Oracle buying PLM vendor is no surprise to those who follow enterprise software trends

The recent announcement that Oracle Corp. plans to buy product life-cycle management (PLM) vendor Agile Software continues a trend of major ERP suppliers either acquiring or building applications in areas once almost entirely addressed by best-of-breed vendors.


The recent announcement that Oracle Corp . plans to buy product life-cycle management (PLM) vendor Agile Software continues a trend of major ERP suppliers either acquiring or building applications in areas once almost entirely addressed by best-of-breed vendors.

Oracle, for instance, had been building its own PLM capabilities for several years before deciding to purchase Agile. PLM addresses collaborative product development and new product introduction processes by giving multiple disciplines and partners access to common data and processes. The market was pioneered by vendors with either a design creation or product data management (PDM) heritage, but over the last few years, major ERP suite vendors such as Oracle and SAP have built out their PLM capabilities.


"The investments we are making in PLM are focused on improving new product introduction cycle time, and not necessarily in the CAD area,” says Manish Modi, VP of manufacturing and PLM development at Oracle. “There are enough CAD tools out there that do a great job.”


Rather than try to rival the broad-ranging capabilities of PLM specialists on all fronts, Modi says Oracle concentrates “design for manufacturing” or other “design for” goals—e.g., quality, service—that build on Oracle’s expertise in manufacturing and supply chain management.


“We are seeking to cut time out of the new product introduction process, and if you look at how time is lost today, it’s mainly because of the difficulties involved in tossing product information back and forth between engineering, manufacturing, and other departments,” says Modi. “So we are concentrating on functionality, such as being able to get a cost roll-up while still in engineering [processes], or being able to punch out to sourcing data from engineering.”


Ann Arbor, Mich.-based CIMdata calls the non-CAD portion of the PLM market collaborative PDM—or cPDm—and pegs Oracle’s cPDm revenue for 2006 as topping $100 million. That's roughly the same amount of revenue that Agile Software recorded in 2006. Both Oracle and Agile trailed SAP—and best-of-breed vendors like PTC, UGS, and Dassault Systemes—in cPDm revenue. But CIMdata Research Director Ken Amann believes Oracle has the potential for strong growth in this market, even if it merely targets its large ERP customer base.


“We saw good growth and customer win citations from them last year,” says Amann. “They are leveraging their ERP, manufacturing, and supply chain expertise, selling primarily into their installed base. A lot of opportunity remains for them, because of the size of that base.”


Amann says CIMdata doesn’t list Oracle among its cPDm “mindshare” leaders, largely because it hasn’t been at PLM as long as best-of-breed vendors that can focus solely on PLM in their messaging. Even Oracle’s Modi concedes some customers may stick with best-of-breed PLM—a choice that Oracle’s integration architecture simplifies.


As Modi puts it, “Some customers will say,‘Oracle has what I need [for PLM], but there are always going to others who say, ‘I’ve already made in investment in a [best-of-breed PLM] solution—I just want a convenient way to continue to do that and have it integrate back to my Oracle solutions.’”

(caption for CIMdata bar chart:)
Oracle’s revenue in the collaborative product data management portion of the PLM market already tops $100 million.

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