Last week, I’ve got invited to join Hexagon Live event in Las Vegas. If you’re following my tweets, you probably noticed some of them coming from Las Vegas Venetian hotel, the place where HxGN LIVE took place. Also, if you missed that, please check out my earlier articles
I want to to thank Hexagon Media team for great agenda organization and information support. Here is an unusual look from the backstage of HxGN LIVE Keynote event.
One of the central topics at the event was the announcement about HEXAGON Xalt. The site tells you that Xalt is a powerful framework for accelerating digital transformation and the ability to leverage IoT data. Well, to my taste it is too generic. With the all hype around digital transformation, I wanted to dig inside and understand what stands behind of this glamorous facade.
Check Xalt website for additional information and resources. HEXAGON presents Xalt as a technology and framework that will be embedded into all HEXAGON products, but not as a product to be available to end users (I wasn’t sure about partners).
My favorite story from the website was Manufacturing Maintenance with Xalt video. The most interesting element of the video was actually a clear explanation of what “digital transformation” means. My hunch that such digital process can replace lot of Excels, emails, voice calls and maybe even faxes in some companies.
During the event, I had a chance to see few other examples of Xalt based applications:
Xalt based visualization technology.
Quality Management and Control application
Xalt website gives you some ideas about infrastructure and technology of Xalt. The key document you want to check is Xalt Dual Model Architecture. Navigate your browser here to download pdf file. Here is a high level intro:
Xalt is a revolutionary technology platform for key business operations across all industries. It enables the convergence of the physical world with the digital world, operational technologies with information technologies, and the seamless integration of emerging innovation with legacy systems and data.
A scalable “platform of platforms,” Xalt encompasses five critical functions that accelerate the digital transformation of business models, operational and job-specific workflows, and entire industry ecosystems. Its core functional capabilities are cloud enablement, intelligent edge connectivity, enterprise integration, built-in mobility, and artificial intelligence (AI) across all functions.
The dual model architecture for cloud enablement and built-in mobility is a new way of organising enterprise software, designed to run next-generation business software using cloud technologies. In addition to leveraging cloud technologies, the architecture was designed to support a wide variety of user interfaces including, but not limited to, mobile applications running natively on devices like iPhones, iPads, and Androids. This paper explains the breakthrough technology behind this approach to enterprise software architecture.
Xalt is data integration platform including some end point connectors and infrastructure to consolidate and present data in different application. The was not surprising. In the past, we’ve seen many solutions for data integration. If you long enough in the industry, you might remember – Enterprise Application Integration (EAI), and Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) as well as many middleware solutions coming vendors like IBM, Microsoft, etc. PLM vendors also development multiple federation or integration platforms. So, what is special in Xalt.
According to the document Xalt implements so called “Dual model” in which Simple Object Interfaces (SOI) are mapped to a Domain and then exposed to presentation client. HEXAGON is mentioning US patent number 8423561 approach called a Dialog Model. I found the patent – it belongs to the company CATAVOLT. Check it here. I will not bring patent lingo to the blog, but in a nutshell it is a method of simplifying objects and user interface.
Here is a passage from the acquisition of CATAVOLT by Hexagon:
Catavolt’s team of experts are highly-skilled in cloud and mobile technologies as well as enterprise software solutions – all fundamental to furthering Hexagon’s SMART X strategy, which is driven by the desire to make entire systems more efficient. Systems built around an information network with connectivity at the core, serving up data in the most intelligent and visually meaningful way.
“Connectivity platforms and mobile applications are essential to driving improvements in productivity and efficiency. Both must also integrate with legacy systems and on premise infrastructures as customers make the transition from old to new,” says Hexagon President and CEO Ola Rollén. “Catavolt’s technologies provide an open architecture and solid foundation for realising the transformative potential of both cloud and edge computing and will seamlessly connect to Hexagon’s connectivity platform – SMART Convergence.”).
The following picture from Hexagon document shows a comparison between single and dual models.
And the following picture is an explanation how dialogs are integrated with domain models via ORM (Object relation mappers).
Including user interface objects called – Dialog Model
In addition to that, Hexagon Xalt is implementing tons of connectors. You can find information about them on the website. Here is one picture I found very typical for connector architecture.
Hexagon Xalt is solving a very complex data integration challenge – combination of data typically presented in enterprise software. Hexagon Xalt is not only focusing on enterprise data, but also on data coming from multiple sensors and connected applications, which introduces an additional level of complexity. It is a complex tasks that wasn’t sufficiently solved in enterprise software (PLM included) for many years. I can see why Hexagon is not releasing this product, but only embedding it in Xalt-based applications. It can be insanely complex problem to ship to customer as a packaged software or infrastructure.
In my view, the danger to Xalt can come from 3 potential aspects – 1/scalability of data modeling (can be too hard to achieve), 2/ scalability and performance of data servers (the data obviously needs to be stored and processed), 3/ cost of maintenance (it is possible to make revA, but then changes are coming as a waterfall).
So, ultimately, the goal for Xalt is to get rid of silos. I wish it would be as simple as it was presented at HxGN LIVE:
What is my conclusion? Enterprise integration space is a not simple domain to innovate. Huge amount of new and legacy application makes it tremendously complex to operate and to maintain. The robustness of Xalt is where the platform is going to be tested within the time. I can see two major differentiators for Xalt – (1) ability to deliver machine learning and AI algorithms for decision making; (2) unique collaboration capabilities for end users. The first will define how smart is the system and the second will create a way to deliver it to users. I can see elements of first group, but it is hard to say about uniqueness of user interface and collaboration capabilities. Modern enterprise applications are facing challenges of simplification and user experience. To deal with high level of data complexity and still stay simple is a challenge all enterprise data platforms are going to face. 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.
Disclaimer 2: Hexagon paid for my trip to Las Vegas and some meals, but didn’t influence my opinion and the content of my writing.