By now we can all define product lifecycle management (PLM). Many of you have been bombarded with ROI value statements, like cost reduction and time to market efficiencies. But, what many of us can't define is a simpler word that is only four letters. The word is "open."
Vendors across all industries are making ad agencies rich with marketing campaigns promoting the message that they are open and can interoperate. But what does open mean and why does its definition seem to depend on who you ask?
Fundamentally, there are three flavors of openness in information technology, including open standards, industry standards, and de facto standards.
Open standards relates to the general idea of interoperability and integration. It's an agreement that vendors and customers make so that products and systems made by different parties, like Dassault Systemes and IDe, can work together. Open standards are not software applications; they are only specifications explaining how information should be presented to the user. Open standards are developed by consensus in an industry group, such as the Wide Web Consortium (W3C). There are several examples of open standards, most notably the Hyper Text Mark-up Language, commonly know as HTML, and in engineering STEP and ISO.
Another type of open technologies is called an industry standard. Industry standards are technologies that are commonly used, but are not open or democratically managed by a group of users. Java is a well-known example of an industry standard. Even though, there are a number of companies involved in its future; one company wields a tremendous amount of control over this process, which classifies it as an industry standard. Some industry standards organizations also require a membership and an annual fee.
De facto standards are the third type of open technologies and are in wide use and considered open because of their value or association with other technologies, and not necessarily because they were produced by a standards organization or because they are the most innovative. A commercial product may be a de facto standard because of its wide adoption and it may seem open because many software vendors have built their products for it. The Microsoft Windows operating system is a de facto standard for PCs.
De facto standard status does not mean that there are no alternatives to a particular technology, but such alternatives are rare or are considered niche.
Now open technologies shouldn't be confused with open source software. Open source refers to software source code that is available to the general public, typically for free and it does not have licensing restrictions that limit use, modification, or redistribution under the same terms as the license of the original software such as Linux. You may be asking yourself, well then what are Linux vendors selling? Actually, they are selling their own packaging of Linux plus implementation and training services.
If you are a CAD engineer who works with a global supply chain, open technologies could make your job considerably easier. For example, what if you could take a CAD design and all of its three dimensional properties and upload it to a secure website for your suppliers or customers to review, without them needing any more then a simple Web browser? Open standards make this reality.
Closed proprietary environments are a thing of the past. Before IBM saw the light, our mainframe operating system was very closed. Don't take the path of rip and replace; choose integration. Choose open.
Reach Srinivasan at email@example.com.