Interoperability relates to a customer’s need to integrate software as seamlessly as possible into complex IT environments comprised of different software applications. These IT environments evolve for numerous reasons:
Selection of best-in-class software for different domains (design, simulation, manufacturing, PDM, ERP, etc.) from multiple suppliers
Integration of proprietary software, developed in-house for specialist functions
Interaction with legacy systems
Adoption of multiple solutions through mergers and acquisitions
Collaboration in the supply chain
As such, vendors are encouraged to supply software that communicates efficiently with other IT systems. Fundamentally, customers should own and have access to their data, and it should be possible to exchange their data between different software applications. Such data might include 3D model definitions, Product Manufacturing Information (PMI), analysis results and so on. It should also be possible for customers to integrate functions as tightly as possible, for example, by customizing a CAD tool to integrate specific functionality from an independent application.
The interoperability topic doesn’t just apply to integrating software from different sources/vendors. It also applies to the use of different versions of the same software. Although the rise in cloud-based offerings may result in more applications becoming globally synchronised at the same version, cross-version interoperability will remain a key challenge for customers and their supply chains for some time to come. In such cases, open vendors should try to maximize version compatibility between releases of their software.
The international Code of PLM Openness considers Interoperability to be a key differentiator for vendor openness. A certification for openness was recently developed that accounts for the importance of the interoperability topic by evaluating a vendor’s performance in relevant areas like the integration of 3rd party functions, export of customer-generated data and support for standards. Siemens PLM Software was among the first vendors to obtain this certification in openness for its Product Engineering Software organization that includes NX software.
The next article in this series will consider how IT infrastructures and software extensibility both have a bearing on vendor openness.