From the category archives:

Vendors

The anatomy of PLM upgrades

by Oleg on January 26, 2015 · 0 comments

plm-migration-upgrades

Software upgrades is a fascinating topic. It has been with us from a very early beginning of software. Seriously, we hate upgrades. On the other side, very often, this is the only way to make a progress. The main problem of upgrades is related to existing dependencies – migration of data, file formats and data incompatibilities, hardware incompatibilities, etc.

As software is getting more complex, the complexity of upgrades are increasing. Enterprise software is a very good example. Talk to people about ERP, PLM and other enterprise software upgrades and you can learn a lot about effort and cost of upgrades for an organization.

For a long time, enterprise software upgrades were considered as something inevitable. Which led to many problems for customers. One of the extreme situation is when a specific configuration of a system becomes non-upgradable. It is known as “version lock-in”. Most typical reasons – features and customization incompatibility between new software version and the one customer is still running. As much as customers are discovering the complexity of upgrades, we can see software vendors are trying to leverage it to demostrate their differentiation.

For last few years, I can see an increased focus of PLM vendors around “upgrade and migration”. My hunch, too many customers stuck in previous versions of PLM software or outdated PLM systems. Random PLM (future) thoughts article by Jos Voskuil speaks about PLM systems upgrades complexity. Read the following passage:

Not every upgrade is the same! Where consumer software will be used by millions and tested through long Alfa and beta cycles, PLM software often comes to the market in what you could consider a beta stage with limited testing. Most PLM vendors invest a lot of their revenue in providing new functionality and technology based on their high-end customer demands. They do not have the time and budget to invest in the details of the solution; for this reason PLM solutions will remain a kind of framework. In addition, when a solution is not 100 % complete there will be an adaptation from the customer, making upgrades later, not 100 percent guaranteed or compatible. More details on PLM Upgrades after the conference, let’s look into the near future.

I think, the overall trend in quality of enterprise software is positive. Consumer software mentioned by Jos is only one factor why enterprise software vendors are investing more in quality. Jos’ article made me think more about how customers should approach the topic of PLM migrations and upgrades. In general,  I think, it can be applicable not only to PLM systems. PLM vendors are trying to make migrations easy from both economical and technological standpoints. Here are some of my thoughts about anatomy of PLM software migration.

Migration technologies

While some technologies can give you an advantage during migration and upgrades, from a technical standpoint you cannot avoid upgrades. Very simple – from time to time you need to restructure database to bring new features or optimize for performance. Since PLM is relying on OS and database technologies, you need to get upgrades to bring PLM system into compatible state with new OS/RDBMS. If you PDM/PLM system is integrated with other CAD systems, this is another aspect of migrations.

From technological perspective, migration is always sort of extract, transfer, load type of things. It can be minor or major. It can happen in a single database or may require a separate set of application or database servers. PLM system architecture designed with “upgrade in mind” can make it easier, but won’t eliminate it completely.

PLM vendors and economic of migration 

PLM vendors are starting to pay attention to migration and upgrades. While the status of PLM systems is far from an ideal when it comes to migration, some vendors are proposing to cover upgrades and migrations as part of PLM service and licensing offerings.

SaaS (cloud) is providing another way to hide migration and upgrades. Since customer is not buying software to install it in their data centers, the problem of migrations and upgrades eventually is part of PLM vendor responsibility.

Technical elements of migration

There are 3 main elements that can increase PLM system vulnerability to upgrades and migrations – 1/ custom data model; 2/ code customization and scripting; 3/ integration with other system. The amount of specialization in each of them, can increase a potential cost and complexity of migration.

What is my conclusion? You cannot avoid migrations and upgrades. So, to plan ahead is a good idea. You should evaluate vendor and product for “updatability”. It is not simple, especially when it comes to on-premise software. Product architecture evaluation should be an important element of your system selection process. If you think about SaaS /cloud as a universal solution for upgrades and migration, I recommend you to take it carefully as well. It certainly removes a pain from a customer. However, take into account it won’t eliminate upgrades from technological standpoint. Upgrades are essential part of SaaS product development. Depends on SaaS architecture and development methodology, the system can be in an upgrade mode all the time. Which is a good thing because it will be become part of product delivery. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Share

0 comments

cloud-pdm-paradigm

Integration of CAD and PDM is a field with long history of battles, innovation and failures for the last 15-20 years. You can hardly undervalue the importance of integration between CAD and data management tools. For some time in the past CAD and PDM were separate systems. Engineers had to switch from CAD to PDM to perform specific tasks related to data management functions. To integrate PDM tools inside CAD was one of the greatest ideas of 1990s, which improved significantly what we call today “user experience”.

