Multi-tenant architecture and next PLM backbone

Multi-tenant architecture and next PLM backbone

Multi-tenancy is an application architecture in which a single instance of the application is used by multiple customers. Think about it as an old fashion client server architecture in which application run on a server and it accessed by customer via different browsers. Multi-tenant architecture is a foundation of all global web applications – Facebook, Twitter, Google. All these solutions are multi-tenant. For the last 15-20 years, we’ve seen a growing interest from enterprise application developers in delivery of multi-tenant enterprise applications. Such software like, Netsuite and some others are development using multi-tenant architecture approach.

Not all multi-tenant architectures are born the same. Last month I wrote an article that can help you to ask qualifying questions about multi-tenant vs single tenant PLM applications. Check this link for more information.  In a slow changing architecture landscape of PLM applications, companies won’t be able to jump from one architecture to another quickly. Therefore, it is very important for manufacturing companies to understanding the dynamics, trends and technical aspects of different data architectures to make right decision about shifting between PLM application stacks.

Manufacturing companies are experiencing growing amount of challenges as a result of multiple factors such as product complexity, global manufacturing distribution, communication, cost and competition pressure. Combined with legacy enterprise applications, these challenges are real problem for manufacturing companies looking how to build data management architectures in 21st century.

Companies are connected into networks of OEM, suppliers, multiple factories, aftermarket services. Data is extremely complex and intertwined. Here are two slides presented by Aras Corp at GPDIS 2014 summit.

PLM backbone approach for these companies is one of the most progressive solutions and provides a foundation for so called “Digital Thread” – a full lifecycle representation of data across multiple companies and multiple domains.

I can see PLM backbone as a great innovation and Aras is one of the companies that can provide rich data management platforms. However, single tenant model of existing PLM applications is a problem.

Check my yesterday blog – PLM single tenant model – dead end? In my article, I demonstrated how even simple manufacturing eco-system with few manufacturing OEM can turn into a mess of database backbones and isolated silos. Here is a picture that can give you a summary:

I want to help you to explore reasons why multi-tenant PLM architecture can become a strategic option for future PLM backbone development and how it can solve problems of multi-disciplinary distributed manufacturing environment.

1. Reduce cost of the platform in the long run

PLM is long running business and cost of the platform is extremely important. Multi-tenant architecture costs several degrees lesser. The main reason is sharing of application, databases and resources. By using multi-tenant architecture application provider can achieve lower cost of solution delivery.

2. Convenient on-boarding of new clients.

Poor on-boarding and configuration is a killer for many PLM applications. It can be less relevant for large OEMs, but moving down in Tiers, suppliers and contractors, it can be a big deal. For many of them, self sign-up and online services can be a replacement of costly deployment of traditional solutions.

3. Application maintenance is optimized as all customers use same application.

Modern multi-tenant, flexible model driven applications are highly configurable. However, bringing new applications, updates and services is very optimized. Think about operation job to migrate thousands of PLM tenant databases – I’m not sure you’re ready for such challenge overnight.

4. Maximize usage of resources and data centers

Multi-tenant architecture can maximize leverage of computing elasticity provided by modern cloud and virtualization architectures. Common infrastructure and optimized number of data centers provide optimum of utilization and scaling. At any moment of time, resources can be utilized by any tenant.

5. Information connection and sharing

Complexity of relationships between manufacturing companies is not only limited by resources, but also by logical models. Two single tenant cloud PLM applications have the same problem of interoperability as 2 single databases running in 2 data centers in 2 manufacturing companies. Connecting of data into a virtual thread of information across multiple company is a unique capability of multi-tenant data architectures.

What is my conclusion? Manufacturing companies are optimizing their businesses by outsourcing engineering, manufacturing and support. Business structure is changing and IT and data architecture should follow. Therefore, multi-tenant architecture can solve many problem modern distributed manufacturing model is facing these days. The shift won’t be overnight and will require planning and adoption. Large OEMs will continue to use existing on premise infrastructure. At the same time, smaller companies, suppliers, service providers and contractors will have much higher speed of adoption. Ignoring multi-tenancy can be a dangerous mistake PLM vendors and manufacturing companies cannot afford. The outcome can expensive and not reliable IT infrastructure and business losses. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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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