Event Report: COE 2007 PLM Conference

10 May, 2007 By: Kenneth Wong

Dassault Systemes and IBM clarify partnership at annual user conference.

This year, Sin City played host to the COE 2007 Annual PLM Conference & TechniFair, an annual pilgrimage for those whose livelihoods depend on Dassault Systemes products. During the first general session on April 30, Philippe Forestier, executive vice-president of Network Selling for Dassault, and Geoffrey Rogers, vice-president of PLM Americas at IBM, renewed their vows before COE president Scott Baker, promising strategic support for one another. Then Bernard Charles, Dassault president and CEO, appeared on the same stage to announce the upcoming marriage of CATIA to ICEM, the styling and surfacing product from the company by the same name that Dassault intends to acquire. Next, Charles introduced ENOVIA 3DLive, a 3D collaboration platform that can be deployed on demand via the Web. He revealed that the product is as an early example, a peek into a new generation of Dassault PLM (product lifecycle management) tools. With this move, Dassault is placing a calculated bet on the SaaS (Software as a Service) model.


ENOVIA 3DLive, for navigating Dassault PLM repositories, relies on the Web to let users collaborate with one another. Bernard Charles, Dassault Systemes president and CEO, revealed that the product's aesthetics and architecture should offer clues to where his company's PLM products are heading.

Till SMB Do Us Part
The long-standing partnership between Dassault and IBM is the opposite of the impromptu marriages occurring daily in Las Vegas. Still, Big Blue isn't exactly a player with a reputation for exclusivity.

According to a Dassault press release dated January 2007, the latest amendments to the existing Dassault-IBM alliance represent "a significant expansion of their 25-year partnership. ... IBM will sell a broader portfolio of DS [Dassault Systemes] solutions to include ENOVIA MatrixOne and DELMIA, in addition to CATIA, ENOVIA VPLM and ENOVIA SmarTeam."

In the same month, Dassault competitor UGS heralded "a new agreement with IBM to support the collaborative product data management (cPDM) requirements of small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) on a global basis." A year earlier, in January 2006, PTC touted a deal with IBM that would "focus primarily on the emerging product lifecycle management market in China as well as a targeted account strategy in growth industries such as electronics, consumer packaged goods, and life sciences in Europe and the U.S."

In Charles' view, the nonexclusive arrangement is just fine. "This has never been an issue between us," he said in a press briefing. "We work with Microsoft [IBM's competition in many areas]. ... There's no reason why IBM should not develop this kind of relationship with other players. But when it comes to selling PLM applications, there's no one at IBM who's compensated to sell PLM applications outside Dassault PLM applications. But if there were salespeople at IBM compensated to sell my competitors' products, then we would have a conflict."

Al Bunshaft, IBM's vice-president of PLM, concurred, "Dassault Systemes' PLM applications are the only ones IBM is selling. But all facets of our businesses are ultimately customer-driven." In other words, if someone comes to IBM and asks specifically to help implement a UGS or PTC PLM product with IBM middleware, Big Blue won't turn them away, Bunshaft explained.

One of the most significant changes to the Dassault-IBM partnership actually began last year. It has to do with how the SMB sales opportunities are handled. The July 2005 announcement from Dassault stated, "While IBM will continue to provide end-to-end, global PLM solutions, Dassault Systemes will be responsible for operation of the sales channel of IBM PLM Business Partners in the SMB market in selected European countries and in the U.S."

This arrangement was further transformed in January 2007. The announcement read, "DS will increase the scope of its management of the PLM indirect sales channels. Under the new agreement, the transition is in two phases, with DS continuing to expand its role as channel management provider on behalf of IBM, and then assuming direct responsibility for it as a value-added reseller channel."

Dassault's press office clarified: "The SMB VAR (value-added reseller) channel is now owned and operated by DS. All IBM PLM channel partners have signed up as official DS VARs, transitioning away from IBM to DS. This was done in agreement with IBM."

Stylized Marriage
On the main stage, about ten minutes' walk from the slot machines on the Rio All-Suite Hotel casino, Charles talked money. "We've invested about US$1 billion in acquisition and expansion of the scope of PLM. Our board has been very supportive of this expansion." And part of that $1 billion presumably will be spent to buy ICEM, a company with a line of products for modeling Class A surfaces, characterized by a high-level of geometric consistency.

