Why ANSYS Bet on Aras PLM Technology, and Why Aras Tends to Become a “Silent Partner”
Verdi Ogewell posted on January 27, 2020 |
Why would ANSYS want to build a new software solution on Aras' PLM technology?

Integrating simulation solutions into PLM platform environments is no longer simply a matter of cutting-edge technology for a handful of specialists. As simulation swells in all directions and overcomes barriers in product realization workas well as becoming an increasingly common element in the operation of these productsa growing close collaboration is emerging between the PLM platform vendors and independent CAE developers. ANSYS is the big star here, with their solutions being found in most major companies involved in product development.

This means that a partnership with ANSYS appears to be a good idea for those cPDm/PLM players who have the ambition to provide a comprehensive platform. Aras PLM is one such developer, with strong aspirations for growth and a category of actors that have taken their place on the "stage" in many of the world's largest companies. Therefore, the fact that Aras recently announced an in-depth strategic partnership with market-leader ANSYS is not entirely surprisingalthough it is a bit unexpected.

The agreement is that Aras licenses out parts of its lifecycle-based platform technology to ANSYS, which will develop a dedicated Simulation Process and Data Management (SPDM) solution based on Aras’ technology. This new ANSYS solution will be called ANSYS Minerva.

Why would ANSYS want to build a new software solution on Aras' PLM technology?

“There are good reasons,” says Sanjay Angadi, director of product management at ANSYS.

“Both ANSYS and Aras have a vendor neutral and open approach, and customers have already validated this approach based on several ongoing engagements with ANSYS Minerva. It should be noted that ANSYS Minerva leverages the underlying Aras platform, and not the PLM offerings from Aras. For example, ANSYS Minerva provides the core platform capabilities such as configuration management and PDM/PLM connectivity, and not Comet technologies or other PLM applications from Aras,” he explains.

This article will take a closer look at the background of this undeniable feather in Aras’ cap. Furthermore, Aras PLM tends to become a “silent partner” to their customers. I will explain why in today’s article.

A WIN-WIN DEAL. The collaboration between S&A leader ANSYS and PLM/cPDm developer Aras is from most perspectives a win-win deal for both parties. Aras’ platform technology combined with proven simulation domain expertise, plus technology for new product offerings that improve productivity and maximize business value from simulation investments, are never wrong. Within the framework of collaboration with Aras, ANSYS will deliver commercial offers for SPDM, process integration, design optimization and simulation-controlled computer science.
A WIN-WIN DEAL. The collaboration between S&A leader ANSYS and PLM/cPDm developer Aras is from most perspectives a win-win deal for both parties. Aras’ platform technology combined with proven simulation domain expertise, plus technology for new product offerings that improve productivity and maximize business value from simulation investments, are never wrong. Within the framework of collaboration with Aras, ANSYS will deliver commercial offers for SPDM, process integration, design optimization and simulation-controlled computer science.

There’s no doubt that ANSYS’ bet on Aras' PLM technology is an interesting choice.

Aras PLM is still a small player in terms of revenues on the cPDm side. According to CIMdata’s 2019 reports (which cover 2018), Siemens PLM, Dassault Systèmes, SAP, PTC and Oracle are the top direct software revenue achievers in the cPDm area. Currently, Aras sits at number 6 among CIMdata’s cPDm Leader Market Presence reporting category. Furthermore, CIMdata estimates Aras’ total market presence (i.e., total direct and indirect revenue for 2019) to be a little under $200 million, as you can see on the chart below.

On the other hand, the growth curve points steeply upwards and the number of licenses is surprisingly high. During the last three years, Aras’ revenues grew more than 50 percent annually, noted Marc Lind, Aras’ vice president of strategy, stating that, “as a privately owned company [they] don’t reveal any revenue numbers.”

That said, Aras’ growth is notable in an industry where the overall growth in companies' annual cPDm investments averages just under 10 percent. In addition, the number of seats added annually in the Aras sphere can be counted in the tens of thousands.

2018 cPDm LEADERS MARKET PRESENCE, according to CIMdata. The graphic shows the impact on the cPDm market sector based on CIMdata’s estimates. (Source: CIMdata’s 2019 MAR.)
2018 cPDm LEADERS MARKET PRESENCE, according to CIMdata. The graphic shows the impact on the cPDm market sector based on CIMdata’s estimates. (Source: CIMdata’s 2019 MAR.)

