Each time any major PLM vendor makes a big step onto the acquisition path, the questions about how the technologies and products will be merged and how it will impact the customers. It happened many times in the past, substantial PLM businesses were acquired – Agile PLM. MatrixOne, Solidworks Enterprise PDM, FlexPLM, and some others. The same is happening now after PTC announced their acquisition of Arena Solutions for $715M (). But the real question that was asked by many industry observers, analysts, and customers are how PTC will solve the PLM SaaS puzzle it created.
My attention was caught by Monica Schnitger’s article – Will PTC+Arena = SaaS dominance in PLM? The conclusion of the article PTC will be able to freeze their competitors by selling Arena to SMB customers and maybe long term to move faster with Atlas development. But what about technology consolidation? According to Monica, it is unlikely to happen.
PTC has embarked on an ambitious plan to build on the SaaS technology it acquired with Onshape in what it’s calling Atlas — the Saas-ifying of Creo, Windchill, Vuforia, and ThingWorx over the next few years. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the resulting PLM takes the best of Windchill, Arena and anything else PTC comes up with as this all evolves. It seems more likely to me that we’ll see Windchill and Arena sold as they are, then customers being transitioned to the new Atlas-based PLM when they are ready to make that jump. Supporting 3 PLM systems could be a nightmare, though, so that transition will have to happen fairly quickly, organically, or be helped along by licensing and other means.
The article made me think about past PLM architecture consolidations in the industry and what was the success rate of merging integrations of technologies and products. Here are some examples from the past. This is not a full list, but just some examples. If you think, I missed the important example, please comment.
Here are a few examples of products and technologies that were acquired, but remained standalone and never integrated into acquirer products and technologies.
Eigner PLM was acquired by Agile PLM, but the technology and products were never integrated. Agile PLM later was acquired by Oracle and since then products remained standalone. SmarTeam was acquired by Dassault, but the product remained standalone until the development was discontinued and switched into support only mode. Conisio was acquired by Solidworks and turned into Enterprise PDM. The product was extended significantly but was not integrated with DS 3DX. Omnisoft PLM was acquired by Arena Solutions but was never integrated into the Arena PLM product. IBM PM was acquired by Dassault but was never turned to Enovia product.
Here are a few examples of products that were integrated or transformed into different products.
Teamcenter Unified. It was one of the biggest transitions of technologies and products in the industry, which included several products and technologies acquired before. One of them was Metaphase (branded as Teamcenter Enterprise) and iMAN (rebranded as Teamcenter Engineering). The overall transition was taken more than a decade and included multiple stages. Another example is MatrixOne, which was acquired by Dassault Systemes and became a part of the 3DX platform. FlexPLM was acquired by PTC as a module on top of Windchill.
So, what is the possible trajectory of Arena Solutions? I refer to my recently published PLM System Architecture and PLM Data Architecture articles. To check the chances of Arena, we need to identify what is Arena architecture. I wasn’t able to find a lot of public information about that. Since the core of Arena (bom.com) has a long history back in the 2000s, I can bet it has an SQL database backend, which is combined with multi-tenant application servers capable of being deployed to different infrastructure – private and public (including AWS GovCloud). On the other side, Atlas (Onshape) platform is a multi-tenant system built using NoSQL document databases running on AWS. Arena and Onshape most probably have different browser-based architecture because they have been developed with a distance of 10-15 years. How will PTC combine them together? This is an interesting question to ask. Integrating Arena applications into Onshape is possible, but then it won’t be much different from all modern applications available on the Onshape app store. By itself, it might not be a bad thing to happen. Besides that, there is of course integration of the backend and DevOps stack. But then, there is a question about what trajectory PTC Windchill will take. Which is probably outside of the scope of this discussion.
What is my conclusion?
Arena Solutions will boost PTC presence in SaaS PLM space, but unlikely will be integrated into the PTC Atlas platform. The closest example and integration challenge was MatrixOne merge into DS 3DX, but while DS succeeded to use the MatrixOne platform for 3DX, app MatrixOne applications (Centrals) became eventually dead. I have to agree with Monica Schnitger- PTC will be using Arena to accelerate SaaS sales and penetrate all competitors into the SaaS space. At the same time, the historical architecture of Arena Solution will be unlikely integrated into a modern PTC Atlas stack, unless PTC PLM architects decide to embark into a deep PLM surgery encapsulating Arena services and bringing them up to Atlas. Technologically, it can be a very interesting project. Let’s see if PTC and Arena engineers will have enough courage to do so. Just my thoughts…
Thanks to some of my readers who commented about PTC/Windchill/FlexPLM – FlexPLM is customization on top of Windchill. Windchill FlexPLM has always been and still is completely integrated in Windchill. FlexPLM is a module of Windchill. PTC has discrete Mfg customers using both Windchill PDMLink for product engineering and manufacturing and Windchill FlexPLM for product portfolio management on a single instance of Windchill.
Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital network-based platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers and their supply chain networks. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.