PLM and Legacy Data

PLM and Legacy Data

When I’m thinking about any PLM project, I can clearly see the step when data available in the organization need to be loaded into the system. This step is often underestimated from different standpoints: ability to gather and load information, availability of data definitions, availability of APIs and system performance. I had chance to write before about “legacy data import” as a one of the three major factors impacting mainstream PLM deployment.

Data Sources
I’d make a try to break down legacy data you can face during the implementation.

1. File Legacy
Existing document, drawings, CAD models, Office documents.  In most of the cases, these are “un-managed data resources”, that need to be collected, analyzed, imported and stored into the system

2. Relational Databases
In today’s enterprise landscape, lots of data are located into RDBMS system. You can find lots of legacy data here – starting from early dBase tables and going up to various versions database formats and systems Connections to these systems in most of the cases is very straightforward via SQL-compliant driver or software.

3. Computer and Application Legacy
Often, you have systems that were implemented and used or continue to be used by company now. For some reasons, the access of their data storage is problematic. In this case, the only way is to access these applications via an available API or reverse engineer  such data sources. Sometime, you can face old, but still functioning computer systems (mainframe is one of the best examples) that continue to operate and keep lots of valuable for organization information.

Import vs. Federation
These are two separate strategies about how to handle legacy data. You can keep the data in the original form and systems. You PLM system will be accessing the legacy data sources to get data, connect and transform it into a new form. The alternative option is to import data in a single shot into a new system. In this case, your legacy data becomes irrelevant, and you move into a new system. It is hard to say what is the best strategy. The situation needs to be estimated and assessed based on the system analyzes. However, I found legacy systems as something that very painful during implementation.

What is my conclusion? Legacy data is important. The amount of data is growing in the exponential manner. To handle legacy data and systems is a very painful task. Each time we come with new systems, the problem of legacy data comes up again. PLM needs to learn to handle foreign lifecycle data or lifecycle data produced by previous versions of PLM systems. It seems to me as a very important functionality that almost missed today. What is your opinion?

Best, Oleg

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  • Sporter

    Oleg,
    As you point out this is one of the most critical aspects of PLM implementation. CAD data in particular is very tricky to import into PLM systems especially if the client wants to preserve history. This requirement can add a huge mulitplier to the cost of importing data. The preferred method is as you disucss is an ad hoc approach where you bring data over as needed and tranform the metadata to match the new paradigm. Unfortunately in certain situations the client is committed to shutting down the legacy system which adds challenges to implementation. This is one of those issues that creates difficulty for all PLM vendors and partners. Good topic.

  • Steve Jones

    With the outsourcing of IT resources the cost of maintaining a legacy system is much more visible to management. It is easier to make a cost justification to migrate data out of such systems. The decision I face more often is where to put the data? If the new system has rigorous change management rules then trying to get that old data to fit into those new rules can be time consuming and expensive. It may be just as well to extract the older legacy data as a bunch of reports and load into a search engine. That respository becomes the “archives”.

  • beyondplm

    Stephen, Thanks for commenting! Legacy data is a very complicated topic. CAD data, multiple formats, regulation requirements, dependencies on versions… This is only a short list of problems. Best, Oleg

  • beyondplm

    Steve, Thanks for pointing on such an important thing! One of the problems with legacy data is that it requires a huge effort to import it into a new system. Data mapping and different modeling capability turns it into almost not-resolvable issue. Customers are archiving computers with OS and software installed on them to support backward compatibility of legacy data. Best, Oleg