For those who have followed Aras PLM's progress on engineering.com in recent years, it is clear that the company has lately invested particularly intensively on the simulation and analysis side (S&A). This is especially true since a large capital injection was received by the investment banking company Goldman Sachs two years ago. One of the first major acquisitions after that was Aras’ purchase of the SPDM developer Comet. Simply put, an SPDM solution can be described as an "order in the S&A house" and collaboration system for simulation.

From Comet via VCollab, to MSC and Modelon

Since then, Aras has moved on within the S&A track, establishing a partnership with software developer Visual Collaboration Technologies (VCollab), and expanding its partnership with Hexagon-owned MSC Software.

The latter is about improving related simulation processes and data management. MSC is well-represented in the automotive and aerospace industries in particular, which also happen to be some of Aras PLM's major areas of success. Aras has also entered into a collaboration around Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) and simulation with Swedish Modelon. This cooperation has enabled users to incorporate and utilize the open standard system modeling language, Modelica.

VCollab is one of several players with which Aras PLM is cooperating in order to sharpen its capacity in the field of simulation.
VCollab is one of several players with which Aras PLM is cooperating in order to sharpen its capacity in the field of simulation.

No one doubts Aras' ambitious aspirations to turn its low-code platform into an increasingly broad cPDm solution that meets the complex requirements that more and more OEMs demand in terms of S&A solutions. Not least of these is Aras’ goal to create better conditions for the efficient use of digital twins and end-to-end digital threads which provide unlimited traceability and cover the entire product life cycle.

“The amount of simulations done today has built up a need for simple ways to repeat them, which in turn drives the need to manage related data and processes. ANSYS has made a smart move by taking our PLM platform as a base when developing its specific ANSYS application. This will speed up their development time for the new solution and it offers many capabilities that they can bring to their customers without having to reinvent the wheel,” asserts Leon Lauritsen, from Aras’ European partner Minerva. He points out that it’s a coincidence that the ANSYS SPDM solution was given the same name as the Danish-based reseller. “However, I don’t mind that at all,” he added with big a smile.

Moreover, last week this Aras partner launched its "own" PLM solution, Minerva PLM, which is also based on the Innovator technology. This new platform is aimed at small and medium-sized companies and is based on Minerva's best practice solutions from around a hundred of the company’s PLM implementations.

Flexible Platform with a Bright Future

It says something about the capabilities of Aras’ PLM technology when one of the PLM industry's CAE leaders decides to use it as a foundation for its SPDM solution.

Even though Aras revealed this deal only couple weeks ago, the cooperation between these two companies isn’t news.

“True,” commented Sanjay Angadi, director of product management at ANSYS. “Our partnership and collaboration has been ongoing for two years, with early customers being made aware of this under Non-Disclosure Agreements. The first commercial release of ANSYS Minerva was only in 2019 Q3, and also without a significant marketing push. Now that we are doing a more focused messaging and launch of Minerva as part of 2020 Q1, it was the right time to make the public announcement on our Aras partnership.”

How will a solution from ANSYS and “powered by Aras” go to market — via Aras’ app store, or ANSYS’ sales teams? Both methods, or something new? Who supports what?

“As mentioned above, this partnership announcement is directly related to ANSYS Minerva, and not a creation of something new or different. It was just a matter of timing the PR with the first broad announcement of ANSYS Minerva is 2020 Q1. The go-to-market of Minerva is only as an ANSYS product through our sales effort. We will support the customers directly for the solution, and Aras and ANSYS will coordinate second line support to manage the OEM level interactions,” Angadi said.

He was also careful to point out that the Aras deal is a serious investment, and “not just PR.”

“Open ecosystem support is one of the pillars of the pervasive simulation strategy at ANSYS to connect simulation to the engineering processes at our customers. The release of ANSYS Minerva in 2019 Q3, and leveraging the Aras platform mentioned in the OEM agreement, demonstrates our commitment to provide solutions to support this digital transformation journey of our customers,” Angadi said.

European aircraft manufacturer Airbus is one of Aras PLM's most prestigious customers and users of the Innovator solution.
European aircraft manufacturer Airbus is one of Aras PLM's most prestigious customers and users of the Innovator solution.

Why Aras Tends to be a “Silent Partner”

A significant characteristic of Aras is that they have won a relatively high number of large OEM’s as customers–especially in automotive, but also in a number of other industrial verticals. A few of these companies on Aras’ customer list are Airbus, Lockheed, Carestream, Audi, GE, GM, Honda, Saab, Kawasaki, Microsoft and Aeronamic.

