Cloud PLM – the new generation of Oldsmobile?

Cloud PLM – the new generation of Oldsmobile?

plm-oldsmobile-commercial webinar with fascinating name – Not your father’s PLM by Chad Jackson of Lifecycle Insight reminded me the textbook example of how some companies are coming ahead of itself. I’m talking about Oldsmobile.

The story goes back into 1980s. Management at Oldsmobile were serving a specific market with a specific car. The problem was that people who wanted Oldsmobiles were elderly and they were dying. Young people didn’t want Oldsmobiles. The company came with a new memorable slogan: This is not your father’s Oldsmobile. It turned out to be the end of Oldsmobile brand. Existing Oldsmobile customers wanted Oldsmobile as they knew it before. The young car buyers who were the target of the campaign looked at the new Oldsmonbiles and said, “It sure looks to me like my father’s Oldsmobile.”

PLM vendors are looking how to change PLM paradigms and technologies. Traditional PLM systems reached their limits. Cloud technologies is a good candidate for the mission. PLM is shifting gears towards cloud. Just 5-7 years ago, most of manufacturing companies were skeptical about cloud software.  Things are changing. I captured the following poll results about manufacturing companies adopting cloud from webinar. The majority of companies are either deploying or interesting in cloud technologies.


Another data point is the latest PTC press release – PTC Sees Customers Opt for Cloud Deployment in 7 of Top 10 New PLM Bookings. Here is an interesting passage by Kevin Wrenn, divisional general manager, PLM, PTC:

“PLM Cloud Services doubled this year compared to the previous year, which equates to 10x market growth,” said Kevin Wrenn, divisional general manager, PLM, PTC. “It is encouraging that both independent research and customers are recognizing the value and potential of the cloud.” The benchmark report found that almost 70 percent of customers surveyed responded that the ability to easily deploy PTC Cloud Services played a key role in the company’s decision to purchase PTC products, indicating the value of simultaneously investing in both PTC products and PTC Cloud Services.

Chad Jackson presented a comparison between “Your Father’s PLM” and “Today’s PLM”. Take a look on the following 2 slides:



I found the comparison interesting. According to these slides old PLMs are built back in 1990s, using pre-internet technology, developed as toolkits and specialized for on-premise technologies. Opposite to that, cloud PLM are developed based on 2010+ cloud native technologies and specially for cloud deployment without on-premise deployment. The second slide made me chuckle – how many PLM systems in production are actually built using 2010+ technologies?

However, Chad’s point is valid. There is a visible trend towards cloud technologies, new type of infrastructure and cloud-native deployment. Virtualization and IaaS infrastructure made possible to deploy servers and scale up systems in an elastic way. So, cloud infrastructure developed for the last decade can scale existing PLM technology to the cloud. This is what all PLM vendors are doing today. However, this is still “your father’s PLM systems” deployed to the cloud.

Take a look on the following picture of IT cloud transformation from my blog – Cloud PLM: from company servers to multi-tenant applications.


All PLM systems today are build using similar set of technologies – core foundation based on relational database and diverse set of application servers. All these systems have browser based user interface. It is important to differentiate between variation of browser technologies. Not all PLM systems and their modules adapted to modern HTML5 based browser technologies. Some of applications are still requires browser plug-ins. But fundamental of these technologies are the same.

To turn existing PLM systems into cloud-enabled PLM is an important mission. It is a first step towards a transition to the cloud – movement from company servers to cloud servers. And it is important for future cloud adoption, since it helps to develop business models, company IT policies and deployment methodologies.

But cloud-enabled server based PLM systems still have limitations predefined by their roots – single tenant based system architecture, database technologies and administrations. Also, these systems are holding existing PLM paradigms – analog PLM. Cloud adoption will not stop on cloud servers. PLM will shift from cloud servers into multi-tenant cloud applications (step 3 in the picture above).

What is my conclusion? Manufacturing companies are making an important steps towards cloud adoption. The move into “cloud server” stage is representing a growing level of maturity of manufacturing companies, IT departments and service organizations to implement and support cloud-based PLM. But the cloud transformation won’t stop here. PLM implementations and orientation towards a single company function is what makes existing PLM to look like “my father’s PLM system”. Manufacturing companies are moving towards agile methods of product design and manufacturing. So, new generation of engineering and manufacturing software will have to support these new methods. Future transformation PLM into multi-tenant environment will bring a different level of collaboration and data management capabilities. 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. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.


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