Closed Open Source PLM?

Closed Open Source PLM?

Unless you’ve been living under the rock for the last decade, you’ve heard about open source software, hardware or anything else. As such, you might be exposed to discussions about open source PLM. The debates around open source PLM went down for the last several years. I think Aras was the main contributor to open source PLM marketing in the past. Not anymore. Aras is an open community (based on the last interview with Peter Schroer and Rob McAveny)

A few weeks ago, my attention was caught by the article – Why a “closed” open source project may be just what a community needs. The article speaks about some trends in open source development. More specifically about Go language development.

Nobody who wants the level of influence afforded a core member can get it. The result is that, while the decisions may be good, it isn’t a community resource. It’s the Go core team’s, at the most charitable. Google’s, at the least. But with no mechanisms for allowing others to participate, the[y] close off equality of opportunity.

It’s great that the language itself is open source – the community could always fork if their leadership turns yucky. But that’s precisely the point – all the power in the brand, in Google, is totally inaccessible to the community at large. That doesn’t make it wrong, but it does mean that the Go core team is an unjust body – those with power will keep it. Those without it will receive their largesse. Nobody who wants to work within that institution will get the chance, without that Google badge.

Moving forward, don’t get confused between open source concepts and democracy.

But whether that core team is sponsored by a company or is comprised of people from a variety of companies, open source is never a free-wheeling democracy. As Simon MacDonald has written, “Preventing scope creep in any open source project is a key to its success.” This is more easily managed by a small team, in part because they know what’s at stake if they are too promiscuous in what they accept, according to Paul Ramsey: “Core teams are not taking new features willy-nilly, precisely because they know they’ll be stuck maintaining them for ever after.”

This article made my brain think again about Open Source PLM projects. For a very long time, Aras Corp was a flagship project claiming “open source PLM status”. Actually, Aras is far aware from being an open source. Aras is actually even not a community project. In my recent article Open Source in PLM and Manufacturing, I shared some of my thoughts about the possible trajectory of open source in PLM.

The foundation of manufacturing companies is a huge conglomerate of legacy technologies. At the same time, manufacturing companies are looking how to modernize their IT landscape. These two factors together can create a good opportunity to introduce manufacturing companies to some sort of open source (or community-based) technologies. The importance is to have these technologies available for manufacturing companies to run free and improve. To have a cross-company community can be a good element of making this software successful.

What software can pretend to play the role of PLM “open source” community package? Aras is certainly a good candidate to make it happen. However, Aras code is not available for forking (correct me if I’m wrong). Aras is also not looking at how to make their core available as an open source (even without contribution). Aras is a pure Microsoft code base, which makes it limited to be expanded in non-Microsoft communities.

What is my conclusion? I think the industry is still looking for PLM software code to play a role of “Linux for PLM”. Last decade demonstrated a few interesting initiatives on how to make PLM easy and more affordable. Open source is certainly one of the options to develop a better PLM platform. A combination of closed core and different hosting options is another way to provide a scalable and affordable PLM option. A combination of open source code running on top of cloud-based infrastructure is an interesting model. I never heard about closed PLM core used for cloud hosting and combined with open source community development. With a growing interest in cloud IT, it can be an interesting option too. 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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  • marclind

    Good post, although after all these years, seems like you still don’t quite understand what’s going on at Aras.

    It’s open source for digital process innovation… it’s about complex workflows, data models, biz rules… MBSE, EBOM/MBOM, change processes, NPDI, Digital Twins, Simulation, Additive, Generative, etc, etc, etc.

    Not about programming O/R mapping routines or Java server calls.

    Businesses need the ability to innovate at the process level without all the complexity of the infrastructure / guts.

    Here’s what we’re doing (Jan 2007)

    Hope this helps.


  • beyondplm

    Marc, I appreciate the genius marketing idea behind Aras open source. It worked really well. However, after all, Aras does programming, routines, server code, etc. (Aras doesn’t do it in Java, because Aras is Microsoft based. Or maybe Aras already has Java-based kernel as you promised in 2010 – pic below). However, Aras code is not available as open source. It is not “Linux for PLM”. It is a free platform you can use to develop and you can license to sell your products. It is indeed a very powerful free distribution model that is converted to paid services.