Aras’ program suite has emerged as a solution whose introduction is increasingly being discussed, "piloted" and considered within many large industrial companies, usually as a complementary element to other PLM systems such as Siemens’ Teamcenter, Dassault’s 3DEXPERIENCE and PTC’s Windchill, among others.

“That's the way it is, although I want to be clear about the fact that we also have many installations where Innovator is the primary cPDm solution,” says Lauritsen.

“Today, it has become increasingly clear that none of the major market players alone can deliver the complete PLM support needed by OEMs. Aras’ success is living proof of that. In order to be able to manage and create efficient flows around such things as digital threads, twins and other matters, many enterprises invest in the Innovator suite. We can also see that Aras’ PLM platform is being considered in significantly more places than just within the large companies that have so far chosen to implement our cPDm platform,” Lauritsen said.

However, he added that the issue of PLM is often “politically charged,” not least because the “regular” PLM suppliers—such as the big three Siemens, Dassault and PTC—are seen as “safe” investments in the guise of several other, non-technical aspects.

What are those non-technical aspects? Lauritsen illustrates the issue by sharing a couple of questions that potential Aras customer ask themselves:

"How does the market react if we invest in an 'unknown' solution? Can a choice that does not include the big well-known names create uncertainties that in turn affect our share price? How does a choice outside the big players affect my career opportunities?"

These are all questions, Lauritsen asserts, that make some customers keep a low profile on plans about installing Aras’ PLM platform. The safest thing is not to focus external communication on things that can be experienced as dramatic changes. In this situation, Aras PLM becomes a "silent partner."

“But this does not prevent customers or potential customers from investing in our software, or making up plans to go ahead with us,” he added. “I can say that today in most major companies in automotive there are already implemented Aras installations (like in GM or BMW) or a situation where they are looking at Aras as a realistic option,” Lauritsen concludes.

An example of interfaces in Aras PLM Innovator.
An example of interfaces in Aras PLM Innovator.

Innovator: A Promising Low-Code Platform

ANSYS’ choice of Aras’ PLM technology also actualizes the Aras Innovator platform. Innovator is a low-code solution, meaning that you don’t need to use a lot of code to program, run and adapt it, which increases simplicity in implementation, usage and upgrading. Innovator is free in its basic version.

It has also received appreciation in evaluations, and a few years ago CIMdata upgraded Aras PLM to the category of cPDm developers known as "PLM Mindshare Leaders." This category includes developers such as Siemens, Dassault, SAP PLM, Oracle, PTC and Autodesk.

How does this well-reputed analyst evaluate Aras's prospects?

“In general, we are very positive on Aras' prospects,” commented CIMdata’s president and CEO, Peter Billello. “The funding that they have received over the last few years has given them the money needed to grow, as well as shows the confidence that the financial market has in their ability to continue to grow and go public at some point in the future. Their strategy of ‘land and expand’ has proven to work in some of the largest companies in the world and should continue to show good returns for them—not just in those companies, but in others that see Aras' success and consider them for their own PLM implementations. Finally, as CIMdata has stated for a number of years now, we consider them to one of the PLM industry's Mindshare Leaders, alongside Dassault Systèmes, Siemens, PTC and a few others.”

Aras PLM’s chief, Peter Schroer.

Aras PLM’s chief, Peter Schroer.

Initially the Innovator suite was marketed as an "open source solution," which means that users are involved in the development work of the platform. However, this has been toned down in recent years and product development today is generally similar to that of other PLM players, with a proactive internal product development department.

The main commercial bread-and-butter is developing customizations, selling special additional modules (e.g. for multi-CAD), consultations and other services. 

Moreover, the license for the basic version of Innovator can be downloaded free of charge from the Internet—a fact that has probably been a significant factor of the company's great success over the past five years.

However, as mentioned above, ANSYS will use parts of the underlying technology, but not the actual platform, for its SPDM. They will use the technology to develop dedicated solutions in configuration management, PDM/PLM interoperability, API integration. Added to this will be simulation-specific features to deliver scalable and configurable products that link simulation and optimization to engineering and development activities.

I asked ANSYS’ Sanjay Angadi whether they have any similar plans regarding other PLM technology vendors.

