Future PLM integration: data service standards vs open REST APIs?

Future PLM integration: data service standards vs open REST APIs?

I learned yesterday that integration is ranked more important then security with end users in ongoing CIMdata cloud PLM survey. It was mentioned by Stan Przybylinski, CIMdata VP of Research. You can download ebook from CIMdata website here. The book was sponsored by PTC, so it has some PTC cloud marketing materials inside. But my attention was caught by the following 2 charts.

79% of companies are using cloud technologies today. Isn’t it amazing?

Here is the list of top cloud PLM concerns.

And the integration problem ranked #1 is a clear indication that companies are trying to figure out how to integrate cloud solutions into the landscape of existing PLM and other systems. It is not a simple task, as I can see it.

Although, each PLM provider has several integration options and some integration technology developed specifically for its PLM system, the reality was far from an ideal. Packaged integrations are mostly work for desktop systems such as CAD products. Integration of PLM systems with other enterprise and database systems was usually done by service providers and in-house development. Most of this work required some level of “data hacking” done by SQL programing, text file exchange or other similar options.

Integration options I described above worked perfectly fine until cloud was a real option. And you cannot really access cloud system directly with simple SQL script or sync data with database. Even open data model in some PLM systems cannot solve the problem, because for most cloud deployment, you cannot access the database directly. It made me think about possible 2 options to develop future integration to reduce the risk of data integration between new cloud PLM options and existing on premise PLM systems.

1. Development of open data standards to support integration. An example of such activity is OSLC (Open Service for Lifecycle Collaboration). Navigate here to learn more (https://open-services.net/). It is an open community of work started about 10 years ago to define set of specification enable integration in the domains of PLM, ALM, IT operations, etc. The intention is to help vendors to develop tools with easier integration support.

2. Development of REST APIs and use cloud data integration tools. REST API is de-facto standard for web/cloud API development. These tools can be used with web tools such as Zapier, Dell Boomi and some others. Recently called as Cloud Data Integration software, these tools will allow to unify data from disparate cloud sources in various formats. These tools provide connectors to other cloud services. These tools act as a communication hub.

What is my conclusion? Integration is a painful point and if cloud PLM vendors are looking how to speedup an adoption of cloud services, these vendors will have to provide robust mechanisms to integrate with existing tools. In the next few years, we are going to see an increased competition between cloud services and established PLM tools. Existing tools will be mostly defending their positions within manufacturing organizations. New cloud services will be in the position to offer new affordable services with fast implementation and ROI. In the fast growing space of cloud services, REST APIs will become an easier way to achieve the goal. Data service standards are more long term goals that might not be achievable for most of organizations with limited IT budget and service organization. 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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