Monday, October 4, 2010

MaaS Manufacturing as a Service

Since every thing these days in the computer industry, it seems, is [A-Z]aaS (Something as a Service) today, the most logical question is where does manufacturing fit in? MTConnect is driving these conversations. First, let's be clear and not furthe confuse folks about MTConnect and cloud computing. MTConnect is a protocol that is an open and royalty free mechanism for manufacturing technology equipment to easily speak to the rest of the world. MTConnect runs in the manufacturing plants and shops. Cloud computing involves farms of thousand and thousands of servers that reside in places like Amazon, Google, Rackspace and countless other locations that allow companies to pay for what computing and storage they need when they need it.

MTConnect is typically a stepping stone or logical gateway to cloud computing. For example, the first question that plant/shop owners typically ask themselves after they start seeing the benefits of MTConnect is “how do I start to tie all of my other enterprise systems together in a secure and scalable manner?” My answer is to first find a top notch integrator and to make sure you investigate the benefits of cloud computing. In my opinion, Manufacturing as a Service (Maas) MaaS is really what these owners are looking for. MaaS should have the three major elements of cloud computing as part of it which are typically represented by:
Please note that MaaS is not a term I thought up or coined. As far as I can tell MaaS was first discussed here in October of 2007. I do however believe that a more descriptive definition is in order for MaaS.
Like any topic, it is important to understand how MaaS came to life. When I first suggested MTConnect at the 2006 AMT Annual Members Meeting in Lake Las Vegas with Dave Patterson of UCB, the most common question I received from Sun Microsystems management was:

Dave, why are you spending time helping machine tool vendors create a new open and royalty free standard - where is the payoff for Sun?"

Sun was a fantastic company to work for and management was extremely open in their thinking (which is why I hung around for 23 years :-) My response was:

"When all of these machine tools start spitting out data, there is no way in the world that manufacturing shops/plants are going to want to take on the burden/cost of building up their data centers to take the next logical set of steps. Initially, every single company and machine tool vendor will be obsessed with monitoring. They will quickly realize that the REAL win with MTConnect is not the new ease of use in monitoring, but it is taking the data for further integration and analytics. The only answer at that point will be to do it in the cloud. The real money will be in total integration in manufacturing with all the existing software plans/shops current have. There is no one better at network computing and integration than Sun Microsystems."

At that point, every single Sun Executive I explained this to would be knowingly nodding their heads.

This was my vision from day one with MTConnect in 2006 - MaaS - Manufacturing as a Service.

MaaS is the implementation of SaaS, PaaS or IaaS specifically in the manufacturing domain. I further spell out specifics on MaaS in future IMTS Insider articles and blog posts.

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