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PLM Plum In On-Demand Computing

Manufacturers of semiconductor fabrication equipment can often undergo a peaks-and-valleys lifecycle, at least when it comes to spikes in resources. But for all the waste baked into their computing systems, you'd be hard-pressed to find a manufacturer ordering up computing systems from an on-demand systems supplier.

Until now. IBM, which is aggressively moving to expand its on-demand, utility computing array of computing services, has landed Lam Research Corporation, a maker of semiconductor fabs, as its first-ever client for a Web-based product lifecycle management (PLM) service. IBM said this is the first utility offering in the PLM sector.

The deal calls for Big Blue to manage a network that, among other things, archives product-design documents and processes while providing knowledge management and collaboration features in a security-enhanced environment.

Steve Newberry, Lams president and COO, said his company wanted to streamline processes and build new levels of collaboration with its customers and suppliers. At the same time, internally, the idea is to standardize design practices among groups, foster mini-networks for collaboration among teams and do so while lowering the cost of production.

But the bottom line is that Lam can virtually flip a switch and tap into the service on an as-needed basis, paying only for the resources used. This is one example of IBM's sales pitch about lowering cost of production by deploying computing resources on demand. Otherwise, Lam would be looking at building all the applications and architecture itself and managing everything to boot.

The deal also is positioned as a cornerstone of a new industry group called CapOneSource Alliance, which helps aggregate suppliers with common needs into business groups, in this case Lam Research, Credence Systems, Mattson Technology and Varian Semiconductor.

Members and providers in the not-for-profit alliance team up to share demand for services in order to aggregate their outsourcing and supplier needs. The plum assignment of helping to supply those services will now go to IBM's e-business hosting services, along with its consulting services.