Making the move to cloud PLM

Cloud storage for product lifecycle management

Many enterprise software programs are already migrating to cloud-based storage. However, research suggests that platforms such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) have been much faster to embrace the move than product lifecycle management (PLM) programs.

Here, Design Rule discusses the current perceptions of cloud storage in the product design realm, the potential value of the technology and the considerations that organisations in the aerospace and defence sector should factor in before making the move to the cloud.

One of the common misconceptions about migrating to the cloud is that the technology can be difficult to successfully deploy and implement without disrupting existing practices and IT infrastructure. However, with new cloud platforms, this is not necessarily the case. As a cloud customer, you do not need to worry about servers, set up costs and ordering new hardware. In fact, the vast majority of cloud services are available to buy instantly, on a subscription basis with no upfront cost.

Companies have also had concerns about the level of flexibility and customisation in the cloud compared to traditional and on premise PLM solutions. However, the re-architecture of cloud PLM is looking to help solve this problem. Naturally, PLM workflows can be multifaceted and the data produced through PLM can be equally as complex. Without a strict definition of roles, such as designers, procurement or specification writers, in cloud-based PLM, there is a higher risk of accidental errors.

Thankfully, cloud-based PLM vendors have taken this data complexity into consideration. Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE 17x platform, for example, includes a large number of standard role definitions. With this cloud-based PLM option, the pre-definition of user roles is already prepared; meaning that there can be reduced configuration required for the user to get them up and running. 

As with any new technology, it is impossible to discuss the advantages of cloud computing without considering the potential risks. There is a lot of fear associated with the idea of holding intellectual property (IP) in the cloud. There are many valid security considerations for organisations to examine when migrating to the cloud, but there is no one-size-fits-all method for ensuring data security.

Companies need to be aware of any regulatory restrictions placed upon them or compliance required by the nature of any contracts they have that effect when deciding where information can be stored e.g. being a List X site in the UK, International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) for the US or (National Institute of Standards and Technology) NIST or subject to any export controls. Some cloud service providers will state that they can support regulatory compliance but it is down to the user organisation to gain certification.

Government regulations for data centres will depend on the nature of the business; aerospace and defence are not the only industries that should be considerate of regulations and industry standards when choosing a cloud provider. The ISO 27000 family of standards is designed to help organisations keep information assets secure. The standards are specifically designed to manage the security of assets such as financial information, intellectual property and the information entrusted to organisations by third parties. As an internationally recognised framework for best practice, ISO 27001 is an ideal certification to look out for when choosing a cloud platform. 

Despite the industry’s initial hesitation, a fresh influx of out-of-the-box cloud offerings are beginning to build momentum for this new delivery model for the PLM market. In fact, the PLM market is expected to reach a 9.7 per cent compound annual growth rate, with cloud-based PLM applications driving much of this success. The cloud provides a space for customers, designers and other stakeholders to voice their needs, ideas and feedback; ultimately, it provides a unified view of the product lifecycle.