IoT & Embedded Technology Blog

Embedded Industry Needs Coordinated Effort to Evangelize Cross-domain Collaboration

At this week’s Innovate 2011 Conference, IBM Rational reiterated their vision for embedded systems engineering – that it is becoming of increasing importance to facilitate and encourage collaboration across project teams, product lines, and engineering disciplines. In particular, their announcement of Collaborative Design Manager and discussion of further progress by the Open Services for Lifecycle Collaboration (OSLC) standard underscore this strategy.

The Collaborative Design Manager, which is offered for both their Rhapsody and RSA tools, is intended to provide a mechanism to share models with stakeholders throughout project teams and organizations. Similar to trends we are seeing with requirements management/definition tool use cases, we are seeing a growing need for tools that can maintain relevancy to a wide range of development and operational roles, especially as more organizations adopt agile methodologies that encourage frequent feedback cycles.

The potential for even broader adoption for Collaborative Design Manager (and other tools like it) may rest on the ability of IBM to elicit the participation and integration of other modeling tools from vendors with whom they either directly or indirectly compete. For example, there are many cases in the embedded market where an engineering team may be using different modeling tools for system architecture, algorithm design, and control engineering. We fully expect that tools that can offer a means to manage these models (and provide consistent traceability throughout them) will become increasingly useful to OEMs whose projects are becoming increasingly complex.

Furthermore, we believe that this same type of tool could provide the needed mechanism to manage system models across engineering disciplines (ESW, PLM, EDA) in the future, which would obviously work towards the end objective of OSLC. However, while IBM’s announcements and underlying message fall in line with VDC’s own views on the evolution of embedded engineering, there are some serious questions remaining that only the market can answer.

Will the market embrace OSLC (an IBM initiative) as the integration hub to manage the connections between different engineering disciplines?

One of the challenges will center on the ability (or lack thereof) for IBM to gain buy-in from other market-leading competitors, which is not a trivial task. Perhaps augmenting this challenge is the expansion of leading vendors from other domains (PLM and EDA) into the traditional ALM space with PLM vendors PTC and Dassault and EDA vendors Synopsys, Cadence and Mentor all trying to improve their own relevance to and value proposition for software development.

Clearly, the requirements of engineering organizations will dictate the potential broader success of OSLC. IBM has, in fact, steered a past open standard organization to wide (/ pervasive) public adoption through the Eclipse development framework. Nevertheless, in this case, perhaps the greatest influencing factor will be not if customers, partners, and competitors want to support an IBM initiative, but rather if the engineering organizations are even ready to implement this type of cross-domain integration.

In a recent blog post, we highlighted engineering organizations’ growing investigation of ALM/PLM tool integration. The results showed that organizations were, in fact, beginning to evaluate its potential. However, in order for IBM (or others) to catalyze the broader adoption of OSLC, they need to make sustained efforts to educate the community at large if they hope to transition the dialogue around this change to an elevated level of urgency.