One of the more compelling concepts in Star Wars and in general is the idea of the unstoppable super weapon that gives countries, planets or even evil empires an overwhelming advantage versus their competition. Computer aided design (CAD) based Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) vendors like PTC, Siemens (Team Center) and Dassault have long touted the inherent advantage they possess in managing CAD data within their tool set. Pure PLM vendors like Agile PLM have often struggled in accounts where there was a heavy emphasis on managing engineering data. Last year at Oracle Open World I commented on the fact that Oracle was finally starting to make some progress on the CAD connectors for Agile PLM in the article, “The PLM State: It looks like Agile Engineering Collaboration now has a Brain”. The functionality that was rolled out in 3.0 has definitely made an impact and new releases have been building on this. Last week Oracle released EC 3.0.2 which addresses some functionality requirements for SolidWorks and also adds support for Solid Edge. This article will review the progress EC has made over the past year and whether or not this is Oracle’s “Death Star” for other PLM vendors.
This year’s session was scheduled on the last day of the event which I think affected attendance although executives from PTC managed to find time to attend. Shane Goodwin, Product Management Director for Agile PLM and Michael Zarzycki, Manager of Engineering IT for Sensata Technologies were the presenters. They went through some basic fundamentals about Agile EC since most of the people in the room were not current EC customers and then Zarzycki explained how they were using EC to manage their SolidWorks data in Agile. He was very complimentary of the technology and they were very pleased with the performance improvements from 2.5 to 3.0. He did point out that currently they are not leveraging the engineering data to drive bills of material in Agile which is consistent with our experiences with trying to use engineering data in the rest of the enterprise. His payback slides were impressive and based on the improved performance and their ability to have visibility into the rest of the enterprise directly from engineering. This capability allowed engineers to have visibility into cost and availability data which improved their designs early eliminating the need for late change orders. The fact that Shane Goodwin was presenting on EC speaks volumes as to how far the module has come and how much more mainstream it is. Previously, only the product manager for the module would have been able to discuss its capabilities since it was such a niche product but now it is being folded in to the same software governance as any other product module Oracle develops which means that it should be much more stable and have fewer bugs upon release. Previously, most of the testing of the software was done by the supplier of the module XPLM, a German based CAD software integration specialist.
As I have mentioned before we are fairly involved in most EC transactions at Oracle. The Sun acquisition was a big deal because they were forced by Oracle management to transition off of Intralink and they were not pleased to have to do this. One year later the feedback we are getting is fairly positive. It took a lot of work on Oracle’s and XPLM’s part but it was a crash course for them in what was needed to make a viable connector for a complex Pro/Engineer customer. This hard work is yielding dividends at Sun where they are impacting Sun’s profitability. While Sun’s overall numbers were down from a top line revenue perspective anyone who did any digging might have noticed that Oracle was able to still turn a profit unlike the past few years when Sun was a stand-alone company. I realize that there are numerous factors that come in to play but it is not an accident that this happened after they switched over to Agile PLM. There have been several other high profile showdowns between Agile PLM and CAD based PLM vendors this year that in the past would have been difficult for Agile to win with their limited CAD data management capabilities. Historically, Oracle would sell around this requirement by emphasizing their enterprise footprint with mature quality, program management and compliance modules as well as Oracle’s ERP and CRM applications. This approach works fairly well but tends to fall flat in CAD centric opportunities. The feedback I got from some of the sales management on the Agile team was that based on their success this year going head to head with CAD vendors they feel that EC has really taken steps to narrow the gap. This is consistent with our experience as well. One particularly nasty engagement had a CAD vendor coached client pulling out last minute surprises designed to crash EC but it was able to handle the data surprising the client and I suspect the CAD vendor as well. This may explain PTC’s presence at the Oracle presentation last week.
Considering the fact that Agile PLM is considered to have as one client described “the best PLM UI in the industry” and a wide breadth of functionality that offers more enterprise capabilities than most CAD based PLM vendors; having CAD data management capabilities that are close or equal to their competitors could be problematic. The progress that Oracle is making in this area means that they can start to aggressively pursue opportunities that previously have been beyond their reach and this could give them a Death Star like weapon when competing against the PTC’s and Dassault’s of the world. There is still work to do before they can claim equal status but the performance and functionality improvements are starting to make a difference and the number of clients using this module has grown exponentially over the last year and I expect this trend to continue. PTC better warm up the X-wing and hope the force is with them.