In enterprise PLM only Aras is built on a 100% Microsoft stack, matching the IT of Autodesk Inventor users. Autodesk would be wise to avoid buy-or-build for a while, and let Aras prove the case for PLM in the Autodesk marketplace.
Open source enterprise PLM vendor Aras has joined the Autodesk Partner Program, gaining access to the Autodesk Developer Network and its resources for creating third-party products for Autodesk customers. Aras intends to expand its current set of product connectors beyond its existing AutoCAD and Autodesk Inventor plug-ins to Vault and Inventor Publisher.
Aras says it will continue its multi-CAD, vendor-neutral approach, but that by joining the Autodesk program it gets access to support and services that will make for better products for Autodesk users.
Aras has provided Aras Innovator connectors for AutoCAD and Inventor quite some time, says Aras VP Marc Lind. The new partnership will make it possible for the open source developer to come out with new connectors and other add-ins for Autodesk Vault (a manufacturing data management program) and Autodesk Inventor Publisher (for creating interactive technical documentation). “If a company is currently using Autodesk manufacturing suite products, including Vault, but they decide they need enterprise PLM process automation, we will provide seamless compatibility.”
“Vault is a place to store files,” Lind says. “It is not process based; it is a data management solution.” Many of Autodesk’s largest manufacturing customers are discovering “the PLM need is self-evident,” Lind says.
Processes supported by Aras out of the box include New Product Development and Introduction (NPDI); Complex Configuration Management; Enterprise Change Management; Outsourced Manufacturing; Supply Chain Management; and Quality Compliance. Third-party vendors and contributing users offer a wide variety of additional add-ons.
Unlike its commercial competition, Aras is the only enterprise PLM solution built 100% on the Microsoft stack. The primary competitors in enterprise PLM (Oracle Agile PLM, Siemens PLM Teamcenter, Dassault Systemes Enovia, PTC Windchill) all use competing IT infrastructures even if they display the results on computers running Windows. “Autodesk is all Microsoft, and so are we,” says Lind.
Aras expects the Vault connector to ship during the first quarter of 2012.
What we think
Aras is quietly becoming a significant player in enterprise PLM. When the company first fired its sales staff and became an open source developer, conventional wisdom said they wouldn’t last two years. Today they are growing at more than 100% per year, adding staff, and seeking new alliances. It turns out being open source can be very good for business.
Autodesk had done an about-face in the last 12 months on the value proposition of Product Lifecycle Management, from outright hostility to acceptance that its largest manufacturing customers need more than file and data management, they need process management. Vault is a very good data management product, but it is not a process management platform.
Normally when Autodesk recognizes a need to be in a particular market, they either build new products or buy them—more often they buy. For now, they should let Aras test the waters and prove the case for PLM in the Autodesk marketplace.