ICEM counts Ford, BMW, Porsche and other prestigious automotive brands as its clients. The software was formerly attached to the portfolio of Dassault competitor PTC. In 2002, the divorce came. PTC cited "on-going efforts to focus on its strategic core technology" as the reason for the sale of ICEM Surf to Lee Cureton, the acting general manager of ICEM at the time, and Indigo Capital, an investor based in the United Kingdom.

Michael Check, ICEM general manager, offered his opinion about why the relationship with PTC didn't work out. "They bought ICEM for the wrong reason," he said. "I think they bought it to make a deal with Ford," an ICEM user at the time.

Explaining the sale at the time, PTC stated, "PTC will continue to offer surfacing capabilities as part of its Pro/ENGINEER design solutions and a strong integration between Pro/ENGINEER and ICEM Surf."

Dassault's courtship began in 2005, when ICEM became a CATIA V5 software development partner. And the matchmaker was none other than Ford, one of ICEM's biggest clients. "[Ford] wanted everything to reside in CATIA V5," recalled Check. "So the motivation for us was to get more involved in conceptual modeling, so we have a tool that fits into the V5 architecture." ICEM products presently target the same market served by Alias StudioTools, Autodesk's automotive styling software.

Befitting the Class A surfaces it produces, ICEM products also demand Class A budgets. A standard configuration of ICEM Surf costs US$35,000-$40,000. ICEM Shape Design is priced around US$55,000.

According to Dassault's CATIA business development director Andy Reilly, "ICEM will remain a separate entity; the brand wouldn't go away."

3D on Demand
Dassault's Charles has a dream, a vision he often expresses as "3D everywhere." With the launch of ENOVIA 3DLive, he's pushing 3D from the desktop and servers -- the traditional domains of CAD visualization -- to the Web, both as a product and a service. "3DLive is a step towards providing what we call software as a service," he told the attendees. "With software as a service, we're going to be closer to the users of our solutions. ... You will see a revolution of all our portfolios' user experience in a big way. 3DLive should give you an idea of where this is going. ... You go to a destination site, you subscribe, you get services. That's the framework." And that's not a future that's decades away. With Dassault PLM products, he predicts, "It'll happen in the next two years."

Sporting a sparsely designed interface, 3DLive serves up live manufacturing data on a turntable-like display setting. The application lets users delve deeper into the assembly by rotating to the desired assembly, exploding the product and examining its subcomponents one at a time as floating objects. Collaboration is enabled through integrated chat windows, search functions and snapshot-sharing options. Furthermore, the interface displays the most updated metadata -- part numbers, supplier info and so on -- available in the host PDM (product data management) and ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems next to the selected parts. For now it works as the single-interface application to search, navigate and collaborate on Dassault PLM repositories only. In time, it will support multiple CAD formats, so it's expected to handle data housed in Dassault's competitors' products as well.

"We have to start somewhere," said Fabian Fedida, Dassault director of strategic planning. "So we're starting with the Dassault PLM repositories."

"We're not going to move away from desktop-based, distributed computing environment," Charles assured the press, and anybody else who might be concerned. But beginning with the V6 family, the CATIA, ENOVIA, and DELMIA products will include the Web-based 3DLive components, based on service-oriented architecture.

Dassault press office clarified, "V6 will NOT replace V5. Users will NOT need to upgrade to V6. V6 offers online capabilities that bring the non-engineering users-marketing, sales, finance, and others-into the PLM value chain."

The SaaS PLM modules, aimed at deployment on the Web and deliverable on demand, are currently offered by Arena Solutions, Agile Software and PTC, among others. Part of the appeal is the affordability of the software delivered under this model. Dassault will offer ENOVIA 3DLive at $40 per user per month.

Evidence of Dassault's flirtation with the SaaS model can also be found at SolidWorks Labs, a software test site associated with Dassault's midrange CAD product, SolidWorks. The site currently houses COSMOSXpress, which provides structural analysis functions on demand via the Web. Some PLM components, such as visualization and data management, can easily be ported to the SaaS platform, but the core modeling tasks, the most sophisticated CAD functions, will probably remain desktop-bound for the foreseeable future.

COE ran through May 2, followed by technical workshops on May 3-4.

About the Author: Kenneth Wong

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