For the last 15-20 years, PDM and PLM tools went long way from perceived as an-add for CAD tools to a platform to manage information and product development processes. PLM platforms stuck between rock and hard place trying to solve a single platform vs federated platform dilemma. You can hear talks about federation, but in practice most of PLM platforms are looking for dominance in management of data and processes. An increased demand for vertical integration created some competitive advantages for customers migrating to a single platform company from a specific PLM vendors. In additional to that, I can see more tight integration between CAD and PDM tools coming from a single vendor.
To migrate from one platform to another is a challenge for many companies. Well known Daimler’s dilemma between CATIA and NX led to massive data migration project. PLM upgrade or migration is sensitive and complicated process. It requires a lot of resources and can be very costly. In the current state of manufacturing and PLM technology customers are looking how to insure many years of operation once they implemented the system. However, business is changing and the need to be flexible is striking back as a conflicting requirement. Combined together it brings a very interesting flavor into PLM competition. The ability to implement PLM system and upgrade an existing (often outdated) PLM implementation becomes a key feature in the future competitiveness of PLM system.
One of the the biggest problems is set of conflicting constraints. Customers are afraid to risk and put all product information into a single vendor systems. At the same time, federated platform is more miracle and vision rather than reality that you can get and implement tomorrow. Standard-based approaches are promising, but slow to ramp up. And, last but not least, new platform ROI is a biggest issue. Imagine, we have a future federated PLM innovation platform built as a result of multiple vendor effort and leveraging existing industry standard. To migrate existing disparate customer environments into a new platform will be multi-year project with very high cost and questionable ROI.
Cloud technology can potentially bring some disruption by introducing new system and scale up operation. The challenging part is how to jump from proven on premise environment and (in most of situations) many years of investment to something new. That was problem for new cloud based PLM solutions. Most of large customers already made PLM investment into on-premise systems. Smaller companies usually run desktop CAD tools and using integrated PDM tools to manage data.
My attention caught by the announcement made by Fra.me – technology outfit developing cloud virtualization solution. More information is here. Frame’s initial focus was to virtualize desktop. But for the last few months, I can see how Frame can run also virtual environment for data management solutions – PDM and maybe even PLM tools. I shared some of my thoughts in my earlier post about how technology developed by Frame and similar vendors can impact cloud CAD and PDM development.
Certification of Frame technology by Autodesk together with Dassault Systems and Siemens PLM before made me think that virtualizaton of existing desktop CAD and integrated PDM systems can be a disruptive force to change competition trajectory. You may ask -how come? Imagine that – manufacturing company is running CAD/PDM bundle. To move to a new set of tools such is cloud CAD and PLM can be complex process. The integration with existing CAD/PDM tools can be complex too. By using Frame company can switch to cloud, but keep all tools and processes unchanged. Then next stage can be an introduction of new SaaS PLM products to expand existing CAD / PDM bundle running in virtual environment. The integration is much easier.
What is my conclusion? At first look, virtualize desktop and server environment can be considered as a non-obvious thing if you think about multi-tenant cloud CAD and PLM tools. But, think about it as a “trojan horse” helping PLM vendors (especially new cloud ones) to compete with existing vendors and migrate on-premise environments into the cloud. Just my thoughts…