COMMENTARY: PLM in the Cloud: insights from Siemens and CIMdata

It is a given that cloud architectures, PaaS and SaaS can provide low entry barriers to PLM adoption. Cloud-enabled platforms recently became a hot topic—with strong evangelization on flexibility and scalability; also mitigating COVID related risks and the rise of remote collaboration requirements across functions and organizations. 

In the past 12 months, Siemens made series of strategic announcements: from the launch of its integrated portfolio Xcelerator powered by Mendix’ low-code platform in September 2019, to the release of SaaS platform Teamcenter X in June 2020, followed by the announcement of its new partnership with SAP in July 2020.

On 17 September 2020, I attended a webinar by Siemens and CIMdata about “PLM in the cloud”; expecting to hear more about Teamcenter X and how to transition to PaaS or SaaS models while converging toward enterprise integration simplification. 

Opportunities from cloud PLM

Bill Lewis, Director of Marketing for Teamcenter, and Guy Bursell, Technical Product Manager of Siemens, provided interesting perspectives on how cloud PLM could bring value to Teamcenter X adopters.

I noted the following key advantages:

  • Rapid access to all existing Teamcenter capabilities on the cloud: “Teamcenter X is Teamcenter”.
  • Scaling up or down based on usage, like a pay-as-you-go model—optimizing active license subscriptions, while mitigating risks of over-purchasing or delayed deployments, as sometimes experienced from traditional on-premise implementations.
  • Flexibility and, when managed rigorously, short-term cost savings.
  • Greater business productivity, reduced IT costs, while “focusing on using Teamcenter, not running it.”
  • Reduced testing risks, enabled by scalable computing resources and databases, including multi-tenant cloud architectures, potential reusable services for performance optimization.
  • Access to latest technical and functional capabilities—possibly as soon as they are available, especially with managed upgrades through SaaS offerings.
  • Access to future-ready integration capabilities, leveraging the Mendix platform and other elements of the Xcelerator portfolio—Siemens’ strategic digital ecosystem.

Complementing this webinar, CIMdata also published an interesting paper on the same topic in the form of a commentary: ‘Delivering a Modern PLM Solution—Siemens Teamcenter X’ (CIMdata, 2020).

Demystifying PLM in the cloud

Tom Gill, Enterprise Value & Integration Practice Manager of CIMdata, pointed out that “cloud will not change PLM” (PLM as a practice, or as strategy per CIMdata’s definition; not only a tool). He highlighted that cloud is the underlying system architecture, a key enabler, however:

“PLM in the cloud will not solve all business issues.”

Additionally, Tom Gill made another good point:

“Just because a solution is new and uses modern software development approaches does not mean it has a future-proof architecture.”

Moreover, beyond the enabling architecture, a key consideration about transitioning to the cloud includes organizational strategic alignment; so that value opportunities from cloud adoption can be contextualized. For example, organizational maturity, complexity and size matter:

  • Start-ups: it is a no-brainer that cloud can accelerate first steps onto the digital ladder, and help start-ups grow steadily as they reach their next maturity milestone.
  • Small and medium enterprises: cloud options are clearly low-cost solutions which can also open the door to ongoing new digital capabilities; it could also be useful to assess short vs long term factors, including cost.
  • Large enterprises (organizations with operating complexity, including an amount of legacy processes, data and tools): one of the key questions relates to how to transition to (and from) cloud platforms while seamlessly integrating hybrid-cloud solutions.

Tom Gill presented an interesting slide about the risks in moving to cloud PLM—referring to a CIMdata research from 2017. The data appears to refer to a survey from 185 respondents; hence probably a combination of actual risks and perceived concerns.

According to CIMdata, the top 3 risks for cloud-based PLM included integration, security and customization. It would be interesting to understand whether these risks or concerns as reported in 2017 would similarly apply in 2020, and in what level of importance. It is essential to understand how to mitigate such risks, correct or address concerns or misperceptions.

During the joint Siemens-CIMdata webinar, a positive comment was also made about SaaS platforms being managed directly by editors themselves; rather than by third-party service partners. This was an interesting point as, on the contrary, threats of substitutes typically contribute to the competitive structure of an industry (one of Porter’s 5 forces). Also, does this contribute in some way to another risk related to “lack of confidence in cloud providers”, as highlighted by CIMdata?

The path to a future-ready cloud PLM

It is good to acknowledge each step toward ‘PLM in the cloud’ democratization. Let’s move from ‘why’ to ‘how and when’, getting on the cloud bandwagon.

A number of questions remain to answer when considering cloud investments, especially for mature organizations operating in complex industrial contexts:

  • Can all on-premise business use cases be satisfied in the cloud?
  • How easy would it be to transition from legacy on-premise Teamcenter to cloud based Teamcenter X for organizations that already invested heavily in their customized Teamcenter solution?
  • With cloud, PaaS or SaaS upgrades, how to balance functional novelty versus operational stability that organizations typically require?
  • How to mitigate concerns about data security and lock-in?
  • What deployment transition and mitigation steps should be considered when transitioning from on-premise to cloud systems?
  • What are differences and similarities between data migration requirements on-premise versus in the cloud?
  • What data and systems should be in the cloud, and what could remain on premise?
  • How to address hybrid cloud integration concerns, and reduce potential bottlenecks between multiple clouds, or between cloud and on-premise systems?
  • Etc.

What are your thoughts?


References:

  • Siemens-CIMdata webinar: PLM in the Cloud. 17 September 2020.
  • CIMdata (2020). Delivering a Modern PLM Solution–Siemens Teamcenter X, CIMdata Commentary.

This is an original publication by:

Momentum PLM and written by Lionel Grealou

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Lionel Grealou

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