Microsoft, UGS Plan PLM Alliance

UGS plans to standardize its PLM technology on Microsoft's .Net platform, focusing on digital collaboration and search.

AUSTIN, Texas—Microsoft and UGS announced at the World Congress on Information Technology May 1-5 here a deeper alliance that will result in UGS product lifecycle management infrastructure being built completely on Microsofts Web services-based .Net platform.

The companies goal is to bring PLM out of the dark cubbies of product design engineers and into the light of the rest of the organization (and into other vertical markets besides engineering), primarily through adding digital collaboration and search capabilities.

In terms of search capabilities, the goal is to enable users to, for example, search UGS and other applications for a specific item, or to combine an item search with a cost analysis. To allow this, UGS will incorporate Microsofts SharePoint Search technology into its technology stack at a later date.

"We have in the new SharePoint that ships coincident with Office 2007 a connector architecture, so you can essentially write a connector from SharePoint that talks to line of business applications," Steve Ballmer, Microsofts CEO, said in an interview here with eWEEK on May 3.

"Youve got to pick which kinds of data you want to show through—you may not want to show everything thats in that back end, but you might want to show a subset of information through to any user, whether or not theyre a primary UGS user or not. I know our guys are working together [with UGS] on the next generation of that."

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read a Q&A with Microsofts Ballmer and UGS Affuso about the new PLM alliance.

The multiyear alliance between Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., and UGS, of Plano, Texas, will also have UGS building out a full version of its PLM suite on the Microsoft platform. As a result, users will be able to create and manage their product data in an environment that invites team members scattered about the globe, customers, partners and vendors (likely also scattered about the globe) to collaborate on the creative process, officials said.

It also opens up PLM to a wider audience.

"[This alliance] provides us a platform and a whole audience out there that already knows and loves and interfaces with Microsoft every day," said Tony Affuso, UGS chairman, CEO and president. "So by taking our stuff and putting it on that stack, we reach a lot more people in a customer organization. They dont have to relearn, they can get in, theyre familiar with [the Microsoft environment], and then come into one of our applications, and our app is familiar and friendly to them. So we can get a broad audience in our capability."

As part of the partnership between Microsoft and UGS—the result of a decade-long association between Ballmer and Affuso—Microsoft will work with UGS to help the company develop PLM software that uses Microsoft technology.

That means in addition to building its products on .Net in the future, UGS will also tap Visual Studio 2005, ASP.Net 2.0, Windows Server 2003 and Microsoft SQL Server 2005. UGS will work to optimize its Teamcenter digital life-cycle management software and its midmarket Velocity Series suite for the Microsoft platform.

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There are a bevy of use cases when it comes to having Office as a client to Teamcenter: item check-in/check-out between the two environments; technical document creation and mapping Teamcenter metadata to Office documents; Teamcenter data viewing from within Office; creating Teamcenter document templates from within Office; task synchronization between Teamcenter workflow and Outlook; and acting on workflow assignments in Office, officials said.

By enabling people to more easily use PLM in an Office environment, Microsoft is carrying out one of its core missions: to support the "information worker."

"The whole notion of providing tools to information workers that help them participate in the creation, the review, the commentary, the collaboration, the workflows around intellectual property, thats kind of our lifeblood," Ballmer said. "In a lot of ways that is what we do, weve just always been helping people with Word documents. Now the question is, What is the full set of ideas? And certainly product design is a big area."

There is an additional area the two companies are working on separately that will converge to support "trusted" collaboration: security.

"The core technology that lets you set up roles, we feel like we have a responsibility for," Ballmer said. "We dont know what the roles are; [UGS] has a lot of logic they have to do to manage security to try to provide some core infrastructure. But anything thats independent of the application Id say we feel a lot of responsibility for."

But, according to Ballmer, the most interesting logic exists at the application level—where its mainly existing employees that wind up accessing the wrong data—so theres a big job for both UGS and Microsoft when it comes to providing secure communication among partners.

"Theres always more to do [in terms of security], theres always more," Ballmer said. "I can tell you stuff that we want to be able to—new features people want in Active Directory all the time. The stuff does work today—a number of our ISVs use it. And some of our ISVs dont use it, and I like when they use it, but [if they dont,] I dont condemn them to Hades, so to speak."

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