A week before the Autodesk University 2012 conference, Aras, a provider of enterprise-class open source product lifecycle management (PLM) software solutions, announced the launch of Aras VPLM, a commercial offering designed specifically for companies that run Autodesk Vault with Inventor for three-dimensional product design and AutoCAD for two-dimensional design. Aras VPLM for Autodesk Vault provides packaged functionality for corporate-wide PLM business processes within companies that run Autodesk product data management (PDM) software.
Built on top of Autodesk Vault Professional, Aras VPLM extends the capabilities of Autodesk Vault for new product development and introduction (NPDI), complex configuration management, enterprise change management, outsourced manufacturing, quality compliance, and other functions across a company and its supply chain, by allowing collaboration between product development, operations, quality, purchasing, sales and marketing, and other groups.
Autodesk Vault is by far the best computer-aided design (CAD) file manager for designers using Autodesk Inventor and AutoCAD. Certainly, Autodesk has Vault for PDM on-premise, and the still nascent Autodesk PLM 360 offering in the cloud. This combination is not yet much competition against the mainstream big three PLM players (i.e., ENOVIA, Teamcenter, and Windchill) but is a significant one against Aras. But, while Autodesk PLM 360 is still more suitable for small to medium businesses (SMBs), Aras can support complex and customized needs. Item-based and process-oriented, Aras VPLM is designed for the most demanding and complex PLM requirements.
Why Aras VPLM for Autodesk Inventor?
Autodesk Vault is just a basic PDM system for managing Autodesk’s CAD data. Both Aras VPLM and Autodesk PLM 360 sit on top of Autodesk Vault to provide add-on PLM functionality, so they are now in direct competition. Aras’ value prop comes from a more mature product and more out-of-the-box functionality. And if a company that uses Autodesk design software with Autodesk Vault needs PLM, but is hesitant about going to the cloud, it now has an on-premise option. As Aras VPLM runs on the customer’s servers and network (as opposed to being cloud-based), it’s easy for Aras VPLM to connect to, for example, the customer’s Microsoft Active Directory for single sign-on (SSO), which is not currently possible with PLM 360.
More than 350 companies are currently using or evaluating Autodesk PLM 360, which translates into over 8,000 users, 40,000 workspaces managing 2.2 million items, and a community of 340,000 engagers (who provide feedback and suggestions). Aras VPLM is a mature PLM product that includes bill of materials (BOM) management for complex product structures, out-of-the-box PLM capabilities such as enterprise change management and integrated project management, and extensive additional functionality for configuration management, supplier collaboration, quality compliance, and more.
Aras VPLM also boasts multi-CAD capabilities that Autodesk PLM cannot handle, such as CATIA and NX, and electronic CAD systems like Mentor and Cadence. Specifically, in addition to Autodesk’s Inventor and AutoCAD, VPLM’s comprehensive multi-CAD capabilities include CATIA, NX, Pro/ENGINEER, SolidWorks, Solid Edge, and more, as well as electronic data automation (EDA) systems such as Allegro, OrCAD, DxDesigner/DxDatabook, PADS, Expedition, Altium, Zuken CR-5000, and others.
If a company wants to roll out a global PLM system and tweak it, Aras provides a great jump-start. Since Aras provide open source PLM software, many companies assume it is free and later complain about getting nickel and dimed for this partner product or that non-core PLM functionality. On the other hand, Autodesk Vault and PLM 360 are not free, and their integration is not always so smooth.
I still think that most companies buy on emotion or history, rather than facts. If you use a particular brand, you are likely to continue to use that particular brand. So it goes with PLM or CAD users, likely to continue to use the solutions of a particular vendor. Thus, it will be interesting to watch how much of a dent Aras will made in Autodesk’s CAD and PDM install base.