In the past “monolithic” thing has a strong association with a power. Wikipedia article – List of largest monoliths brings references to biggest stones used in construction and superpower you needed to have to make it happen in production. But in software, monoliths and monolithic architecture are becoming a symbol of problems and weakness.
As competition is growing in PLM companies are looking how to provide a better differentiation story. Nobody wants to sell plain bagels (oops.. PLM) these days and PLM industry proved to be hard for differentiation over the course of last decade. Everyone is claiming their systems are simple and usable. But, at the same time, functional specs are almost identical. Five years ago, cloud tech had a promise to make a difference and some companies hoped to build stories around cloud PLM, but it didn’t happen. Major vendors played a catch up. Today all PLM vendors are providing some sort of cloud story and use it, at least, for marketing and sales.
But the new trend is coming. Have you heard about monolithic PLM systems? I came across multiple publications using “monolithic” term to differentiate their PLM offering and implementation strategies. Navigate to one of my earlier blogs to catch up.
Aras SVP Marc Lind provided a great marketing story about the definition of “monolithic” system by saying it doesn’t matter if it is right or wrong – we call all our legacy PLM competitors monolithic.
All of these together make the legacy PDM systems an ‘all or nothing’ proposition… even if you only want to use one aspect of the system. Very heavy weight, very complicated, very… Monolithic (even if not the precise definition on wikipedia :-). Anyone who’s been struggling with these systems for years knows what I’m talking about.
Mark reminded me Lucky Strike “it is toasted” advertising. It made me think about how to demystify “monolithic PLM story” by bringing some data points that will help manufacturing companies to make more balanced PLM strategy decisions.
Monolithic vs microservices (no PLM)
The following 2 pictures I captured from O’Reilly Production Microservices book can show you the difference between monolithic applications and microservice-based architecture. Although, we can spend lot of time arguing about differences between SOA and Microservices, I think, it will be safe to claim that all available on premise PLM products are utilizing monolithic architecture.
From the standpoint of technology and architecture, I hardly can imagine if you can use Aras workflow engine combined together with Windchill CATIA CAD integration and store information in Teamcenter database. If you familiar with similar examples, please let me know.
Aras, Federation and Monolithic PLMs
For the last few years, Aras build a successful story to complement existing PLM systems and provide an alternative to large companies to grow their PLM implementations using Aras infrastructure.
Here is an example of Aras customer Xerox explaining how Aras can be combined with other systems.
The next challenge for federated systems is to keep up with the complexity of implementation and prove their technology is sustainable to run for decades. That would be a very interesting story to watch. Aras clearly has a potential to prove it even Aras built using similar technological stack as many other PLM systems.
Microservices and cloud
IT infrastructure and enterprise applications are moving towards microservices approach. The following Capgemini article – Microservices in cloud-based infrastructure – Paving the way to the digital future can give you a good perspective of IT and technology evolution.
Looking at architecture landscape on a pic above, I can clearly see how some PLM products today can be more flexible than others. Component based architecture and SOA /XML based technologies can still provide a differentiation story compared to PLM products built at the end of 1990s.
What is my conclusion? The story of “monolithic” PLM isn’t simple. From technological standpoint, all existing PLM systems are monolithic applications. Federation approach is very interesting and can be a step into right direction with enough support from vendor to provide an open API to integrate with other systems. But, in most of the cases, complementary PLM system are about how to add PLM to PDM. Monolithic marketing is coming to support the demand to have flexible and open PLM technology for quick implementations and sustainable for changes. The demand is to have PLM integrated with other PLM and non-PLM systems. And if some old PLM systems are too complex to change, vendors like Aras can come with a new strategy of bi-modal PLM. This is a battle of PLM dinosaurs. Some of them are faster and hope to sustain in the future. But, in order to do so, PLM vendors will have to think how to transform technology into modern cloud microservices architecture capable to scale in global environment. Just my thoughts…
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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.