcement about SAP-Sybase acquisition made me think about potential paths for PLM applications and technological verticals in the future. It is interesting to see SAP’s pick up of aged Sybase. On the surface, the business justification is clear. Following previous jumbo acquisition of Business Objects in 2007 and projected improvements of SAP front end applications, the acquisition of Sybase is focusing on the strategic disconnecting of SAP from their rivals and database sponsors – Oracle and Microsoft.

The ERP Shadow
Despite the fact PLM is not directly competing with ERP vendors, the shadow of ERP is always in the air when you are thinking about enterprise PLM implementation. PLM felt a step child in the family of enterprise products. ERP, obviously considered the king of this family. PLM is continuously trying to convince in their dominance starting from the ability to handle product data, processes and ending up non-stop discussions about Bill of Material related issues. ERP sales outperformed PLM colleagues by clear presentation of ROI and other business topics.

RDBMS and PLM – catholic marriage?
PLM dependence on database technologies is very significant these days. 100% of PLM development relies on relational SQL based databases. However, most of PLM systems are tweaking their database model to support various highly sophisticated modeling abstractions. Some of these implementations are abusing core principles of RDBMS and building efficient and performance oriented data store. Few months ago, I posted about noSQL options for PLM platform. Another non-RDBMS alternative for PLM are various FOSS data platforms used in mega-scale Internet application. I’d consider it as a very interesting future option for PLM.

PLM Verticals and Flexibility
At the time when ERP clear decision is to go on complete vertical path, and building fully integrated vertical offering, an interesting question I want to ask – should PLM follow? What will be important for Product Lifecycle Management application to manage effectively product development and manufacturing shops tomorrow? The big advantage of highly integrated vertical architectures is in their ability to serve customers with their complete software offering. ERP did it in the past and continues doing so now too. At the same time, SAP is investing into a database backend verticals, I think, enterprise software giants forgot to learn a lesson from and some other products focusing on high flexibility and granularity in their products and portfolios.

What is my conclusion? Big companies are trying to become bigger. The obvious path is to build verticals to preserve their dominance top down- from the application to the middleware, platforms, database, storage. Is it the right path for PLM? I’m not sure. Manufacturers are looking for a flexible way to organize their product development and manufacturing. Businesses are very dynamic these days and the future will come from the side of agility.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg



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  • Jovan

    I really think that it is not a good decision from SAP.
    Ok that’s true they will not depend of tier parties for their application and develop Apple like applications in a very closed world (The database being their iPhone – all applications will be optimized for their database I suppose).

    But the future tells me (I talk to it every other weekend when I am drunk partying with my IT friends) that in a very close future database will be a service. And I cannot wait for it to be the case.
    You’d pay a monthly fee and a rate depending of the usage…

    From then how easy would it be to change RDMS, make them more efficient and more reactive…. Ahhh my friend the future has sweet dreams…

  • Jovan, Thanks for comment and insight related to SAP. I think SAP’s decision re Sybase was partly generated by interest to exclude Oracle / Microsoft database revenues coming from SAP. DB as a service is an interesting option and worth future discussion. I will think about that… Thanks, Oleg

  • Dibyaranjan

    i do agree with Jovan, that in near future database as a service will surely come into reality. So time will tell SAP decission to go for a database holds a good 1 or not….
    @Oleg, i believe that, PLM & ERP are both tightly connected to each other when it comes to manufacturing process. If ERP can have their own vertical they need to integrated PLM also. Dont you think so??

  • Dibyaranjan, Thanks for your comment! Actually, ERP is trying to include PLM in their vertical. Both SAP and Oracle did it… This is not the best way, in my view. You can read some of my thoughts related to PLM/ERP integration here… Best,Oleg



    I am just thinking whether database as a service can be more successful ?. because in customer perspective there might be some security issues may pop up on keeping the ownership of their database as a service. when it comes to use of the Database as a service for PLM or ERP. it could get complicated.

    its just my thought!!


  • SAKTHIVEL, Thank you for your comments! Database as a service can be successful too. Question of the security is more “customer feelings”, in my view. However, moving to the cloud won’t solve problems. The same complication PLM/ERP has today on the premise will move there… Don’t you think so? Best, Oleg

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