PLM Wood and Open Source Termites?

Last week I wrote about PLM and Open Source Big Games. One of my conclusions was that PLM Open Source can become an interesting option in PLM and Enterprise space when it comes as community based development and include the ability to leverage existing Open Source projects  Today, I wanted to come with the example that matches this pattern. SAP is a well known big enterprise outfit that has some stakes in Product Lifecycle Management too. I had chance to read the following article by CMS Wire about CoreMedia Open Source Content Management portal platform for SAP users – CoreMedia Web CMS Readies to Woo SAP Portal Users.

I found this read interesting. SAP Portal developments can be considered as a “dead wood”. SAP has their own portal strategy. In addition, SAP and Microsoft’s partnership brings lots of Microsoft SharePoint stuff in this space as well. However, CoreMedia open content management platform, can be proposed as an open source option to drive some user attention in this space.

The following two quote is very interesting:

Interestingly, many of SAP’s known features — such as collaboration and KM (Knowledge Management) — CoreMedia chose not to support — focusing mainly on the infrastructure/delivery capabilities — citing the fact that they wanted to avoid any “dependencies” on those features based on what they heard about SAP not developing those capabilities in the future.

CoreMedia is already doing some personalization and social software features in the Web CMS, but later on the roadmap we should see more of that being done for SAP customers, so that they can use inherent to SAP transactional data (from CRM, ERP, etc.) to enhance their existing online engagement offerings. Transactional data managed by SAP is becoming more valuable on the web, as organizations are looking to drive the web more dynamically and to have a more personalized website. Hence, more attention to CoreMedia’s Content Application Engine (CAE) in the second phase.

PLM Open Source Platform?

CoreMedia example made me think about what can be a potential open source platform for PLM? All available PLM platforms in the market today are proprietary platforms developed in the last two decades. The cost of any of these platforms is high. To develop a new PLM Platform can be mission impossible. However, you can think about potential injection of open source components into these platforms. This can be a gradual process that will make a transformation into PLM platforms towards additional openness and significant cost saving for customers. The focus of such injection can be around infrastructure and not around end user modules. It will allow to lay a foundation for the future community development and contribution.

What is my conclusion? PLM. Wooden Platforms. Open Source Infrastructure Termites. It can be an interesting option to disrupt existing PLM software. Remember Jim Brown’s Who Will Disrupt Entrenched PLM Vendors? The Open Source option was there too… The potential benefits are clear to me – cost, openness, community benefits. There is a danger too. The complexity of PLM projects is very high. A significant level of integration requires to make PLM projects successful. Will Open Source Platform be capable of handle it?  What do you think about that? Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg



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  • Prashant Dhonde

    Hi Oleg,

    I think open source PLM components can initially start up with basic user requirements – more advanced requirements can be taken up by integrating with proprietary softwares.This can potentially increase PLM usage as starting cost of getting into PLM can be very low thus reducing the risk of ROI generation.
    Further once organisation/company can start realizing PLM benefits they can go for more advanced modules as per their needs which can be proprietary as the requirement may be complex


  • Lev Desmarais

    I think Open Source PLM will play a roll. There are many niches in the PLM world. The PLM system required by a garment manufacturer is not the same as the PLM system required by an aircraft manufacturer. Open source PLM will probably start by tackling some of the smaller companies with lighter weight PLM requirements and grow from there.

  • Oleg,

    After pondering the opens source question and thinking about my clients I am not sure open source is really the answer for the next revolution in PLM. It still seems like the major players control most areas and companies are reluctant to trust something that is not controlled by a single company. A major company offering a open system could be more impactful but I think that open source in PLM right now is more of a gimmick and a marketing ploy than something that is truly impactful. I think SOA applications could accomplish some of things you are describing but I doubt these will be open source and they will have to be adjusted per platform.

