PLM vendors and industry is adopting cloud-based technologies. The process isn’t simple and brings many discussions about what differences cloud can bring to PLM solutions. Few months ago, I attended CIMdata industry and market forum in Ann Arbor. One of the messages was that PLM vendors should be more vocal about benefits of new (cloud) approach and present clear differentiation between on-premise and various cloud options.
Cloud is a big marketing word. However, not all clouds are the same. The devil is in details and vendors preset different strategy related to their cloud PLM solutions. One of the most fundamental cloud technology classification is differentiation between IaaS, PaaS and SaaS solutions. The Manufacturer article – SaaS, PaaS & IaaS: what are the benefits? is a good source of information how each of these approaches can help to PLM vendors to deliver cloud differentiation. Read the article and draw your opinion.
So, how benefits of each cloud “type” can be applied to PLM industry.
This is a mainstream approach taken by most of vendors. IaaS platforms such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, IBM and Google can provide enormous amount of computational and storage resources. Article states “scalability” as one of the most important one.
Scalability —one of the main benefits of IaaS is the scalability it offers. Through a subscription service, you access the IT system you require when you need it. Due to its virtualization, scaling up your systems can be done quickly and efficiently, minimizing downtime.
Combined with reduced IT needs and on-demand access, IaaS is a good foundation for cloud PLM. However, one of the main challenges for almost all PLM solution is their historical roots and architectures. Hosting existing PLM platforms using IaaS infrastructure can be expensive and complicated to manage. Multi-tenant characteristics of PLM technology can play one of the key roles and sustainability of IaaS based cloud PLM solution to provide benefits to users and maintain low TCO.
Benefits provided by PaaS platform can be realized only if PLM solutions will be fully embracing specific PaaS platform. This is not a simple thing to do, because of most of PLM platforms are bringing lot of legacy elements, technologies and tools.
Reduced costs — in the past, developing software was costly, as a result of the hardware, skills and experience needed. Instead, PaaS allows users to effectively rent the required infrastructure, paid for through their subscription fee.
Increased collaboration — in larger businesses, multiple parties may be working on the same app development project. Via cloud connectivity, multiple developers across different locations can collaborate on the same project.
Reduced cost and increased collaboration are 2 main reasons why PaaS can be an interesting option for PLM developers assuming product will be developed almost from scratch on top of PaaS infrastructure. There are few examples of PLM applications using this option. So, this option is only viable if you’re about to bring brand new PLM based on one of industry PaaS platforms.
Because of the nature of subscription business model, SaaS main benefits for PLM products to reduce initial cost and to provide pricing diversified for flexible use.
Eradicates initial costs — because SaaS is usually delivered on a subscription basis, it eliminates the initial costs that were traditionally associated with implementing software. With cost a barrier for many, this approach makes accessing more sophisticated systems easier and more affordable.
From product and technology standpoint, SaaS products are multi-tenant and can be only available from cloud. It can be applied to several PLM vendors natively, but most of existing PLM platforms SaaS can be delivered by reducing of flexibility of functional scope.
What is my conclusion? Not every cloud PLM is the same. Good news is that most of PLM solutions can be easy mapped to IaaS, PaaS and SaaS options and it can give to potential customers a way to understand benefits and drawbacks of each PLM solution. One size doesn’t fit all in PLM business. To understand requirements and capability of the produce is a good starting point. The biggest challenge of hosted PLM system is high price. The biggest challenge of SaaS is flexibility and customization. Keep it in mind when you decide for one or another PLM system. Just my thoughts…
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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.