“We are not ready to share future plans at this time,” Angadi said. “We continue to engage very closely with Minerva customers and will respond based on their needs.” 

"A New Generation of Digital Technologies Will be Developed," Says Schroer

Peter Schroer, Aras’ CEO, commented the deal. "ANSYS is investing in enabling and developing the next generation of digital technologies."

“We believe that simulation is crucial to developing tomorrow's next generation products, and that better data and process management of simulations are needed to enable the digital processes of the future that will support these products,” he said. "We see ANSYS and the Aras partnership as a potential game changer to connect simulation to technical processes for traceability, access and reuse throughout the product lifecycle. "

He further points out that organizations today increasingly expect to utilize simulation throughout the product lifecycle to collaborate with their existing PLM, ALM and ERP applications.

“In addition, customers have to deal with challenges of scale and complexity with data and process management, traceability and availability of simulation results throughout the life cycle,” Schroer said.

Navin Budhiraja, vice president of cloud and platform business unit at ANSYS, followed up on Schroer’s statement and talked about the value of Aras’ open ecosystem approach and connected it to the ANSYS deal.

“This unique collaboration combines the strengths of ANSYS’ industry-leading multi-physics portfolio and the resilient platform from Aras for digital connectivity to dramatically enhance customer value,” Navin explained. “As simulation technologies impact every product decision, we see the ability of ANSYS solutions to interoperate and link with heterogeneous systems as an important step to accelerate the digital transformation for our customers.”

WHERE IS ANSYS HEADING? Meet Mark Hindsbo, who is the operational director at ANSYS, in a engineering.com/PLM TV News report on this market-leading CAE player.  Click here to watch Verdi Ogewell’s report on the market-leading simulation company.
WHERE IS ANSYS HEADING? Meet Mark Hindsbo, who is the operational director at ANSYS, in a engineering.com/PLM TV News report on this market-leading CAE player. Click here to watch Verdi Ogewell’s report on the market-leading simulation company.

Only Interested in Simulation and Analysis

For ANSYS, the partnership with Aras is not about entering the PLM area to compete with the other players in this domain. Instead, it’s about accessing the latter’s technology to improve S&A capabilities with a more extensive SPDM solution.  

In the PLM TV News report, ANSYS’ operations manager Mark Hindsbo, is specifically clear on the path into the future and ANSYS’ stance on this. The company's interest is not to develop its own PLM platform.

“They already exist on the market; our interest is just simulation and analysis. We are the best at this, and it is in this that we put every developmental dollar. However, we want our technology to be open to the exploitation of other players, which is a reflection of the fact that customers in all of the world's industrial segments use some form of an ANSYS solution. Then we want to be communicative and make it as simple and easily accessible as possible to connect the simulation pieces with the existing platforms of the companies,” Hindsbo explained.

To watch the full video, follow the link below:

Video Report: Simulation as a Religion and Why ANSYS's Future is Bright

Aras and ANSYS in collaboration.
Aras and ANSYS in collaboration.

A Continuous Stream of Partnerships

ANSYS launching new partnerships is not surprising. This is something that is done regularly with suppliers on the PLM platform side. You do it to make money and expand your S&A reach; you do it because your customers demand it; and you do it because there is a need to sharpen your capabilities.

There are different technological and commercial reasons for the partnerships that ANSYS enters.

For example, it can be about a specific capability.

Take Autodesk's most recently announced collaboration with ANSYS, which occurred last September. Autodesk and ANSYS entered into a partnership to help car companies combine visual design review with regulatory compliance validation in an interconnected workflow. The collaboration in this case means that Autodesk's 3D visualization software and virtual prototypes will be able to connect the automotive industry with ANSYS’ physics-based lighting simulation solutions, which allow car manufacturers to complement highly realistic visualizations of the cars' interiors and exteriors with highly customized lighting.

Other partnerships are broader, such as PTC wanting to add a package of easy-to-use capabilities via ANSYS’ Discovery Live solution. This platform not only made the simulation and analysis work easier to grasp and manage for more stakeholders in the product development processes, but it also provided the opportunity for real-time simulation. This was something that suited PTC perfectly, and they made an agreement to integrate the technology into the company's CAD solution Creo.

Compared to these examples, the ANSYS/Aras deal stands out: in this instance, it is ANSYS that wants to use Aras’ technology—not the other way around. 

This is not a bad rating for Peter Schroer and his team.


Recommended For You