Open Cloud, PLM Backbone and Vendor Lock-In

Open Cloud, PLM Backbone and Vendor Lock-In

Vendor Lock-In is painful. I think, customers in the space of CAD/PLM even more sensitive to this issue. Proprietary CAD formats used by vendors many years, which allowed them to charge premium fees. Recently, we learned that Data Backbone lock-in can be even more dangerous. Customers are spending millions in their data management infrastructures and proprietary platforms. It helps them later to navigate customers like Daimler to right decisions.

I just learned about IBM VISION Cloud initiative. More about IBM VISION Cloud in IBM press release. Navigate your browser to the following link and read the interview from Dr, Yaron Wolfsthal, IBM’s senior manager responsible for VISION Cloud.

The EU-funded VISION Cloud initiative, led by IBM, has been launched and is focused on creating a metadata format that will enable users’ data to be interoperable among Cloud service providers. This is potentially a huge development for all business, but especially small businesses, which run the risk of vendor lock-in and general unhappiness when they find that it’s not cost-effective to switch Cloud vendors should they encounter problems.

As far as I understand, IBM is investigating how to develop a cloud storage that can be used for future internet data services. Here is a very interesting quote from Dr. Wolfsthal interview:

In principle we are targeting an open specification, open APIs etc. The participation of the SNIA.Europe (this is the European chapter of the Storage Networking Industry Association) will help us promote the open Specifications and standards developed/extended by the project beyond the boundaries of the project.

In 10 days, I will be attending first COFES-Israel forum. COFES is a unique event where Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction Software industry executives can share their view and discuss innovative ideas. Part of the extended forum agenda is visiting Israeli companies and local branches and development offices of international companies located in Israel. We will be visiting IBM Haifa Lab and I hope to learn more.

Open Cloud
We need to come to the idea of Open Cloud. Focus on open standards that can facilitate data exchange and data openness can be an important factor in customer’s decision to move to cloud solutions. The potential winners will be companies investing in open platforms and not lock-in their customers in proprietary PLM backbones. Will PLM on the cloud initiative is the next mouse-trap for customers similar to what CAD format was last 20 years? Time will show.

What is my conclusion? In my view, the question of openness on the cloud is an unread chapter. Cloud lock-in can be even more dangerous than file format or data backbone lock-in. Important.

Best, Oleg


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  • Michael Wm. Denis

    Systems Lock-In is a very powerful strategy (see the Delta Project, Discovering New Sources of Profitability in a Networked Economy by Arnoldo Hax and Dean Wilde).

    There are four Strategic Positions within the Systems (Ecosystem not IT System) that a company can take: Vertical Depth, Restricted Access, Dominant Exchange and Complimentor Lock-In / Competitor Lock-Out.

    This fourth position is where proprietary standards play even if a single company does not singularly “own” the proprietary standard – e.g., WinIntel.

    Cloud computing, by definition, should embrace the constructs of Wikinomics: Open, Sharing, Peering and Global (see Wikinomics and MacroWikinomics by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams) in order to facilitate “Mass Collaboration”.

    The question arises, in whose interest is this best served?

    Although Tapscott and Williams argue the answer is all “prosumers” (provider/consumers) of products and services – I would argue consumers are definately rewarded more as open, global, mass collaboration facilitates business and technology “agility” the ability to quickly, efficiently and effectively change xyz… (business model, revenue model, processess, products and services).

    The providers who will or are (IBM in your example) embrace open, standards based cloud computing have, again in my opinion, “seen the light” and are “getting ahead of the curve” by investing in the future of information and knowledge management via new enabling technologies and business models.

    Said differently, the old business model of buying proprietary information technology and buying infrastructure and buying labor to run and manage the hardware and software and buying, and, and … is dying a slow death – with only switching cost being a major factor (and maybe the perception of risk to operational impacts due to outsourcing / cosourcing mission critical technology).

    Within the aviation industry, open collaboration and software as a service are very very old hat – the Computer Reservation Systems (CRS) and Global Distribution Systems (GDS) have been providing these capabilities for almost forty years (Sabre, Travelport (merger of Worldspan & Galileo), Amadeus and Navitaire).

    I definitely see a desire on the Service Lifecycle Management / Sustainment Lifecycle Management (SLM) side of the aviation, aerospace & defense industry to embrace open standards (ATA iSPEC 2200, SPEC2300, SPEC2000, ASD S1000D, ASD SX0001 family of standards and even into ISO 10303 AP239 and ISO 13374).

    But, as you (and IBM) and others have pointed out – the issue is no longer the transactional technology, the issue is DATA LOCK-IN … the plethora of petabytes of petabytes of data AND content that exist in propriatary or older inoperable standards that would cost any individual consumer of data and content a cost prohibitive investment to change.

    Adoption of an Open Cloud SLM system will take, again in my opinion, well capitalized prosumers with a committed vision.

  • beyondplm

    Michael, thank you for such deep insight and analyses. I see some problems in all “standards-related” activities. Together with being very expensive, it moves companies from one lock-in to another lock-in. These activities left long wave of data locked-in multiple standards, system and environment. The slow death of today’s technologies shows that “change is more expensive” than “new” and both are not very efficient. There is a significant gap between business need and what IT can deliver with today technologies. Open data standards such as W3C RDF can show some promise and light in the end of the tunnel. Best, Oleg

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