I’ve been following Autodesk’s last move in the PLM business – Upchain acquisition. The first preliminary assessment was based on the initial presentations and briefings done by Autodesk and left many open questions about what Autodesk plans to do with the recently released Autodesk Fusion 360 Manage and future plans about Autodesk Vault. Also, it was not exactly clear what path Autodesk will take with regards to multiple CAD integrations supported by Upchain (according to the Upchain website, it provides integrations with NX, Creo, Catia, Inventor, Solid Edge, and SolidWorks).
Autodesk Quarterly Results were published last week and Autodesk CEO Mr. Anagnost provides more details about the future Upchain roadmap. Check out the presentation and the transcript. Here is a high-level headlines about what is Upchain mission:
Acquisition of Upchain, a next generation manufacturing product data and lifecycle management platform, accelerated our strategy and enables further expansion into competitor accounts and new verticals.
Autodesk Big Vision – Pump Data To Forge Via Upchain Tools
No surprise here, Autodesk is planning the expansion (who is not?) and plan to use Upchain. However, how does Autodesk plan to achieve it? The transcript gives some details about what is planned. Here is an interesting passage.
Combined with existing Autodesk offerings like Fusion 360, Upchain will profoundly simplify data-sharing and collaboration for engineers, manufacturers, suppliers, and other product stakeholders, enabling customers to bring products to market faster and build a stronger supply chain. Its next-generation platform enables it to be rapidly deployed, scaled, maintained and updated without the expensive, inflexible and time-consuming integrations of legacy systems. We will grow Upchain through our enterprise and channel partnerships, and expect it to become a meaningful on-ramp for legacy design tools to the Fusion 360 cloud ecosystem and facilitate further expansion in adjacent verticals.
Autodesk promises easy integrations with legacy systems and legacy design tools as an on-ramp towards the Fusion 360 cloud platform. There is no surprise here. Autodesk’s goal to support seamless information integration into the Forge platform and Fusion 360 applications is probably very similar to other CAD and PLM vendors. Here is an example from Dassault Systeme’s efforts connecting Solidworks to 3DEXPERIENCE, which logically sounds very similar to Autodesk plans to bridge legacy design tools (read – Solidworks) to the Forge platform.
What about other Autodesk PLM / PDM tools?
While I can see a big Autodesk vision by connecting Upchain to Forge, what does it mean for other Autodesk PDM and PLM tools such as Autodesk Fusion 360 Manage (known as Fusion Lifecycle, PLM360) and Autodesk Vault? I found a great summary of what are the plans in Monica Schnitger article:
…Upchain “understands both files and cloud information models like what powers Fusion 360. Fusion already has a stack built on its cloud information model, that goes all the way through simple data management up through into Product Lifecycle Management. Upchain will likely replace that capability within Fusion over time. But more importantly, Upchain supports a whole swath of legacy applications from our competitors. We’re going to go into accounts with those legacy applications and combine a Fusion stack with the Upchain stack to manage all the data our customers use. Ultimately, we’re going to integrate Upchain with Vault, so that Vault can have an extension into the cloud. We’re not going to force our Vault users to move from on-prem to the cloud. Vault is a very popular application, we sell a lot of it every quarter, and we’re going to continue to update and maintain it. We will continue to drive Vault, but we are going to integrate Vault and Upchain over time, which will give our Vault customers a path to putting all their data in the cloud as they see fit to do it. But we’re not going to force that migration”.
The end game? “Ultimately, look for us to be going after legacy systems with a combination of our Fusion offering and Upchain capability to bring all the customer’s data and all the applications the customer uses together in one robust cloud environment.”
Here is some potentially bad news for both Autodesk Fusion 360 Manage and Vault – at least for the moment, both tools plan to be replaced with Upchain. It is hard to say how many Fusion Lifecycle (Fusion 360 Manager) customers Autodesk has, but their migration to Upchain will be painful as any migration between systems. Autodesk Vault migration seems to be very long term and knowing Autodesk, I can hardly believe that Autodesk will sunset Vault in the next 10 years. Which means both tools will co-exist. More interesting question is about Fusion 360 Manage that was recently announced as a design data management platform for Fusion360 managing the release process? Will it be replaced too with Upchain? I guess so, at least based on the information provided above. There is very little rationale for Autodesk to support both platforms with the different data architecture.
Upchain bridge to Autodesk Forge and Fusion360
The question about how Upchain will be integrated with Forge is more interesting. It will be a complete greenfield for Upchain – their current website doesn’t say anything about Fusion 360 integration. Autodesk has a long vision of Fusion 360 data integration into Forge, which will make Fusion 360 data management more robust. As part of this project, Autodesk is developing a few data management projects expanding Fusion 360 and Forge data functions. What will happen with these projects is not clear as well. Technologically, the most interesting development is to see how Upchain will be integrated into the Forge data translation pipeline and what will happen with Upchain data management platforms as a result of that.
What is my conclusion? It was interesting to learn more about Upchain and Autodesk PLM strategy. But I think, what was presented is not a final version. In the long run, Autodesk plans to retire all existing PDM and PLM assets and replace them with a bundle of Upchain tech stacks running on top of Autodesk Forge and Fusion 360. This is a serious plan because the previous integration of Autodesk data management tools into Fusion360 took several years. What is clear – Autodesk is going into big changes into their existing PDM / PLM stack and this is a place you need to watch closely in order to find yourself with the future deadened technology to be replaced with Upchain. Just my thoughts…
Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital network-based platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers, construction companies, and their supply chain networks. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.