Is a cloud infrastructure a practical alternative to "on-premise" deployment of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) applications? The answer is, it depends. Quite often, companies that have invested heavily in building an infrastructure dedicated to supporting PLM as part of their product development process cite concerns about security and potential data loss, and may resist moving their PLM investments outside the corporate firewall. Even so, IDC Manufacturing Insights research indicates that implementations of PLM applications within manufacturing organizations are increasingly finding their way to the Cloud (see Fig 1).
Fig. 1. PLM in the Cloud - More Cloud, Less "on Premise"
Interestingly, while software provider Arena Solutions may have pioneered the concept of a "cloud-like" SaaS-based delivery model for PLM, it was Autodesk, in its quest to secure an early-mover advantage, that truly validated Cloud-based computing for PLM. It did so, first, with the introduction of Autodesk 360, its platform for cloud-based applications; followed by PLM 360, for cloud-based collaborative design; Fusion 360 for cloud-based 3D modeling; SIM 360 for cloud-based engineering simulation; and most recently, CAM 360 for cloud-based CAM integration. Autodesk is driving adoption of its cloud-based offerings through very aggressive pricing and challenging competitors to follow its lead. Perhaps even more importantly, it is positioning its Cloud-based PLM offering as an "anytime, anywhere" project collaboration tool, featuring online access to CAD/CAM, CAE modeling, design, simulation and analysis software, "as needed."
With the need to support the collaborative product development efforts of global design teams, partners, and suppliers only promising to grow in importance in the coming decade, the availability of a more affordable online collaboration environment will be welcome by many. Although widespread adoption may still be years away, manufacturers will look to the Cloud to deliver key business benefits:
- End-user accessibility - anytime, anywhere access
- Collaboration support - online, multi-disciplinary collaborative design and project management, among distributed team members, business partners
- Flexibility - ability to access computing resources, "on-demand," esp. for resource-intensive applications such as engineering simulation
- IT consolidation - reducing the administration burden of server maintenance, replacement of obsolete equipment, and data backup
- Ease of software deployment and maintenance - the Cloud alters traditional software deployment and enables ready access to the latest software release
- Cost per end user - subscription-based applications delivered on a per seat basis, at a price as low as $75/month, per user.
The reality is that from a purely IT perspective, using a service delivery model based on cloud resources, whether hybrid or external, can yield tangible benefits in reducing the computing infrastructure's footprint through server and storage consolidation, or by reducing or reallocating the administrative burden of maintaining resources.
While it is still early in the game, there is little doubt that the Cloud provides an attractive business proposition for many organizations- esp. small to medium size manufacturers. Indeed, if the adoption of virtualization technology is any indication, cloud adoption will proceed at a steady pace from the enterprise to the SMB. Based on results from its recent North American CloudTrack Survey, IDC predicts that organizations will access 45.5% of IT resources through some form of cloud -public, private, or hybrid over the next 3 years. Coupled with the flexibility and affordability of cloud-based PLM offerings, it appears that the time is right for manufacturers to consider the Cloud, especially as a platform for collaborative product development.
To learn more, see "PLM in the Cloud - A Growing Trend."