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Aras Innovator: Redefining Customization & Upgrades

By Anthony J. Lockwood

Dear Desktop Engineering Reader:

Imagine you bought a newly constructed house. The builder’s rep hands you a folder of important papers. In that folder is a memorandum of understanding: You can configure furniture as you please as long as, say, living room furniture stays within the confines of that room. However, the house is not engineered for customizations. So, if you want to customize your home by, oh, painting walls, changing carpet or modifying fixtures, you must raze and rebuild the walls or floors and rewire or re-plumb the fixtures. Oh, and the builder will show up every now and then to upgrade a wall or something. The upgrade will restore the builder’s defaults. You’ll have to restore your customizations at your expense.


You think that nuts? Compare it to your real-life situation with mission-critical systems like PLM (product lifecycle management). You can diddle with some configurations to bend it a bit to (mostly) fit your process. But to make PLM fit your process — rather than make your process fit PLM — you need high-level customizations. So, say you want to mess around with its underlying methods. Whaddya have? You have many expensive weeks or months of coding, compiling, deploying and ferretting out unpleasant consequences to plod through. And when your developer rolls out an upgrade, you have to re-engineer and re-expense all those customizations once again. Is there a better way to customize your PLM infrastructure so that your shop can avoid the expense, the planning, the delays and the hassles when it’s time to upgrade?

CIMdata seems to believe so. In its four-page commentary “Aras Innovator: Redefining Customization & Upgrades,” CIMdata flat out says “yes” Aras Innovator offers a better way to configure and customize a PLM system without worrying about what happens when you upgrade. And that’s where this paper begins and ends. What happens in between though is what should really interest you CTO, VP of engineering, and IT manager types out there. It provides you with a big taste of the secret sauce used in Aras Innovator. If you’re thinking about ditching your current PLM implementation, kicking tires on your first, or just curious about the possibilities out there, this is the paper to read.

The vast bulk of this commentary dwells on what CIMdata calls “the innovation behind Aras Innovator” that allows your customizations to pass through with an upgrade. Aras has more than 300 upgrades under its belt, and it warrants cost-free version-to-version upgrades for enterprise subscribers. CIMdata wanted to check this out. Thus, this paper.


Now, if I read this right, it’s actually innovation in the middle. See, Aras Innovator is designed around a service-oriented architecture (SOA) framework over an SQL server. Above that is an open XML modeling engine where all the object models, business logic and so forth are stored. You interact with that behavior modeler through a web client. That modeler presents itself as a graphical environment where you can drag-and-drop and otherwise edit system definitions in real time. No fiddling with source code and recompiles. Your handiwork takes effect on your live implementation. When there’s an upgrade from Aras Corp., those changes occur on the SOA level, leaving your customizations residing in the XML layer unchanged and ready to go.

There’s more to customization than that of course. For example, Aras Innovator comes with customizable predefined best practice solutions — ISO and that sort of thing — that let you deploy it quickly. Speaking of deployments, for a comprehensive PLM system, the code is lean (you can actually download it from the Aras website and try it out). For you, this leanness means that the scalability of your Aras Innovator implementation is limited by the capabilities of your database and hardware rather than by the PLM software.

All in all, this is not your typical CIMdata paper. It is rather upbeat in that muted engineering maven sort of way. For years, the consultants at CIMdata had advised against customizing your PLM system, and they had been aware of the Aras upgrade guarantee. Reading between the lines here, I think that the consultants at CIMdata were taken aback by what they found when they checked out Aras Innovator. You can check out more about what CIMdata has to say about Aras Innovator and customizable PLM by downloading this paper from today’s link.

Thanks, Pal.  – Lockwood

Anthony J. Lockwood
Editor at Large, Desktop Engineering

Download: Aras Innovator: Redefining Customization & Upgrades

About Anthony J. Lockwood

Anthony J. Lockwood is Digital Engineering's Editor-at-Large. Contact him via de-editors@digitaleng.news.