However, the complexity of data management interfaces was always something that made engineers uncomfortable. Another innovative approach that was introduced in the field of integration between CAD and PDM was to embed PDM tools into File Explorer user interface. One of the companies that did it back in 2000s was Conisio (later SolidWorks Enterprise PDM). The idea got lot of traction and allowed to engineers to work with a familiar file based interface while in fact using PDM tools.

People are hard. Especially, when it comes to adopting of new paradigms. Dassault System blog SOLIDWORKS and PLM: No Fear Required brings an interesting perspective on integration between ENOVIA PLM and SolidWorks.

3DEXPERIENCE platform offers a fresh approach to this problem. Recognizing that our existing Enterprise PDM solution has been greatly accepted by the design community, the same R&D group has designed a new product that offers the usability of EPDM but actually stores the data in a broader and more capable PLM solution. The result is the SOLIDWORKS Collaborative Innovation Connector, a product that works and acts much like a workgroup solution would but gives the designer just enough access to the PLM functionality to innovate their processes beyond what they can do today in a PDM environment.

The following video is one of the confirmation for that. You can see how ENOVIA PLM traditional web interface is morphing to provide File-Explorer user experience for SolidWorks users. What I found specifically interesting is that you can hardly distinguish between ENOVIA PLM and SolidWorks EPDM, which has very similar user experience for both file explorer and SolidWorks UI.

 

The video about ENOVIA SolidWorks integration made me think about what can be a new PDM paradigm as we move forward into cloud future. I’d like to bring few references to new products and companies in that space – GrabCAD, Autodesk Fusion360 and Onshape.

Fusion360

At recent Autodesk University in Las Vegas, Autodesk CEO Carl Bass presented the evolution of Fusion360 and its connection with cloud services such as Autodesk A360. According to Carl Bass, you can think about Fusion is a GitHub for engineers. Combined with A360, Fusion is a full digital re-imagination of how designers and engineers will collaborate – online and social. What is important to understand is that A360 provides data and collaboration backbone for Fusion360, so engineers are not facing file-based operations like in traditional desktop CAD tools.

carl-bass-fusion-360-au2014-2

Onshape

Onshape is a new company re-imagining CAD for Google era. Large group of Onshape founding team is coming from SolidWorks. Last week, Onshape started to blog. One of the things I captured from Onshape blog is their claim to rethink PDM role and appearance for cloud CAD. You can read some of my thoughts here – Future CAD won’t require PDM. Here is quote from Onshape blog:

on-shape-world-changed

We tried with traditional PDM, but fundamentally the architecture of copying files around, to and from servers and desktops, is just not a good basis for solving version control and collaboration problems. We think we have a better way to solve the problems, and no PDM system is needed.” Mac, Windows, phone or tablet. No PDM system needed. The files stay in one place. Different UI look. Now those sound like interesting and wonderful things. We’ll continue to anxiously anticipate what they have planned and what you have to say about it.

GrabCAD

GrabCAD workbench is another system that introducing a different experience by merging cloud and file-based data management operations. GrabCAD didn’t develop CAD system as it was predicted by some CAD industry insiders. However, GrabCAD Workbench is a PDM system on the cloud that can remind you some elements of Dropbox combined with CAD viewer and ability to control file revisions.

grabcad-workbench

What is my conclusion? Existing paradigms are hard to change. In my view, engineers are one of the most innovative groups of people. However, when it comes to their own tools, engineers are very conservative. You can easy expect the following vision for data management from an engineer – “I want to work with my designs (files), please leave me alone and stop selling me PDM tools”. However, here is the thing – collaboration can make a difference. The integration of data management and collaboration can provide a significant advantage to engineers in a modern mobile and distributed environment. This is a key thing, in my view. Cloud and mobile collaboration will change CAD /PDM integration paradigm in the future. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

 

Share

4 comments

Can BOX become a platform for PLM?

by Oleg on January 19, 2015 · 4 comments

box-collaboration

Platform is a topic, which comes quite often in the discussion about future of PLM. CIMdata recently came with a topic of “platformization” in PLM. You can catch up on the discussion – A CIMdata dossier: PLM platformization. I can probably divide all existing PLM platforms into two groups – 2D/3D design platform and Object Database Modeling platform. Last year, I charted some of possible options for a foundation of future PLM platform - System Engineering, 2D/3D services, product development standards, New database technologies. From another standpoint, the debates about future PLM platforms are often raising a question of single vs. federated platform for PLM.

