A while back Ralph Grabowski’s upFront.eZine published a piece titled “Just How Open is Aras with its Open-Source PLM” which involved my response to another reader’s statement about Aras. To Ralph’s credit, he published a substantial portion of my response, however, not all of it.
So, as people at companies are trying to learn & understand more about Aras and how we are structured to satisfy corporate PLM requirements, I thought it would be helpful to publish my entire response on our open source approach. I’ve included additional information in [brackets].
There has clearly been some misunderstanding about what we are doing here at Aras, both in the open-source community and the PLM community.
For those trying to understand, it's important to know that we are combining open source PLM solutions with non-open source infrastructure.
Some might call it a 'mixed source' format or 'split-licensing', while for marketing purposes we refer to it as 'enterprise open source' because everything about our structure is designed for global enterprises.
What that means is that the enterprise PLM applications are freely available open-source using OSI compliant licenses [Aras utilizes permissive oss licenses, primarily BSD and Ms-PL].
The software and source for Bill of Materials management, engineering change workflows, AVL/AML, stage-gate project management, controlled documents, part definition, quality plans and lot more are available to get, use, inspect, modify, and redistribute as needed.
These range from functional enhancement add-ons to full featured enterprise PLM applications for global deployments, and the open source format gives companies a level of control and flexibility over their PLM data model / schema, workflows, lifecycles, integrations, forms and business rules/logic that they can't get from the other major PLM providers.
There are currently 95 open-source projects [in 2011] on the Aras community site http://www.aras.com/communityprojects/ and there are additional projects at various locations on the web such as the open source Office integration and AutoCAD connector at http://prodeos.codeplex.com/.
Now, the 'rub' for many in the open source world is that Aras DOES NOT release the underlying application framework infrastructure as open source. [and does not use an OSI open source license on this code]
It's a free download with no software license fees, however, it's a compiled binary.
The source code is distributed as community source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_source which means it is available to a defined 'community', in our case paid Aras subscribers.
This structure provides subscriber companies with the security and confidence necessary for running mission-critical enterprise software as well as direct influence over our roadmap and long term direction.
"The split-licensing strategy, whereby the Aras Innovator applications are available using Open Source Initiative-approved Ms-PL and BSD licenses and the source code for the underlying runtime environment is only available to paying subscribers, is similarly a result of the company's legacy as a proprietary company.
Aras already had paying customers when it decided to take an open source approach, including those involved with defense and military contracts. While the US government is much more open-source-friendly today, at the time, Aras instituted a two-step approach to open source licensing in order to give confidence to those customers concerned about open source licensing.
Indeed, there is still a desire among US and other government adopters of open source software for the software and business to resemble traditional off-the-shelf software, and this can be a reason for Aras and other vendors to provide non-open source options and subscriptions.
Additionally, the company was also wary of protecting its business from competitors offering alternative support arrangements - such as Oracle targeting Red Hat with its Oracle Enterprise Linux offering.
The 'community source' approach taken with the runtime environment ensures that paying customers have access to the code, but potential competitors do not.
The approach is not OSI-approved, but has proven to be beneficial to the company in an area where open source generally continues to struggle: encouraging code contributions and collaborative development from paying customers." Finally, the question everyone asks, "if the software's free, how does the company make money?" Very simple. Aras is bringing Red Hat's business model to the enterprise PLM market:
Eliminate PLM license fees - Anyone can get, customize and use Aras with access for unlimited users forever with no obligation to buy anything
Provide optional offerings that enterprise users will want - Aras sells optional enterprise subscriptions, consulting, training and add-ons
Our business model gets rid of the up-front expense for PLM licenses, provides a predictable fixed-cost structure and means that the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is considerably lower than conventional PLM systems for a large scale deployment.
The larger the scale and scope of a PLM environment, the more cost effective Aras will be when compared with alternatives.
And it's not an all or nothing "rip & replace" proposition. A company can use Aras with their existing systems. For example, if a business already has an existing PDM/PLM system for CAD management but can't justify rolling-out enterprise-wide change management or NPDI stage-gate, they can extend the system with Aras and avoid the PLM license expenses for those high user count processes. For more on the economic benefits of our approach see Economic Advantages & Financial Benefits of Enterprise Open Source in PLM
There's also more about our open source approach at http://www.aras.com/technology/open-source.aspx
At the end of the day, none of this matters unless the software works and works better than other PLM systems.
Make no mistake, our technology is a highly scalable PLM architecture for global companies, and we believe that our open approach aligns much better with customers' objectives than the restrictive lock-in and named user licensing that are pervasive in the PLM market. [see also “Our Public Pledge to Openness and Why It Matters"]
And an added benefit of our format is that companies do not need to believe marketing hype/drivvel from me or anyone else.
They can download Aras Innovator and validate for themselves head-to-head against their existing Windchill, Teamcenter, MatrixOne or Oracle/Agile system.