A Time and a Reason to Talk Cloud PLM

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What I learned this week … is that the time has come for Tech-Clarity to start talking about PLM in the Cloud. Why now? Because there are some real options for manufacturers to consider, and it has moved from a theoretical discussion to a practical one. So without further ado, let’s get the discussion going.

Cloud PLM Time is Upon Us

I will be the first to admit that I am slow to jump on the hype of new technologies. Gartner likes to talk about the “hype cycle” of new technologies. While I am not immune to getting excited about things on the leading edge (I submit my research on mobile PLM and social computing in PLM into evidence on this),  I usually don’t tend to get involved in the ethereal discussions about what might be coming next (at the very front of the hype cycle). Until there is some action companies can legitimately take, the talk is just … well … talk.

So why start talking about it now when people like Oleg have been talking about cloud PLM so much over the last couple of years? (See my homage to Oleg, King of the Clouds above, who with the launch of Inforbix shows that he was doing a lot more than talking).

Now there is more to do than talk, something can be done about it. There are real, viable options to consider. In the last month:

There are also some alternative ways to solve PLM problems springing up. I wrote in an article that will appear soon in Advantage for the PLM Lifecycle that highlights a number of other interesting new (or at least relatively new) solutions that run in the cloud including:

So I am now ready to admit that PLM is starting to look cloudy, but in a good way.

So What About It?

Now, to be fair, I haven’t had my head totally stuck in the sand. I have touched on cloud PLM in the past, for example in my post PLM on the Cloud – Tempest of Simply Vapor?. In that post, I tried to get two points across:

  1. Cloud PLM is a compelling opportunity
  2. I had some concerns

I still agree with both of those statements. Why is it compelling? Clearly a lot of companies are turning to cloud solutions to simplify their IT infrastructure and save money. Many companies are already using applications in the cloud in other parts of their business, although they may or may not think of them as “cloud” offerings. With so much of the corporate IT budget going to maintain large ERP implementations, any way that people can get things done without implementing new infrastructure is attractive. Signing up for a service that solves a problem just makes sense. From a PLM perspective, cloud makes even more sense because product development is inherently social. For companies to collaborate across dispersed organizations, global supply chains, and virtual product development teams spanning geographic and corporate boundaries cloud makes a lot of sense.

I believed early on that cloud would be compelling, but I wasn’t sure how soon it would be viable. For cloud PLM to work it had some hurdles to overcome. Specifically, it had to perform and had to stand up to some serious corporate IT questions including questions about data security. Companies like Salesforce.com have made the corporate questions easier to deal with by providing an example of a cloud-based, enterprise solution that contains highly sensitive customer data. Clearly security is always an issue when you talk about product IP, but as I discussed on both the Nuage launch video and Autodesk’s PLM analyst roundtable, lack of security in the cloud might be a bit of a myth. Or more accurately, for many companies believing they are more secure on their own is a myth. More on that at a different time, and sorry for any of you that are shouting at me in your head as you read this. Another way to think about it is that the ways people work around the lack of collaborative solutions to share product data (e-mail, thumb drives, cloud tools like DropBox, etc.) are probably much less secure and are a greater risk than cloud PLM solutions.

Implications for Manufacturers

So the Cloud PLM opportunity is compelling, but make sure you get your questions answered. Are you ready for PLM to move into the cloud? Or are you ready to augment what you do with PLM with some cloudy applications? The time has come to take a look, at a minimum. Now there is more to look at than vapor, there are some real options to consider. Will they meet your needs? Given the number of options available my guess is that you will find something that can help you improve your business. Will they perform well enough and pass the scrutiny of your corporate IT group? It is time to take a look, but addressing these issues is a “do or die” situation for cloud (or SaaS, software as a service) software companies. They are ready and waiting with answers for you.

So cloud and PLM are a viable option in my view, I hope you found it interesting. I am sure not everyone agrees. If you don’t, let us know. If you do, what plans do you have?

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