New technological trends and demands of customers can bring new platforms into PLM world. One of them is cloud storage. I touched cloud storage topic in my article – CAD companies and cloud storage strategies. One of the points was related to longevity of “cloud storage” business. Cloud companies want to store your data. It gives them an opportunity to understand your business better. However, the prediction is that cloud storage cost is eventually coming to zero. Which leaves cloud companies with the need to develop solutions to elevate productivity and improve collaboration and document creation. This is where it comes to PLM as a future platform for product innovation.

BOX is a company which is located at the intersection of cloud storage and enterprise business. My attention was caught by BI article – In One Slide, Box Explains What Everybody’s Getting Wrong About The Company. Here is the slide:

box-enterprise-platform

Here is an interesting passage and conclusion from the article:

In an interview with Business Insider, Box CEO Aaron Levie said he knew storage business was going to turn into a commodity business back when he first started the company. Instead, he said he’s creating a platform business, where more value is added on top of things like storage, computing, and security. “It’s all about going into the top 8 to 10 industries and finding where are companies reimagining their business, where are they going digital, where are they transforming their business model, and how does Box act as a platform that could accelerate that push into the future,” he said. If the critics are right, Box is doomed. If Box is right, it has a chance at being a valuable enterprise company along the lines of Salesforce.

Looking on customers, partners and, especially BOX enterprise content collaboration platform, made me think about an interesting intersection between product lifecycle and BOX business. Of course BOX is not in the business of design and engineering software. However, enterprise collaboration has a significant overlap with what most of PLM platforms are providing – metadata, security, workflow, collaboration, content search. These are topics that always presented in PLM. It seems to me current focus of BOX is outside of manufacturing companies. However, maybe future BOX growth will take it towards manufacturing enterprises.

What is my conclusion? I don’t think BOX is focusing today on manufacturing companies. However, elements of BOX platform have a perfect sense when you think about product lifecycle collaboration. What is especially interesting is content collaboration on an enterprise scale. This is a topic, which most of PLM companies are struggling with. Existing PLM platforms have good representation in engineering domain, but lack of broad enterprise adoption. This is a place where future competition between PLM vendors and BOX (or similar companies) can occur. On the other side, BOX can become a platform to take PLM collaboration forward in enterprise companies. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture credits box.com

Share

4 comments

How many enterprise PLM systems will survive cloud migration

January 14, 2015

Cloud adoption is growing. For most of existing PLM vendors it means to think about how to migrate existing platforms and applications to the cloud. I covered related activities of PLM vendors in my previous articles. Take a look here – PLM cloud options and 2014 SaaS survey. It can give you an entry point […]

Share
Read the full article →

Future CAD won’t require PDM

January 13, 2015

Let’s be honest. Engineers hate data management. This is something that stands between their engineering creativity and formal configuration control. Check-in/check-out are two most painful functions for CAD users when it comes together with PDM. I recall my very old blog from 2011 speaks about the notion of “invisible PDM”. Navigate your browsers to PDM. […]

Share
Read the full article →

5 signs you need to replace PLM software

January 2, 2015

Happy New Year! This is my first post in 2015. Internet is overloaded with new things, trends and New Year resolutions. It made me think about new PLM. Should you plan a new PLM in a New Year? I think, this is a good theme for a New Year post. To implement PLM is not […]

Share
Read the full article →

How PLM can use multiple mobile apps in a single screen

December 30, 2014

One size doesn’t fit all. We know that. Engineers are using multiple tools. Shifting context is complex. For years, CAD and PLM companies have been trying to create a single UI, system or application. Despite all these efforts, to integrate multiple applications or tasks is remaining a very challenging requirements. Going back 15-20 years ago, […]

Share
Read the full article →

Mobile PLM innovation continuum

December 29, 2014

Mobile is one of the strongest trends in technology and business these days. I keep following technology and business events around mobile and speculate how and when PLM companies will leverage it for engineering and manufacturing software. My old post – PLM mobile gold rush. Did vendors miss the point? speaks about wrong path most of […]

Share
Read the full article →

Facebook’s new search – why PLM vendors should care?

December 23, 2014

I’m following Facebook search development effort. Maybe you had a chance to read my earlier post about that – Why PLM should pay attention to Facebook Graph Search?  Search development in Facebook is interesting lead by ex-Googler Lars Rasmussen. You can read some interesting materials about that here Facebook’s Bold, Compelling and Scary Engine of […]

Share
Read the full article →

Kenesto cloud PDM hybrid

December 18, 2014

Few months ago, I posted about latest development of Kenesto cloud data management solutions – Kenesto revamp: does it change cloud PLM game? I saw it as a sharp turn for Kenesto from focusing on collaboration towards engineering and product data management business. From earlier comments made by Steve Bodnar of Kenesto here, I’ve learned Kenesto […]

Share
Read the full article →