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23 May 2019
How is ThingWorx different from Axeda and should you consider moving?

 

  • PTC is phasing out its Axeda platform.
  • Although they look similar at first sight, Axeda and ThingWorx differ very much in capabilities.
  • Existing Axeda customers should consider transitioning to ThingWorx.
  • Transition Technologies PSC is working side by side with PTC to ease Axeda customers’ transitions to ThingWorx.

 

Since PTC acquired ThingWorx back in 2013, it was clear that the parametric CAD pioneer and one of the PLM leaders wanted its footprint to extend significantly onto factory floors and operations departments. Significant investments allowed them to enter the IoT space on a high note, but their reach was limited. Historically they never were on the OT-side of things, and it was not that easy to transition from dealing with design engineers to dealing with folks on the factory floor.

 

When PTC announced the acquisition of Axeda in June 2014[1] , it was part of the official statement that the main reason was “to expand PTC’s IoT technology portfolio.”[2] However, it was clear to most that the first of the aforementioned companies also wanted to tap into the latter’s array of over 150 customers. Axeda’s technology at that time was “processing hundreds of millions of machine messages daily across multiple industry sectors.” No small feat, even for such an established organization as PTC. Perhaps even especially for PTC, as it struggled to get proper recognition from operations departments of their customers. This acquisition, then, made quite a lot of sense.

 
How is ThingWorx different from Axeda and should you consider moving?
 

However, one thing became apparent: PTC ended up with two products in similar market areas. While ThingWorx and Axeda are in their core very different, they do share a set of similar features and potential applications. It was clear that such a model was not sustainable in the long run and PTC might want to shut down one of those solutions. When the PTC-Rockwell Automation alliance was announced in 2018[3] , there suddenly became a real abundance of M2M (Machine-to-Machine) and M2C (Machine-to-Cloud) solutions.

 

As one could expect, it was Axeda that was finally scheduled for “decommissioning,” and as a result, it will slowly loose support and become an out-of-date, potentially even dangerous tool to use in any organization. Abandoning this technology by users and customers became not a matter of “if”, but “when.“

 
 
 

Before we dwell into details on possible options, the best of which seems to be transitioning from Axeda to ThingWorx, it is important do understand what these two products are and what are they capable of.

 
How is ThingWorx different from Axeda and should you consider moving?
 

To quickest way to differentiate the two is to define ThingWorx as a flexible platform which allows organizations to rapidly prototype and develop solutions addressing particular needs, with additional extensions and entire apps created by either PTC or its partner ecosystem. Axeda, on the other hand, should be considered more of an out-of-the-box product, which does allow a high degree of customization and extensibility, but it is significantly more difficult, less dynamic and sometimes limited compared to ThingWorx.

 

Taking a deeper dive into some of those platforms’ features provides a lot more detail understanding of what sets them apart:

 

ThingWorxAxeda
Security Model
Provides users with much more precise control of what a user (or a group or organization) has access to. You can get as deep as to apply access rights to every single entity, service or property in the system. Visibility model for groups of assets/regions/organizations/locations, determined based on user’s membership in a group.
Clear separation of security for visibility, runtime and design time. Allows a global definition of activities to be enabled or blocked for a user or a group, without separation per entity, service or property.
Changes are applied without the need to refresh the user’s context (logging out and in again)
Adding new and extending existing functionality
Almost unlimited addition of new functionality:1. widgets for features, interfaces, utilizing JavaScript libraries
2. extensions for new features, utilizing Java librarie
Extended applications – a limited amount of web applications, capable of utilizing custom JavaScript and libraries, as well as the Axeda API
many solutions available through marketplace Groovy services available from the platform, but without an editor – only a simple text field you can put your code in.[4]
“OOTB” extensions for certain use cases, such as PTC Manufacturing Apps, Navigate, etc. There was a possibility to customize Axeda through adding Java/JSP which worked directly with the platform’s core code, but it is was never a suggested approach.
JavaScript services are available in an editor directly from Thing Worx Composer
Integrations
Architecture and flexibility allowing simple integration with third party solutions. Have to be custom built using methods defined above.
Add-ons such as Flow available, which allow easy integration with other platforms.
Extensions for integrations with multiple systems are available via marketplace.
Connectivity
ThingWorx’s OOTB edge capabilities are not as extensive as Axeda’s. Advanced OOTB agent which can do very much “from the start”.
SDK available for multiple programming languages (C, Java, .NET, iOS, Android), allowing more flexibility. Agents can be extended using C/C++ programming.
Axeda agents are supported by ThingWorx.[5] Agents can execute scripts implemented in a programming language supported by the operating system on which the Agent is running.
Localization
Allows defining multi-language solutions easily and for all custom-added elements (widgets, extensions, etc.) Extended Applications require creating their own support.
Available for all elements added through Composer. Core patches can use Java mechanisms similarly to how they are utilized in the platform itself.
Databases[6]
Persistence Providers allow various databases to be used as back-end for storing data. Oracle 11g 11.2.0.4 for Windows – run only on physical hardware.[7]
Support for PostgreSQL, MS SQL, SAP Hana, AWS H2, MS AzureSQL. Oracle Enterprise Linux 5 64-bit.
Rapid app prototyping and development
Architecture and flexibility allow rapid prototyping of entire apps using a simple tool – ThingWorx Composer. Every customization needs to be developed from scratch, similarly to a custom web app using Axeda’s API.

