3 levels of PLM openness

3 levels of PLM openness


Monica Shnitger article Openness — will you know it when you see it? made me think again about PLM and openness. The article brings two important reasons why openness is important. It is about sustainability and interoperability. The following two passages can explain that.

For me, it’s that first one: sustainability. We know that many of the objects built in our engineering-centric world have very long lives, and that we may be called upon to dig up the CAD model of a 30-year old ship, airplane, refinery, train or car at a moment’s notice. We might need to work backwards from a broken rotor blade to the engineering calculations that said it could withstand that fatal load. If the platform used for the design or simulation wasn’t sustainable, we’re in trouble now and need to do some quick stepping to figure it out.

But for many others, it’s interoperability. No one vendor can create every product needed be every buyer in every industry — they need to build a structure that enables partners to create what they can’t or won’t, for the ultimate benefit of the buyer. And if the partner creates a great solution to a customer problem, why can’t it be available on more than one CAD or PLM or cloud or or or … platform?

The article brings also a term fauxpen or fauxpenness, which took me back to debates about open source and PLM. Navigate to Open vs Fauxpen article to read more about open source software debates.

A description of software that claims to be open source, but lacks the full freedoms required by the Open Source Definition.

PLM industry has its own story about open source – Aras Innovator, which is an example of fauxpenness in my view. Aras has a great product. Aras invented a brilliant marketing term – enterprise open source, which is a combination of closed core system combined with free license and open source solutions developed on top of controlled platform. You can read more here – Open Source Aras Style.

I found few old articles I published about openness – Open vs Closed PLM debates; Closed thoughts about PLM openness and PLM and new openness. You might check it too.

There are many aspects of PLM openness. Modern web and mobile world brings new demands for PLM openness. The question about openness is often asked by customers during the evaluation and comparison of PLM software. I’ve been asked about it many times during my consulting sessions. From a practical standpoint, I recommend to define the following 3 domains to evaluate the level of PLM openness:

1 – Licenses

This is legal stuff. Mostly boring, but it is very important. It defines what you can do with the software. Watch EULA (End user license agreement) documents for perpetual license and SLA (Service Level Agreement). If you plan to develop additions to PLM software using API, watch developer licenses agreement too.

License agreements can prohibit you from extending PLM systems, using data, using API in certain scenarios (for example share software via web servers) and many other use cases.

2- API (Application Programming Interface)

Availability of API is an important element of openness. The devil is in details, but I recommend you to pay attention on ability to read/write data. Most of systems can give you read API, but write API is the one you need to complete many interoperability scenarios. Read API is more related to sustainability and data publishing.

In cloud based scenarios, you need to check specifically about availability of REST API, which is de-facto a standard in web / cloud application world.

3- Data models and databases

The data modeling openness is a bit tricky. In case of well developed, supported and document API, there is no real need to access database directly. But this is a place where the reality of implementations are not always aligned with what PLM systems can support.

Most of PLM vendors are not allowing to customers and developers to access database directly (so called SQL injections). But this prohibition is not strictly followed in PLM world, especially when it comes to large customers and complicated integration scenarios. For many of them, SQL injection is the only way to integrate and get data out of the system. As a result, systems with transparent and self explanatory data models can provide some implementation advantages.

Cloud software is diminishing the opportunity to access databases directly- in most of cases database is not available for direct access and it is located behind web servers. So, you can only rely on REST API to integrate and retrieve the data.

What is my conclusion? Openness is hard. It requires to see both worlds of customers and competition at the same time. Modern manufacturing world is global and connected. Companies are using multiple products. Therefore openness will play even more important role in the future. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Want to learn more about PLM? Check out my new PLM Book website.

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of openBoM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain.


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  • Loic Mouchard

    Hi Oleg,
    if you have a look to the companies that already signed the Codex Of PLM Openess (http://www.prostep.org/en/cpo/signees.html), it SHOULD not be a huge problem 😉

    For the Long Term Archiving and Retrieval theme, you can have a look to http://www.lotar-international.org/


  • beyondplm

    Loic, thank you for sharing links! It is indeed an important information for companies to decide about vendors commitments to PLM openness. I have a question – how PROSTEP is validating compliance of vendors to the codex of PLM openness?

  • Hello,

    At beCPG, we believe that using a LGPLv3 license will help beCPG to grow as a product as it allows people to use the software more freely.

    So we have published the sources of beCPG. Data modeling is opennes and we provide API to write and read data.

    You can get more information at this page:

    And you can download beCPG on sourceforge:

    Feel free to ask questions on our forum:

    Best regards,

  • beyondplm

    Philippe, thanks for sharing links! Do you think LGPLv3 is specifically important? Why did you decided about LGPLv3 and not one of other licenses like MIT?

  • Oleg,
    We have choosen LGPL license instead of GPL since it is more open.
    In a very quick summary:
    – GPL: if you use my code in yours, you must distribute your code as I do for mine;
    – LGPL: if you modify my code, you must distribute your
    modifications. You can include unmodified LGPL code in proprietary code
    under certain conditions.

  • beyondplm

    Philippe, thanks for your clarification!

  • Loic Mouchard

    Oleg, the association Prostep iVip does not validate the compliance of vendors.
    “By signing the CPO, these companies made a self-commitment to publish
    how their software fulfills the CPO criteria open on their websites via
    so-called CPO Statements”
    So… you have to trust the vendors. Nevertheless, it can be (and is) used by the customers as a pressure mean on the vendors to provide sufficient and efficient APIs.

  • beyondplm

    Loic, it is absolutely clear. Actually, I thought, one of the CPO value propositions is the ability to “influence” vendors. Don’t you think so?

  • Michael Wendenburg

    Hi Oleg, thank you (and Monica) for discovering me the fantastic term fauxpenness which I never heard before, though it is pretty old. Probably because language barriers are still not as open as one would wish:-). Due to that you probably never heard about the Code of PLM Openness (CPO) initiative of ProSTEP iViP association in Germany whose yearly symposium you attended last year. Originally started by some German automotive OEM, it has become officially recognized by the German Government recently which will eventually lead to a kind of PLM openness certificate. I would really appreciate if you could inform your readers more in detail on that initiative which might be an example to follow i.e. an initiative to sign for US american companies as well.
    Regards, Michael

  • Michael Wendenburg

    Just a short amendment. I spoke to Prof. Martin Eigner, one of the top German PLM experts recently and he told me that openness in times of smart connected (PLM) systems goes much beyond accessible and well documented APIs. Regards

  • beyondplm

    Hi Michael, Thank you for sharing this information. Did Prof. Eigner shared what means “much beyond” in a measurable and technical terms? Best regards, Oleg

  • beyondplm

    Hi Michael, thanks for comments and mentioning CPO. Actually, I’m very much familiar with CPO initiatives. One of previous businesses even signed CPO back in 2012. Actually, I reached out to Dietmar Trippner last week with the request to talk about CPO and share information on my blog.

  • Michael Wendenburg

    Hi Oleg, great news. I will try to send you an article in German I wrote an how CPO is applied within BMW, if I find the link. You can also ask Dietmar Trippner for it. Regards, Michael

  • beyondplm

    Thank you Michael! Look forward to read your article.