As software moves toward equal ground with hardware in industries such as automobiles, aerospace and defense, application life-cycle management (ALM) and product life-cycle management (PLM) are blending as well.

Recognizing this trend, the Open Services for Lifecycle Collaboration (OSLC) organization has created a PLM workgroup to help implement an open standard for the blending of ALM and PLM.

Historically, hardware and software have been on separate life-cycle paths, but with today’s technology becoming so complex, requirements executed by either software or hardware are becoming blurred, said Charles Krueger, CEO of BigLever Software and a member of the PLM group. “It is hard to tell now if software or hardware will fulfill a requirement,” he said.

This combination began as software features such as OnStar, which is used for in-vehicle communication services, were introduced. Software is becoming as great a differentiator as the hardware it’s being built into.

“It’s something that separates one product from another, and without software, we’d be nowhere,” said Mike Loeffler technical architect at General Motors and member of OSLC.

Not only is the course of technology leading to the blending of ALM and PLM, motivation for the effort comes from the development cost of hardware and software design, Krueger said. If developed together, or at least in some industry-accepted standard way, costs and time to market can be reduced, he said.

Openness and integration is where the world is heading, said Scott Bosworth, community leader of OSLC and strategist at IBM Rational. “And this doesn’t mean you can’t be unique, either,” he added. A common user standard “is not the least common denominator.”

Rainer Ersch, community lead of PLM for OSLC and a Siemens software engineer, knows first-hand-what is needed to begin blending these two life cycles together. As part of the effort at Siemens for tool integration, as well as for tool coordination with IBM Rational, Ersch discussed what can be done to ensure everyone’s needs are taken care of in order for an open standard to be successful.

There is a need to integrate mechanical, electrical and software engineering, and to have interoperability based on open standards, he said. “We also need traceability of artifacts throughout the engineering life cycle and automation of process steps,” Ersch added, to name a few.

“There is not much formal collaboration between the teams,” he said. “ALM and PLM integration would allow more collaboration during the development and thus avoid cost-intensive rework.”  

In all, the goal of OSLC and its members is clear: Work together now as much as possible, and down the road create an accepted open standard that mixes and matches ALM and PLM. Then will the two work seamlessly together.

Although the process towards an open standard is still in its infancy, OSLC is working to find what would be a desirable outcome for all tool vendors, Krueger said. The blending of ALM and PLM is inevitable, he added, because “you have two life cycles running independently when they really should be running together. Ultimately, they’re one product.”