Of course, these are not the only differences between the two platform, simply those which struck us as the most important. You can find many examples of differences between these two platforms by simply browsing the web. For example, this support article describes differences between eMessage Agents in both platforms.

 

Again, the difference between these two products can be best described as ThingWorx being a platform which allows development of IoT apps and solutions to tackle nearly every imaginable problem, while Axeda is an OOTB product, designed to handle one particular use case (M2M and M2C communication).

 
 
 

Customers may decide to continue using Axeda. It is, however, strongly discouraged. Security and overall support are the most obvious reasons, as they are with every legacy technology, once its owner finally “moves on.” With cybersecurity threats increasing every day and new technologies being introduced to every part of our lives (and our organizations) it is important to stay up to date in these two areas.

 
How is ThingWorx different from Axeda and should you consider moving?
 

What is rarely mentioned is that finding talent with knowledge of Axeda sufficient enough to allow working with this technology effectively is actually going to get harder and harder with each passing month. On the other hand, ThingWorx’s development community is growing, with multiple PTC Partners, such as Transition Technologies PSC (TTPSC), one of the most trusted ones by PTC itself, being able to help organizations define, develop, deploy, maintain and support their solutions built on top of ThingWorx.

 

From this perspective it seems clear that Axeda customers should seriously consider moving on. PTC’s suggested approach would be to transition to ThingWorx. This makes a lot of sense, especially as some Axeda Agents are already compatible with ThingWorx and can start streaming whatever data they are acquiring on the edge directly to the platform. Overall support for Axeda Agents in ThingWorx is currently one of top priorities for development teams and is progressing rapidly at the time of writing this article.

 

Of course, many customers developed custom solutions based on Axeda, which serve a number of use cases and provide functionalities not seen elsewhere. Luckily, PTC never intended to leave its (formerly Axeda’s) customers to fend for themselves. For weeks now, if not months, some of its core teams worked side by side with software experts from TTPSC, on processes and tools needed to help it get people out of Axeda and into ThingWorx as seamlessly as possible. Any non-standard functionality of Axeda can also be re-developed to work with ThingWorx and, again, PTC and partners such as TTPSC can help with that.

 

There’s even a pre-defined “Success Service” offered by PTC which aims at creating “a detailed plan, with recommended steps to move from Axeda to ThingWorx while maintaining key functionality from Axeda, and looking towards the future of how you can take advantage of the ThingWorx Platform.”[8] Parties such as TTPSC can also offer such a service, if you prefer to work with a Preferred Partner end-to-end.

 
 
 

Most Axeda customers can expect PTC or TTPSC to reach out to them in the coming months, offering help in planning and executing their transition. As there are quite a few of such customers, the process will most likely be continuous and customers will be approached and later transitioned over a period of more than a year. If you would like to kick-start this process, feel free to reach out to one of TTPSC’s representatives:

 

 


[1] The acquisition was announced on July 23, 2014 and completed on August 12, 2014.

[2] https://investor.ptc.com/news-releases/news-release-details/ptc-acquire-axeda-expand-internet-things-technology-portfolio

[3] https://ir.rockwellautomation.com/press-releases/press-releases-details/2018/PTC-and-Rockwell-Automation-Announce-Strategic-Partnership-to-Drive-Industrial-Innovation-and-Accelerate-Growth/default.aspx

[4] There are additional Maven tools which allow to manage, develop, test and deploy projects, but as these are not part of the Axeda platform, they are not considered here.

[5] Not all Axeda Agents’ features are currently available in ThingWorx, but at the time of writing this text development activities are being performed in order to support further features and capabilities.

[6] Data for Axeda according to Axeda Enterprise Platform Support Matrix for Axeda version 6.8.4.

[7] Oracle Enterprise Edition with Real Applications Clusters and Partitioning Options is required for large scale environments.

[8] https://www.ptc.com/en/Success-Services/axeda-to-thingworx-transition-workshop

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