The next “cold war” for engineering and manufacturing data – who owns it today?

The next “cold war” for engineering and manufacturing data – who owns it today?

In the pre-digital world of the last 100 years, oil was one of the main sources of conflict. Multiple articles and conspiracy theories will convince you that the history of 20st century war was all about fighting for natural resources. Check few articles The wars that really are about the oil and 21st century energy wars. I don’t have a dog in that fight. However, here is the fight I’m really interesting and watching – war for data.

Data is a new oil in a modern digitally transformed world. And because it is such a strategic asset, we can expect companies to feel some tension about where data is actually stored and managed. To get access to data can provide significant strategic advantages now and even more in the future.

Wired article The next cold war is here, and it’s all about data gives you some interesting perspective on what happens with data in our world.

The Cold War I grew up with pitted Western capitalist democracies, led by the United States, against Communist dictatorships, led by the Soviet Union, in a contest for world domination. Two world views competed against each other on a global stage. The contest was ultimately won not on the battlefield, not by armies, but by the sheer productive capacity of the West. Capitalism triumphed by providing TVs and cars and political freedoms to an expanding middle class, while communism foundered on its inability to offer any such prizes. The society that offered the most to its citizens ultimately won the day.

Combatants in the new Cold War are fighting over the currency of the modern age: personal information. The battles are over who controls data. Vying against each other are those societies that believe that individuals have an absolute right to control their personal data—to exercise the same kind of dominion over data that they do over their bodies or their personal property—and those that believe that personal data is a good to be traded on the open market and thus subject to the same market forces at play elsewhere. May the most innovative, efficient company win.

While, data on Facebook can be fascinating and interesting, I’m very much interested about the data owned by manufacturing and related companies including software vendors in manufacturing companies. These are very interesting data assets. And whoever will own these assets, might have a bigger future impact on engineering software and manufacturing business.

Here is an example of data wars between two giant companies – Amazon and Oracle. The enterprise world is run heavily by Oracle database and therefore I can see a good reason for Amazon to think about independence and efficiency. Navigate to the following article to learn more –  Amazon plans to move off Oracle software by early 2020.

“We don’t believe that Amazon Web Services has any database technology that comes close to the capabilities of the Oracle database,” the statement said.

The two companies have been in a heated war of words. Last year Oracle executives boasted about the cost advantages of using its database software. AWS CEO Andy Jassy fired back a few weeks later in an interview with CNBC, saying that Oracle is “a long way away in the cloud.”

The rivalry kicked off in earnest in 2014 after AWS introduced the Aurora relational database service, taking aim at Oracle’s core market. Capital One, Expedia, GE and Verizon are among the companies now using Aurora, according to the AWS website.

AWS also offers a tool that allows businesses to move databases to the cloud. The Database Migration Service, which supports Oracle’s software, has handled the transfer of more than 80,000 databases to AWS, Jassy said in July.

What do you think happens in CAD and PLM world? Who owns and runs engineering and manufacturing data? While Oracle is indisputably a leader in enterprise software, I’m not sure to say that CAD and PLM data is managed in Oracle databases is a right thing.

PLM systems

Leaders of PLM / PDM world such as Teamcenter, Windchill and Enovia are all run on Oracle.  Aras is making lot of news splashes in PLM world recently is running on SQL Server. Howe much data is that? Good question… but here is the thing – most of these data is actually meta data about changes in CAD files. Is it a big value? I guess, yes. But… it is not all companies are looking for.

PDM software

PDM systems are run using relational databases such as Oracle (Teamcenter, Windchill) and SQL server (Solidworks PDM, Autodesk Vault) and Aras. Smaller businesses using PDM systems such as Solidworks Enterprise PDM are run on SQL Servers.

CAD files

This is a place where core engineering and manufacturing value is hidden. Manufacturing companies are managing CAD files using PDM and PLM system, but (!!!) majority of them is saved in a native format. Large portion of CAD data is even not in databases, but in files.

Neutral geometry files (STEP, IGES, etc.)

Companies are actively using neutral geometry files to store, share and exchange data. Companies are storing STEP files everywhere – file drives, cloud storage data, etc. It is a big source for engineering data.

Excels and other document formats

Companies are run by emails and Excels. It is so true. And if you think about data, this is how it goes – lot of companies are creating Excels and store them everywhere.

IoT-drien data

With a growing amount of sensors and data capturing techniques information captured from physical products quickly becoming another asset of data in engineering and manufacturing. This is a new segment of information we haven’t seen before, but it is growing rapidly. Manufacturing companies are collecting information about the products, their activities and customers. It can become a really important piece of information about products and customer iterations.

What is my conclusion? I think majority of engineering and manufacturing data assets is still located in a not structured way and used local storages, cloud file systems and other local and network location to store data. Even data in PLM system is located in Oracle and SQL server, the amount and significance of that data is much lower compared to non structured. Unstructured engineering data is a very important assets. I wonder what would be a strategy of PLM and other enterprise, engineering and manufacturing companies to capture CAD and PLM data from multiple data sources and convert them in a meaningful information. 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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