PLM Open Source: Business or Social Need?

The following NYT article drove my attention yesterday – Open Source as a Model for Business is Elusive. I already had chance to discuss open source and PLM on plmtwine. If you just came to my blog, you can review the following posts:

SaaS and Open Source: PLM Future Rides
Open Source: Is the Game Changing for PLM?
What will be PLM Open Source secret sauce?

Discussing various aspects of MySQL acquisition as part of Sun by Oracle, NYT dropped a very interesting argument related to the social aspects of open source.

“European regulators view MySQL as sort of a database of the people, a low-cost alternative to Oracle’s costly proprietary products. The regulators worry that Oracle may stop improving MySQL in favor of protecting its core traditional products, and customers will lose an important option in the database market.”

Another interesting point was related to the development of open source projects. Actually, and this is not a top secret is that companies like Google and IBM are heavily sponsoring development of Open Source products.

“Many of the top open-source developers are anything but volunteers tinkering in their spare time. Companies like I.B.M., Google, Oracle and Intel pay these developers top salaries to work on open-source projects and further the companies’ strategic objectives.”

Let’s get back to our CAD and PLM space. I could see few projects that are trying to develop open source CAD products. The most visible is ITC developing IntelliCAD platform. The concepts of IntelliCAD are complex and related to the history of DWGDirect and ODA, but it is very close to the open source concepts. IntelliCAD positioned as a cheap and no-cost alternative to Autodesk/AutoCAD product lines. Another player in PLM Open space is Aras made long road from licensed PLM software and now also positioned as an alternative to very costly products licensed by top PLM providers.

So, the conclusion I can make is very close to the assumption done in NYT- there is strong demand for open source as a cheap alternative for heavy priced licenses. At the same time, open source successes are limited, even if they are very visible (Linux, MySQL, Mozilla). To make a success for the future of PLM open source the following two questions need to be answered, in my view:

1. Who will play a role of major driving force in adoption of open source PLM products? In other words, who will play the role of Internet (like it was in cases of Mozilla and MySQL) to develop large open source PLM community. The potential candidates are very large Autodesk related customer community in case of ICT. In case of Aras, it can be Microsoft and related SharePoint business community.

2. What companies will be interested to sponsor top PLM developers and evangelists to work on the open source PLM products to bring them on the level of excellence and mass adoption? Will Autodesk be interested in development of ICT community? Maybe Microsoft will will be interested to sponsor Aras and put few bucks to support the development PLM for SharePoint?

Just my opinion. I’m looking forward to your thoughts and opinions.
Best, Oleg


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