Why Product Lifecycle Management Is Moving to the Cloud
“The cloud” means many things to many people. It’s a common misconception that the cloud is the Internet itself. They think that all the information they put on the cloud can be easily “hacked,” so they see this as a very public thing. But for those who work in cloud computing, they see it as a means to deliver safe, secure services to more people, at a lower cost. You can share computer resources, including CPU power, memory, and storage. This sharing or “on-demand” use of computer resources means that you can pay less for those resource, than when you have provisioned them on your own.
To take advantage of this resource sharing you must use applications that take this new environment into account. Just using a client-server or desktop tool with a “web front end” does not work well. The application programmers must re-architect their code to take advantage of this new capability and at the same time deal with the problems, such as latency, since now you must pass data between the servers where the data is stored and the web browser on the client machine you are using. Those servers may be down the hall or a few miles away, so there can be substantial delays in data transmission.
Most desktop/client-server tools assume very little latency, so they grab a lot of information at a time and put it into local memory. That’s fine when you are close to the data, but in cloud computing the servers could be anywhere in the world or at least across the continent. So, when people try to use a desktop tool in this new environment, they begin to breakdown quickly in terms of response time. Another way to say this is that these tools do not scale to meet the growing needs. But the whole idea of cloud computing is to allow the application to scale to meet the needs.
Cloud computing also enables world-wide collaboration. So now the need to scale becomes critical, as more and more people are working together and capturing/generating more and more information. A “web-based” tool must be designed to process more information locally, including visualization of the data. Otherwise, we are back to central computing, where you had a dumb terminal connected to a computer often far away. I can still remember how slow the response was when that occurred. Even though the “bandwidth” has grown to Gigabits per second, we are trying to move Terabytes of information.
PLM on the Cloud
So, what does all this have to do with Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)? PLM today requires a large amount of data, analytical tools to transform data into information, and personnel who collaborate to create the products. Clearly, PLM would benefit the most from this new cloud computing environment. But where are the cloud computing products for this market? Legacy tool makers are reticent to re-architect 100s of thousands of lines of code. Such an effort would take years and be very expensive only to compete with themselves during the transition. So, most have created some “web front-end” to provide limited access to the information that exists in the client-server or (worst case) desktop product.
Innoslate® is the rare exception in the PLM marketplace. Innoslate was designed from scratch as a cloud computing tool. The database backend persists the data, while the web front end visualizes and performs the necessary analyses, including complex discrete event and Monte Carlo simulations. Innoslate support all areas of PLM, from Systems Engineering, to Program Management, to Product Design, to Process Management, to Data Management, and more. All this in one simple, collaborative, scalable, and easy to use tool. Check out www.innoslate.com for details.