PLM Architecture – Multi-Tenant Systems and MDM

PLM Architecture – Multi-Tenant Systems and MDM

My recent articles about the digital thread and multi-tenant architecture raised a number of questions and generated a healthy amount of debates about what technologies enterprise companies and  PLM vendors have at their disposal and how these technologies can be used. If you missed my article, please check it here – How to rethink traditional PLM architecture for the future Digital Thread. You can also check comments in the LinkedIn article.

Here is one comment that caught my special attention:

You mentioned that PLM PaaS platforms provide multi-tenant architecture. I don’t believe all PLM cloud solutions support muti-tenant. Can you list a few solutions that do? Also, should we consider product MDM as an alternative to muti-tenant? Integrating product data from multiple PLM’s?

I think, the question is really important as I can see some growing confusion about data management in the PLM world which is caused by a large number of old systems developed 20-25 years ago. Companies invested a lot in these systems and to replace them is a big challenge and high cost.

Multi-Tenant Systems

The idea of multi-tenant system is to create an embedded out of the box layer to compartmentalize logically share databases and other resources that will be used by multiple “tenants”. By tenants you can think about multiple users or companies. Multi-tenant architecture kills two birds – (1) enable data sharing beyond the company limits while giving users to keep their own data structures untouched and (2) share computing and data management resources. It streamlines processes and data management.

In my earlier article, Multi-tenant SaaS PLM – common misconceptions. I shared some of the most typical mistakes my readers have about much-tenancy.

Master Data Management (MDM)

The goal of Master Data Management technologies is coming from the needs of the business to improve the consistency of the data among multiple products, divisions, and teams. Many global businesses and large enterprise OEM organizations today are operating with hundreds of separate applications and databases. The data is fragmented, duplicated, and often out of date. The result of the MDM system the data is cleaned, normalized, sorted, and stored in a way that allows everyone in the organization to access it in a seamless way.

I wrote several articles about PLM and MDM in the past. Check them out here. From time to time, I can hear messages about the overlap of PLM and MDM technologies, but in most cases, even if application requirements have some overlap, PLM platforms are not up to the job.  At the same time, I can see some opportunities that future PLM platforms, especially coming from cloud/web background can close the gap. Check my article about PLM and MDM moment of truth.

Existing PLM technical foundations are built on top of relational databases and might be not sufficient to stand for the demands of customers in a distributed manufacturing world. PLM vendors as using some NoSQL and search technologies. The injection of new cloud-based technologies from MDM and other providers might bring innovation into this field. At the same time, the chance of PLM vendors to compete with MDM technologies outside of the manufacturing realm is pretty low.

MDM vs Mulit-tenant PLM

The goals of multi-tenancy in PLM platforms are not the same as in MDM applications. I can see some point of confusion when MDM seems to be a collection of data belonging to multiple organizations and teams. At the same time, the multi-tenant platform’s first goal is to segment data and to allow the use of shared information and separated data. MDM is the opposite- to unify data together.

At the same time, it will be very interesting to see the evolution of multi-tenant PLM systems and their capability to bring real-time MDM functions out of the platforms. The data can be much easier connected to multi-tenant PLM systems, which can give it a chance.

What is my conclusion?

I don’t see the short term goals of Multi-tenant PLM and MDM aligned. While MDM is heavily focused on large organizations, multi-tenant PLM architectures will have their first application actually in medium-size companies. As multi-tenant PLM systems will grow, the opportunity to provide real-time data access, analytics, and decision support will be increased and we can see some interesting touchpoints between MDM goals and multi-tenant PLM systems. 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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