PLM: from cloud deployment to cloud development

PLM: from cloud deployment to cloud development


Software is eating the world. Unless you’ve been living under the rock for the last few years, you know what I’m talking about. The phrase is attributed to Marc Andreessen. An op-ed piece Andreessen authored for The Wall Street Journal in 2011 is well known and prompted many articles in journals and other media outlets. What is less known is a part of the phrase speaking about online (cloud) services:

More and more major businesses and industries are being run on software and delivered as online services—from movies to agriculture to national defense. Many of the winners are Silicon Valley-style entrepreneurial technology companies that are invading and overturning established industry structures. Over the next 10 years, I expect many more industries to be disrupted by software, with new world-beating Silicon Valley companies doing the disruption in more cases than not.

Engineering software was probably one of the last bastions of on-prem and desktop software. When I was talking to manufacturing companies 5-6 years ago about cloud software, a very typical reaction can be summarized in 2 simple sentences – 1/ There is no way we trust cloud with the engineering and manufacturing data; 2/ If you deploy software locally, we will be able to use it.

Fast forward into 2016, the level of skepticism went down significantly.  Still, you can hear manufacturing companies are concerned about security and different cloud infrastructure. However, many of people that called me crazy 5-6 years, are successfully implementing and using cloud services today.

While all PLM marketing slides these days are well-equipped with the right level of “cloud” buzzwords, it is a good time now to think about future trends and start planning the future today when we still have time to get prepared.

Let’s talk about cloud development. You can ask me, what is that? A typical approach taken by most of PLM vendors today is to think how PLM infrastructure can be “deployed” into multiple cloud configurations. Here is an example of such approach (I captured earlier this week from Siemens PLM analyst conference in Boston).


There is nothing wrong in this approach. It does fit the current stage of cloud development for PLM, which is mostly focused on how to deploy “cloud servers”.


However, “cloud development” means something different. It is not about how to develop system and to deploy it to the cloud using variety of virtualization infrastructure. It is about how to make development natively using cloud infrastructure and technology.

TechCrunch article – The death of localhost and the rise of cloud development can give you a good idea of what I’m talking about. The local development environment is limiting and preventing engineering team to think about scaling and sharing. You can think about it as a move from “develop+deploy” to “develop” using full scope of cloud resources and environments.

Here is an interesting passage which is outlining the trend towards cloud development.

The divide stems from a question of who has root access. When development is done on localhost — the developer’s computer — the developer maintains control of languages, configuration and frameworks. But localhost’s properties limit the ability to scale and share, making it an unviable option across large teams and organizations.

Developers have a tendency to hoard assets, such as code and computers — unless they are given a way to collaborate and be more easily productive thanks to the growing popularity of cloud solutions that enable sharing of development assets and processes.

The article outline the trend towards cloud-based development environments and brings examples how new environments can improve efficiency and turn development into scaled agile process.

Thanks to the rise of container technology (e.g. Docker), which supercharges development backends in order to match agile workflows, the entire development process — including workspaces and their runtimes — can now be hosted in the cloud. Cue the scramble by vendors to own this massive workload as developers move away from traditional desktop environments.

Look no further than AWS’ recent moves on the most apparent battlefield: cloud IDEs, which have collectively drawn millions of active users and funding dollars. With a mix of hosted development runtimes based on containers with embedded browser tools, cloud IDEs offer the ideal separation that allows IT to retain root control of the system while developers can use Docker and other tools to define their programming stacks as they see fit.

It made me think about how cloud development can help to solve two most critical problems in PLM development eco-system – 1/ diversity of requirements and 2/ demand for fast ROI. The challenge of existing PLM systems is development bottleneck. Existing software came from the era of waterfall development and infrequent production releases. But, new business requirements and fast changing business landscape create a demand for fast agile development processes. Another aspect is diversification of requirements and ability to re-use and bring custom made software on top of PLM platforms. The robustness of existing platforms is questionable is you use modern benchmarks of cloud software.

What is my conclusion? It is a time for PLM vendors to invest into cloud development. It will allow to scale development teams and to enable of cloud-based PLM implementation and custom development. It can create a foundation for future PLM development infrastructure to support fast deployment and custom-driven development of cloud services to fulfill needs of modern manufacturing companies. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Want to learn more about PLM? Check out my new PLM Book website.

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of openBoM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.


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