Customers were waiting for Teamcenter on the cloud

PLM Software? Check. Integration Partner? Check. Cloud Platform? Check.

When PTC announced it would provide its Windchill enterprise PLM software on the cloud three years ago, the market replied with a collective yawn. It wasn’t that the software was bad—Windchill is competitive and popular—but companies that use enterprise-class PLM software were just not ready to deploy to the cloud.

Fast forward to October 2012. Siemens PLM Software launches a cloud-deployment version of market-leading Teamcenter, and eight customers are waiting to deploy on Day One. According to Dave Mitchell, the chief technology officer at Siemens PLM for Teamcenter, Siemens was the “victim of good timing.”

Teamcenter on the cloud enables companies to move some, or all, of their computing infrastructure to a third-party cloud service provider versus investing in their own hardware. This gives customers cost-effective access to enterprise-grade IT infrastructure and resources without the need for capital expenditure.

In the following interview, edited for clarity, Mitchell explains how things have changed, and why companies who might not have considered a cloud PLM deployment even a year ago are changing their attitude.

GraphicSpeak (GS): There was a time when PLM vendors couldn’t give away cloud access; the users were not interested. What changed?

Dave Mitchell (DM): When we started preparing Teamcenter for the cloud we thought it would appeal to small and medium businesses, not the biggest enterprises. But now it is the very largest businesses wanting to deploy to the cloud. Two large prospects came to us with the rules of engagement: Capgemini is my integrator, Amazon is my platform, now we will find a PLM partner. A third specified Microsoft Azure. It is a situation where people are ready and willing. They are using cloud technology in other departments, and want to use it in engineering.

GS: What do you think draws IT to using Teamcenter on the cloud?

DM: Serious IT guys can now request a “real” instance of Teamcenter. Our customers are already doing global deployment of Teamcenter, and now they want to do same thing on the cloud instead of their internal servers. We can offer both high and low latency, high and low bandwidth.

GS: When the industry started to talk about cloud technology, there was a lot of hand-wringing about possible security problems. Is security still an issue today?

DM: Siemens now supports Teamcenter on three leading cloud services: Microsoft Windows Azure, IBM SmartCloud Enterprise+, and Amazon Web Services. These cloud guys do this for a living. We tell our customers their IT guys are probably better than yours. They can secure all this stuff. All three platforms can put a firewall around the deployment so that it is only accessible from within the corporate network. In essence, they secure the cloud behind the client’s firewall.

GS: Are their special considerations when using Teamcenter in the cloud that differ from an internal deployment?

DM: PLM users tend to have rather large files. If you don’t plan it right, using PLM on the cloud can be like buying the wrong texting plan for a teenager. Cloud vendors charge for file storage and file egress. There is a fee associated with every time a user pulls a file from the cloud. We recommend our users consider a hybrid cloud/local deployment. Put the gold data on the cloud, the metadata on the cloud, and use your on-premise servers for egress. We think it will be a winning strategy for many of our customers.

GS: When a customer needs a new PLM deployment, how do they decide whether to go with on-premise or cloud?

DM: Our customers remind us that as Teamcenter users, they have new costs and sunk costs. They may be doing a deployment for a specific project over a finite period of time, and they will decommission when the project is over. Using the cloud for such a deployment allows them to get comfortable with the technology and not spend additional on servers and IT overhead. We expect to see such customers add a training instance, or a development instance; eventually some will completely transfer to cloud deployment.

We think the roadblocks have been removed. As it stands today almost any customer can deploy to the cloud if they want to. The really large stuff may stay on-premise or on Siemens servers for a long time. We think hybrid deployments will be the norm for a while.

GS: Any surprises so far?

DM: We thought our aeronautics and automotive clients would be among the last to adopt this technology. But all three cloud vendors have ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) clouds and government clouds. For some customers, having ITAR certification makes it a done deal; they deploy our ITAR product on an ITAR cloud and they are good to go.