18 Nov 2011: Oleg Shilovitsky, one of the more prolific bloggers in the PLM industry recently announced his new venture – Inforbix LLC.
Last week I had the chance to speak with Oleg, the CEO, and his partner, Vic Sanchez, about what their new offering was all about. Of course, I suspected that the new company, with Oleg’s background as a development manager of PLM systems, might be about PDM or PLM. Of course I was right. But, I wanted to find out what the product was all about, who founded the new company, what its objective was, a little bit about the technology, and who might use it and what it might cost.
Oleg and Vic were most accommodating in helping me understand and ferret out answers to the above questions.
Inforbix began development on its product in early 2010. The product was officially launched in last October, 2011, and has been in Beta since last April. Shilovitsky teamed with a Russian development team to bring the product to fruition.
About the product
In a nutshell, here is what I learned. Inforbix, today, consists of a product data crawler app that is installed onto the target system or local network containing the product data to be indexed. After user customization of the crawler app, which basically tells it where to find the data to be indexed, the app goes to work finding relevant product data, exploring the metadata stored within the data files, and indexing the data. No actual data files are uploaded to the cloud, only metadata and where the files are located. What makes this exciting is that the crawler can crawl through many data types and vaults, and decode the inherent metadata and product structure.
Targeted at small and medium sized CAD companies, the object of Inforbix is to “help people find, reuse, and share product data.”
Both the crawler app and the cloud based search environment are optimized for manufacturing and design companies. I like that non–vaulted data such as Word docs and pdfs can be “related” back the products.
The system today supports crawling CAD and PLM data from Autodesk, PTC, SolidWorks, and Siemens. More will be coming in the future. Also supported are pdf, Word, and Excel files.
A few niceties
It is secure since no files are changed, moved or uploaded. Being cloud based, little maintenance or local support is needed. It is affordable and seems to be priced right – the first 20K files are free. Each 20K files after that cost $600 per year. Sanchez estimated that a typical medium sized company with 100 people and 30 engineers might spend $10K to $15K per year, a seemingly small cost considering that no hardware and no support staff is needed for the service. Also, it immediately allows accessing the data worldwide using a browser. Asked about what happens if indexed data moves, Shilovitsky said that the crawler monitors and tracks the new location, and updates the cloud.
Inforbix offers many ways to present the data to make sense of the product connections. These include Excel like tables and filters.
I see a few drawbacks and improvements needed
The original data still needs to be maintained along with support and local data backups. A local PDM system might still be needed to support applications that depend upon understanding the product data structure. Further discussions are needed as to how the system allows role-based access to the data. For instance, how can suppliers access the data? Data being relocated might have a delay before the indexes are updated on the cloud.
I really like the concept and the possibilities for extending the concept to other areas of a company. It seems that it would be relatively straightforward to have different crawlers looking for different data types. Think of it as a private Google for the data in your entire company or how to get organized without the fuss. If you are a company without a PDM system (and some 75% of companies are), then this is a perfect way to get started.
Try it out
With a free entry price, it makes sense to give this a try.
A few ways to learn more
The company: www.inforbix.com
The latest press release: http://www.inforbix.com/inforbix-launch-press-release/
Oleg shows how to start using Inforbix in 20 min: http://www.inforbix.com/how-to-start-using-inforbix-in-20-min/
As the problems of finding data continue to plague and perplex many a user of PDM/PLM systems, bringing your readers attention to search-based applications (SBA) is certainly appropriate. Your point about “a perfect way to get started” is a good starting point.
Many PLM systems offer search capabilities, but they may only search only within its system. For complete decision-making, users need all of the relevant product data available in the company’s systems. Therefore, even with an installed PLM system, companies may still need expanded search capabilities.
There is much more that could be explained about an SBA. Briefly, I would like to bring to your attention another significant SBA alternative, Alcove9, a Corporate Intranet Search Engine for Engineering and Manufacturing. Already in use by hundreds of companies, it is a proven third generation solution based on an open source platform with subscription pricing. In a Google-like approach, it is capable of accessing millions of records from a wide variety of formats and silos in less than two seconds, using a wide choice of selection criteria.
More information can be found at http://www.alcove9.com.