Open PLM – A Climb For Losers?

Almost two months ago, I had a chance to read a blog article by Mobile Beat with some intriguing name “Open is for losers” by Dave McClure. Take a look and form your opinion. Understanding the overall intention to provoke a good discussion around this topic, I decided to follow this blog post in some time to read discussion and see people’s opinion on this topic. It happened that independently some of PLM Think Tank posts generated some interesting discussion related to the topic of Openness.

Closed Thoughts About PLM Openness

Open vs. Closed PLM Debates

Today, I want to get back and discuss how I see the future of openness in PLM and Engineering Software.

Standards, Formats, Data Models

The discussion about standards and formats is life long. Do you think CAD and PLM industry will be able to generate a reasonable quality standard answering to the needs of industry? Discussions in this field are varying from request to develop independent formats and ends up by requests to disclosure existing data models, formats, etc. I don’t think these discussions may produce results in near future. The development of common formats and models is too expensive and, in the end, will require to have a set of tools to work with. The interesting potential will be to borrow some of the emerging web technologies.

APIs, Toolkits and Platforms

API is the most referenced way to make software open. Combined with a set of patterns, technologies and buzzwords, this is probably the way to do it in real life. The biggest remaining problem in this space is reliability and compliance of these APIs within the time. In addition, APIs and other internal mechanisms are under heavy licensing by vendors. I don’t see any silver bullet these days that can make any major improvements in this space.

Applications and Solutions

The reality of a current situation is that customers are working with multiple applications, products and solutions. In many situations, I can see no interest for a particular vendor to enable easy data migration from one tool to another. Therefore, we can see multiple software vendors or service providers that can help customers to solve this problem.

What is my conclusion today? How To Climb To Open PLM? This is the most important question that needs to be asked collectively in the industry. I think, the industry movement into PLM openness is the indicator of industry maturity. I can see ups and downs on this road. A critical mass of openness needs to be delivered by vendors to turn on the switch of benefits from open PLM. Multiple established vendors and newcomers will need to invest enough resources to make it happen. The remaining players will be able to deliver better solutions. Some of them can probably die on the road. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg



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  • Lev Desmarais

    It would seem that there are some real negative press surrounding open systems. I wounder if it is coming from the users or the vendors. I’m sure the vendors are afraid of giving away the store. Users may have some concerns over long term supportability of open systems. In my experience, software that exists in a stable form in unsupportable regardless of whether it is open source or vendor backed. Evolve or die is the name of the game. I have seen implementations where source code was decompiled and reverse engineered because the user wanted a change that the vendor was unwilling to make. Is it better to have open source which may be modified by the use in ways unknown to the vendor, or to deploy inflexible software which is consistent and therefor easier to support? We could argue the pros and cons of each approach indefinitely. Good change management helps. Realistically, companies have to contain their PLM budgets. Anything is possible given enough time and resources. Personally I would prefer to have to option to modify the code in house if there is a business case to support it without having to incur the expense of reverse engineering the code and risking potential litigation over intellectual property writes by doing so. I can only hope that PLM vendors will be enlightened enough to provide open source solutions and permit the user communities to contribute to the PLM solutions available.

  • There was a couple of really points in the “open is for losers” debate…
    I like the comment…”They are open or closed as necessary to make the best product. They don’t expect you to buy and use something because it’s politically correct…”…so what matter is what works…whether you are 100% open, 100% closed or somewhere in-between..
    For me this is all about those network effects.. If a degree of openness can ‘buy’ (and I use the world ‘buy’ deliberately because you have to invest in openness) key networks effects (such as a large community innovating around your platform and promoting your technology at little marginal cost to yourself) then this investment in openness is very much worthwhile.. …although I suspect you have to be one of the ‘first to market’ with an open strategy in a particular sector for it to work..Maybe that’s an interesting discussion.. Is first mover advantage important in pursuit of an open strategy in any given sector?

  • Lev, Thank you for your insight on this “open” topic. I found “open” is not simple to define and implement. I think, there are specific characteristics of “openness”, and they are depending on a domain you are located. The current situation in CAD/PLM industry is different from other software domains. On the bottom is always value/cost comparison. Open strategies can significantly change it and, as a result, to change trends in the development of open PLM solutions. One of the questions who will start this change and who will survive in the end… Best, Oleg

  • Graham, Thanks for your comment! I agree, both “open” and “close” can be equally successful. You just need to choose the strategy for each case. So, my question – what is the right one for PLM today? Best, Oleg

  • Lev Desmarais

    I am well aware of the challenges of the CAD/PLM industry. I’ve been working in the field for twenty two years. In my experience, PLM has always been a tool that needs to be tailored to meet the needs of the company implementing it. I have never seen PLM used out of the box without some tailoring. API’s help tailor the low hanging fruit of workflows, reports and minor changes to web API’s. Often the API is not enough. Changes are needed that go beyond the scope of the API. This is where open source code would be a useful tool.

    Some of the concerns associated with tailoring a software solution are maintaining the changes when upgrading to a new release of the core system, support and maintenance of a non-standard implementation, and the cost of implementing changes to the out-of-the-box system. These costs must be weighed against the value of changes. Sometimes the value of the changes are difficult to quantify. Things like user acceptance are hard to assign a dollar value to.

    I apologize for the grammar errors in my previous post. I need an editor for my comments. I was trying to dash off my thoughts in a hurry. Hopefully you all got the gist of what I was trying to say despite my typos.

  • Lev, thanks for your thoughts and comments! I agree with you, PLM as is today, have heavy reliance on services, tailoring, adjustments and customizations. Customer’s demand is for highest level of openness and flexibility. This is also what asked by various service providers and implementing IT. Software vendors provide support for this with variable success. It depends on many factors and often fails into the problem of the upgrade, backward compliance, etc. In my view, we are going to see a lot of variations from fully-loaded-out-of-the-box-systems (kind of Apple-like PLM) and very flexible offerings. I think, to find a silver bullet will not be simple. This is future’s innovation in this domain. Best, Oleg

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