We live in an interesting time of computing model transformation. Some of us can still remember Mainframe era 40-50 years ago. Computing platforms were monolithic and centralized. That was the time manufacturing resource planning and accounting systems came to manufacturing companies. The next stage was all about client-server. Cheaper architecture, wide adoption of PCs, adoption of distributed systems. For PDM and PLM systems it was a time where cost was not crazy, but to implement PDM / PLM system was still a big deal, which required servers, installation, some configuration and customization.
These days we are moving into a 3rd phase of transformation – cloud. It is characterized by IT as a service, commoditized hardware and sharing of computing resources and storage. Virtualization technologies are making it possible and it transforms business models, software architecture and platforms. I captured the following slide from Salesforce.com presentation.
The adoption of cloud in engineering and manufacturing software has grown for the last few years. Few companies were pioneers in cloud PLM and introduced it 10-15 years ago. Autodesk was one of the first from large CAD vendors to focus on cloud strategy and software development in 2011. But, as we can see now, all CAD / PLM vendors are coming with some “cloud strategies”. Not every cloud is the same and debates around what is “true cloud” can be heard around.
I made my attempt to explain the difference between different cloud models and what is supported by each PLM vendor in 2015. You can check my earlier blog here.
However, I’ve been thinking how to simplify my classification even more. Also, I wanted to highlight cloud technology impact on CAD, PDM, PLM and other enterprise applications. The following slide is my next attempt to bring a simpler model to classify PLM system architecture. It is not limited to PLM, in my view, and can work for other enterprise software as well.
The first one is “no cloud”. You can call it network. Sometimes people call it web-architecture. That was because many of these applications are using web browsers. PLM systems are installed on company servers and can utilize the network. This is a kingdom of network architecture, servers, IT people, data management and variety of proprietary data replication to make it work globally.
The second one comes with cloud services. The application can be “send” to any server. These servers can be hosted on any infrastructure – private, hybrid, public. What is important, is that servers are virtual. You don’t care where is the server. Depends on security model company can prefer one or another hosting and virtual server applications. The bridge between no-cloud and cloud-server is browser based apps. But not every web app that works in a browser will “survive” the transformation to IaaS based server.
The third is SaaS applications. In this case, not only servers are sharable, but the application too. So called “multi-tenant” application is key element of this architecture. It means applications and (most importantly) data resources can be shared. It opens a completely new way to deliver application and organize information.
What is my conclusion? I hope this picture makes sense and help to map PLM vendors and its cloud PLM products. Still, the devil is in details about what specific characteristics of each architecture is supported by each vendor. I hope to come with additional blog and map all vendors. Stay tuned. In my view, multi-tenant architecture is the future of cloud computing and it will transform manufacturing industry with a new way to deliver PLM systems and share information. Just my thoughts…
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.