  • marclind

    Did you even read the blog at the link I posted?! (Jan 2007)

    From the beginning the whole point was to enable open source at the application layer that doesn’t require complex programming & compiling.

    These days it’s called a “low-code” approach, but that term didn’t exist back in 2007.

    What we’re all about is enabling companies / people to innovate on business processes and share best practices & breakthrus without having to be a software developer. (OBTW if you want to write code you can do that too, but it’s not required to create powerful enterprise apps).

    Our approach was never intended to be ‘Linux of PLM’.

    We provide a low-code platform – that is not open source – with a suite of industrial-grade applications OOTB for engineering, manufacturing, quality, etc. (i.e. the most complex types of PLM processes) that are designed to be customized / adapted / changed.

    Our applications can be easily packaged and posted / shared within a company or between companies (again, without programming).

    Business have the opportunity to collaborate openly or in private. There’s no requirement to share your innovations / it’s completely optional.

    You’ll find 100+ open source application projects on our GitHub pages

    They range from interesting add-ons to large scale solutions that have been used for global legacy systems replacement.

    And they all have one thing in common: they run on our / Aras platform… which by the way… did I mention? isn’t open source… yet IS freely available to use forever without paying us/Aras a dime.

    Latest open release – V12 – is available for anyone to download at:

    We were one of the pioneers of this model (which we called ‘enterprise open source’ long before we saw anybody else using that term).

    These days it’d just be called a split licensing model.

    Pretty much all oss companies now utilize some version of this approach – releasing both oss AND non-oss that work together.

    Elasticsearch (yes), MongoDB (yes), Red Hat (yes), MySQL (yes), and on and on.

    What I hear you complaining about is that we/Aras are not an ‘open core’ approach. We’re an ‘open solutions’ approach.

    We make no apologies for this and in fact are regularly told by corporate users that this exactly what they want.

    Our open source applications give global companies exactly what they want: greater flexibility and control.

    And it’s all based on a highly scalable and secure low-code platform that is maintained, certified and proven for enterprise use in the most demanding environments – military, regulated, mission-critical, etc.

    We’ve made very conscious decisions to optimize for global businesses.

    There will always be critical people, trolls and haters.

    We’re focused on our community of corporate users.

    Hope this helps.


  • beyondplm

    Marc, thanks for comments and information sharing!

    I don’t think I complained about anything. I just shared my opinion about Aras and Open Source. And you rightfully confirmed what was stated in my blog – Aras is not open source the core.

    However, Aras brilliantly used “OSS” marketing together with free license. So, brilliantly, that event today when I meet people they say Aras is open source. Which is probably fine too.

    I don’t know if industry expected “Linux for PLM”. Maybe some people wanted it, but I never researched it deep enough.

    I’m going to write about “low-code” platform separately. It seems to be a new toy in the arsenal of enterprise software marketing. Let me learn more about it.


  • marclind

    It’s just funny to me that you call it ‘marketing’. Makes it sound hollow or like BS.

    You’ve been to our conferences
    You’ve talked to Aras users
    You’ve seen people discussing approaches, ideas, innovations, solutions

    It’s real collaboration – both in person & online

    What we’ve tried to do is build a culture / community around best practices sharing to solve the toughest PLM process challenges

    We take that very seriously
    That it’s not marketing BS
    We really feel that’s what it’s all about

  • beyondplm


    You’re the last person I’d expect to associate “marketing” with BS. I think, marketing is a big deal. I feel strange to tell it to you 🙂

    Yes, for the last 10 years, I attended Aras conferences, talked to many people at Aras and wrote bunch of articles about what Aras does and what I think about it. Including this one –

    You can build a community around many things. Community is not equal to open source. A successful platform, which is free and open for development is a big deal and you build it. It is a real collaboration. I agree.

    However, one of the tools you used is marketing “open source”. And as many articles say (including the one you shared with me) it is okay… 🙂

    We probably need to grab a drink to get in alignment about open source and marketing ;). Are you in town during July 4th?


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