PLM Platforms: Retirement Or noSQL Knock-Out?

I found interesting that nobody speaks much about PLM platforms these days. It seems to me PLM vendors and service providers are focused on the more important issues, such as industry orientation, out-of-the-box functionality, SaaS and OnDemand or even by Open Source business models. However, what happens in the PLM-platform-department? Does everything is fine and well adjusted to the weather outside? Do we have enough power to move forward with all data we have these days on PLM platforms? Can we scale up in capacity? Can we support agile system development by customers? These and many other issues came to my head. However, I wanted to focus on two specific trends: Needs to manage data for the long term and noSQL trends in data management.

Long Term Product Data
This is not a very big secret. We produce more and more data on the daily basis. Product development and manufacturing companies are not exclusion from that. Bigger companies like aero-OEMs recognized this problem time ago. Their working procedures require the need to keep data for 50+ years as well as track information about each aircraft according to the serial number. Smaller manufacturers are just coming to this place. Additional weight of the regulations moves them even faster to the point where the amount of data will come to the not controlled level. There are two aspects of long term data retention in PLM – 1/3D and geometrical data; 2/non-geometrical and process-related information. I found the most interesting project in this area is prostep’s LOTAR. So, I’m looking on the progress of this activity. However, the timeline of LOTAR is seven years, which is probably okay, when we talk about 50-year data retention.

noSQL Trends
This is a not top secret. The really big guys are not running SQL these days – Google, Amazon, Facebook… All these companies developed their own data management facilities. However, despite coolness effect, the reason behind these initiatives is simple. The ugly truth is that our good friend uncle-SQL is coming to the middle-age. And even if you cannot hear voices about SQL retirement, the question about how our life can look like “after SQL” is very much acceptable. If you are not familiar with noSQL term, I’d recommend to take a look on this wikipedia article. Also, I found the following article – The noSQL movement, written by Mark Kellog on his blog as a very interesting research in this area.

PLM Platforms Data Foundation
All PDM/PLM platforms that available on the market today are relying on SQL database technology. There is no surprise – SQL is the mainstream technology in the enterprise. I can see two potential problems related to that: change management and data capacity. The first one, change management, seems as a very critical one. Customers are struggling with the level of flexibility PDM/PLM systems can provide. Solutions built on top of SQL data is sensitive to upgrades and data model changes. PLM vendors developed sophisticated systems how to manage it. However, the problem is still in place. The second one is data capacity. This problem is not uncovered in the full scope. I believe, with the future PLM implementations, there is a real chance to discover a scale-related problems.

What is my conclusion today? I think technology matters. Big boys developed alternative non-SQL data storage options. At the time when SQL-based relational database are power our PLM platforms, vendors need to think about what next. Some initial signs to think how to manage all company product lifecycle data for 50+ years are in place. There are visible interesting alternatives. However, they required future investigation by vendors.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg



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