SAP Goes for Database, What Is PLM Path?

Last week announcement about SAP-Sybase acquisition made me think about potential paths for PLM applications and technological verticals in the future. It is interesting to see SAP’s pick up of aged Sybase. On the surface, the business justification is clear. Following previous jumbo acquisition of Business Objects in 2007 and projected improvements of SAP front end applications, the acquisition of Sybase is focusing on the strategic disconnecting of SAP from their rivals and database sponsors – Oracle and Microsoft.

The ERP Shadow
Despite the fact PLM is not directly competing with ERP vendors, the shadow of ERP is always in the air when you are thinking about enterprise PLM implementation. PLM felt a step child in the family of enterprise products. ERP, obviously considered the king of this family. PLM is continuously trying to convince in their dominance starting from the ability to handle product data, processes and ending up non-stop discussions about Bill of Material related issues. ERP sales outperformed PLM colleagues by clear presentation of ROI and other business topics.

RDBMS and PLM – catholic marriage?
PLM dependence on database technologies is very significant these days. 100% of PLM development relies on relational SQL based databases. However, most of PLM systems are tweaking their database model to support various highly sophisticated modeling abstractions. Some of these implementations are abusing core principles of RDBMS and building efficient and performance oriented data store. Few months ago, I posted about noSQL options for PLM platform. Another non-RDBMS alternative for PLM are various FOSS data platforms used in mega-scale Internet application. I’d consider it as a very interesting future option for PLM.

PLM Verticals and Flexibility
At the time when ERP clear decision is to go on complete vertical path, and building fully integrated vertical offering, an interesting question I want to ask – should PLM follow? What will be important for Product Lifecycle Management application to manage effectively product development and manufacturing shops tomorrow? The big advantage of highly integrated vertical architectures is in their ability to serve customers with their complete software offering. ERP did it in the past and continues doing so now too. At the same time, SAP is investing into a database backend verticals, I think, enterprise software giants forgot to learn a lesson from and some other products focusing on high flexibility and granularity in their products and portfolios.

What is my conclusion? Big companies are trying to become bigger. The obvious path is to build verticals to preserve their dominance top down- from the application to the middleware, platforms, database, storage. Is it the right path for PLM? I’m not sure. Manufacturers are looking for a flexible way to organize their product development and manufacturing. Businesses are very dynamic these days and the future will come from the side of agility.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg



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