  • Prashant, Thanks for your comment! I agree with you. The idea of usage OSS as a platform can make PLM mainstream. The specialization can be done to the bigger customers that have more complicated set of requirements. Best, Oleg

  • Lev, Thanks for your insight! I agree – there are customers in the diverse industries. They have a broad range of requirements that can be covered by OSS as a foundation of PLM solution. Then, additional specialization will be required. Best, Oleg

  • Stephen, Thanks for your insight! I understand what you are saying about “single company control”. The idea I’m brainstorming is not about how to lose control. However, the idea is how to 1/leverage existing OSS general purpose projects as fundamentals of a OSS PLM platform; 2/provide an additional development on the contribution and community basis; 3/a single company that server as a single point of trust and responsibility (think about RedHat). SOA definitely can play a role of an architectural view, despite the fact it is too broad of a technology and methods. Best, Oleg

  • bkatsma

    Even though there are some PLM strongholds these larger PLM companies have had little success in the small to medium sized companies. There is still huge market share in these small to medium sized companies and this is where I think an open source solution will have a good chance of success.

  • bkatsma, thank you for your comment! I assume, you mentioned, there is still a very high potential for open source for small to medium companies? It is a very interesting observation. My assumption was that Open Source can successfully decrease the cost of PLM solutions, but requires a significant IT and implementation support. This is a more typical situation for bigger companies. What do you think about that? Best, Oleg

  • Oleg – I agree with your observation 100% about “Open Source can successfully decrease the cost of PLM solutions, but requires a significant IT”.

    There is a natural temptation to assume that because something is “Free” (or has no license cost) that it will be appealing to small companies that can’t afford expensive PLM systems.

    Reality is that it’s the largest, most IT savvy companies that desperately want the benefits of an open source format:
    * total control
    * complete flexibility
    * dramatic cost reductions at scale

    That our conclusion at Aras at least…


  • bkatsma

    Oleg – From my experience many open source solutions typically have a more open community and support which allows SMB’s to utilize there own IT staff to do much of the work themselves especially in the beginning. Look at Aras for an example they make it extremely easy to install and get it up and running with little effort. Show me a closed source PLM system that I have little to no knowledge of and can have it downloaded and have up and running in a just a few hours. It would take hours if not days of my time just to get past the sales guy. But it does not end there as most open source solutions business model is selling support and services so in order for them to be successful they need to excel in this area which means better utilization of the cheaper internal IT staff and with out this savings a PLM solution just is not an option for many SMB’s. PLM vendors should not be looking as installing and setting up there software which most IT staff can handle even the SMB’s as profit center. My opinion is that we need the PLM vendors to be experts in PLM and setting there customers up with the best processes and procedures that a PLM system provides and there customer more competitive and profitable. There is a reason why there is a stigma that PLM is not for SMB’s but it does not have to be that way.

    PLM is very complex and has plenty of business opportunities without bogging down the companies with the cost of the the software and licenses.

    I am a bit surprised by Marcs comments as I see a product like Innovator saving IT monies unless he is lumping the PLM experts and consultants in with IT. It is difficult for SMB’s to swallow the large cost of the software upfront. Open source allows SMB’s to get in to PLM at a lower cost in the beginning and work at there own pace to expand where the support and service are needed.


  • Bill – I do agree with all points you make. And we have put considerable energy into making Aras Innovator able to be installed & running in under an hour. All of which benifits companies of any size.
    There is still IT effort involved though.

    And our experience has been than it’s the biggest companies with the largest global deployments (3000+ users) where the benefits of the open source format are the most dramatic.

    The cost savings are sizable at scale; one of our tier 1 auto suppliers cut 3,800 PLM user lic resulting in an est $5.4M savings. That goes straight to the bottomline.

    But more importantly, they now have full control over thier data model, their PLM processes – and they’re self-sufficient, they’re doing all ongoing modifications themselves, just 2-3 people.

    That kind of productivity in a global PLM deployment was not possible before. Its a new calculus in PLM economics.

    While small companies are able to do PLM when they couldn’t have before, it’s the major multinational corps that are getting the biggest ROI with Aras.


  • Marc, I think, all small and big companies can benefit open source. However, the way they will do so may be different. Bigger ones may prefer OSS software and IT internal work to make it done. Smaller companies may benefit by using software that relies on OSS… So, this is kind of different approach. How do you see it? Best, Oleg

  • Bill, thanks for your comments and sharing your insight… I see OSS as the opportunity to decrease the overall cost of solutions. Aras experiments are very interesting, in my view. However, they are experimenting more with business model and less with community-open-source software models. Complexity of installing and setting up software is an obstacle. Still exist, but will need to disappear. IT and service partners need to be focused on business opps and not on software installation. Best, Oleg

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