PTC Atlas and SaaSification Trajectories 2022

PTC Atlas and SaaSification Trajectories 2022

PTC is moving to SaaS. The move started with the acquisition of Onshape and turning it into the Atlas platform. You can find some interesting and useful conversations about that in this Seeking Alfa transcript from PTC Q2 2021 Results. PTC provides a deep insight into its SaaS strategy and product portfolio, speaks about what is SaaS software, what are SaaS software benefits, and how it all comes together to serve PTC customers. I capture the following interesting passage here:

PTC’s current CAD and PLM products cater to large corporations. But it is the small- and medium-sized businesses that are increasingly interested in CAD, and more specifically SaaS. “We at PTC believe the CAD and PLM markets will go to SaaS. We can’t understand why it won’t happen because there are many compelling drivers pushing it in that direction…PTC itself imagines transitioning to a SaaS model, as most of our software runs on premise at the customer site. We think surely someday that will be in the cloud.” Heppelmann says he sees Onshape as the growth engine that will enable the “SaaS-ification” of PTC.

PTC transformation is indeed interesting when you look at this from the perspective of strategies of large CAD and PLM vendors. Last week, I was talking about PLM trends 2022, which was my check on what is going on with PLM vendors and products. Two of the most important trends I mentioned there are (1) Enterprise SaaS and (2) Moving to multi-tenant web services. Both are very interesting and sometimes overlapping. Let’s speak first about Enterprise SaaS.

In a nutshell, I can see the enterprise SaaS PLM move as the next step in existing PLM hostings. The idea of PLM release lock-in and efforts industrial enterprise companies are making to keep their PLM systems upgraded is substantial and it triggered the need in taking such work from customers in a nice and elegant way. Aras started it back in 2007-2010 when they offered their “PLM upgrade” included in their subscriptions. A decade later, the same idea got a new name – enterprise SaaS. PLM companies are hosting enterprise PLM platforms and taking care of all work.  Here is an example of Aras’ materials. Don’t miss some financial analysis insight showing how a company can save up to $1.5M in three years for a typical 1000 seats PLM installation. I will come to those numbers in my separate article.

A second important trend is a growing number of SaaS multi-tenant platforms. A big difference between all these solutions is to provide a single platform and allow multiple customers to use such a platform. No special hosting is needed, and no dedicated servers and services. The number of companies providing such a type of solution is growing. Here are a few companies and products – Autodesk Forge / Fusion360, PTC Ohshape, and OpenBOM. These platforms serve multiple customers. Data can be shared between multiple users and companies.  Autodesk is probably one of the earliest examples of a large CAD company stepping in this direction (I’d say Autodesk is about 10 years mark in SaaS development, which is about the same time when Onshape was co-founded by Jon Hirschtick, John McEleney, and his ex-Solidworks team. Last week, I wrote about the trajectory of Autodesk development in this space and, specifically about Autodesk Fusion Cloud, and Autodesk Platform Services. Check for more here – Forging PLM with Autodesk Platform Services (APS).

PTC SaaS Transformation Examples – Windchill, Arena, Onshape

Today, I want to continue the review of the PLM vendor’s SaaS and I want to share some insights and thoughts about PTC Atlas.  A year ago, I posted How does PTC plan to SaaSify their products until 2025? article. If you missed that, check this out. Here is some news I captured recently that gives us some more information about PTC’s progress.

1- Winchill+

2- Arena-Onshape connection

The first one is an indication of PTC moving forward to enterprise SaaS. The second is an example of how PTC plans to mix two products – Onshape and Arena. Both are SaaS solutions and connection links them together.

The demonstration of integration between Arena and Onshape shows a button-click user experience where companies are “switching” between two products. No UX/UI integration was demonstrated. The integration was presented as a “batch” process from “CAD to PLM”.

How PTC will mix enterprise SaaS and Multi-tenant platforms?

An interesting question to ask is how all these systems (Creo, Windchill, Arena) will be blended into the common PTC Atlas platform. I didn’t find detailed information about it online (yet), but I will keep digging. Meantime, some of my thoughts.

1- It is unlikely that PTC will re-develop services like Windchill or Arena using Atlas (Onshape) data management technologies. I might be totally wrong, but these products were developed within a 25-30 years distance and it is hard to blend these services. So, they will be connected and we should expect integrations like we have seen between Arena and Onshape to continue. The same will happen with Windchill, in my view.

2- Onshape will have to expand its data management, PDM, and PLM features and functions to provide a solution for customers of Onshape service (especially for the SMB/SME segments per Jim Happlemann’s statement above). It will have to blend with Windchill, Creo, Arena, Vuforia, and other applications. I have no information about it, but enhancements of Onshape/Atlas with native features in both CAD and PLM will become increasingly important to grow Onshape services.

3- A very critical element of future development will be seamless process support. Customers are increasingly focused on seamless information workflows and how data can be seamlessly available to everyone. To understand it, think about continued processes in the organization – Design, Manufacturing, Procurement, etc. It is extremely important for industrial companies to run common processes, so it will become a big deal and an important element of future Onshape, Windchill, and Arena enhancements.

How all these functions will be mixed between multiple products such as Onshape, Creo, Arena, and Windchill will be extremely interesting to watch in the next 1-2 years.

Onshape-Creo Mixed Services?

Two CAD strategy is not new in the portfolio of CAD vendors. CATIA/Solidworks and NX/SolidEdge duos are probably the most well-known examples. Autodesk has many CAD platforms too. For example, Inventor/Fusion360. Now PTC has Creo/Onshape, which eventually has to come to the same platform – PTC Atlas. I expect customers to demand some mixed design processes available between them, but I didn’t hear any news about that from PTC. I will stay tuned.

What is my conclusion?

PTC is full speed ahead of its SaaS transformation. Together with Autodesk Forge (now APS), PTC Onshape (now Atlas) is multi-tenant SaaS platform and it will gradually become a central hub, data, and process management solution for all PTC products and current and future unified PTC SaaS offerings. The PTC SaaS strategy differentiates them from the other big two CAD/PLM vendors – Siemens and Dassault that don’t have a single multi-tenant SaaS platform in their portfolio. The question is how fast PTC will be able to turn PTC Atlas / Onshape into the center of gravity for all products and collaborative services. The time is running fast and industrial companies are looking at how future PTC Atlas and Onshape applications integrated with other PTC products will be able to solve hard manufacturing problems. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital cloud-native PDM & PLM platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers, construction companies, and their supply chain networksMy opinion can be unintentionally biased.


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