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Automaker giant Volkswagen Group has selected Mirantis' OpenStack distribution for its private cloud – claiming the rate of development for the open source platform will, in time, outpace anything any one of the proprietary vendors can offer.

This makes Volkswagen the latest in a string of high-profile customers to pick OpenStack for its private cloud. Read next: OpenStack enterprise users: Nine businesses using the open-source cloud platform

The Mirantis’ OpenStack platform will power systems across the entire group for both internal and consumer-facing applications. It’s part of a wider digital transformation, and marks an effort to standardise the business.

Mario Mueller, corporate director IT Operational Services & Infrastructure Technologies, at Volkswagen Group, says the company chose Mirantis because it’s the “only pure-play OpenStack vendor, and enables VW to pick any technology around OpenStack at any point in time”.

He tells ComputerworldUK that the rapid growth of the internet of things, big data, and quick application development presents new business models – but each of these create challenges for IT, such as doubling storage volume every two years and requiring the real-time procurement of resources.

“Cloud computing is the best way to future-proof our IT for this new business reality,” he says. “OpenStack is the largest open source project and backed by hundreds of vendors, and tens of thousands of community contributors around the world.”

“No single proprietary vendor, over time, will be able to keep up with the innovation cycles of OpenStack’s open source development model.”

For Volkswagen, taking this small leap of faith with an enthusiastic open source community removes the risk of vendor lock-in – and also allows the business to make the most of new developments in cloud computing quicker.

“These advances will be quickly absorbed into OpenStack or created within OpenStack,” he says.

Volkswagen joins BMW – of which Mueller was formerly an employee – in turning to OpenStack for its private cloud. Similarly, BMW cited the threat of vendor lock-in as a driving force in picking the open source platform over a proprietary alternative.

Mueller adds that in the automotive industry, it’s now “broadly accepted that all cars will be connected to the cloud in the near term”, and that as this moves forward, automakers will “increasingly compete and differentiate through software”.

“We are building Mirantis OpenStack-based infrastructure to help us embrace these future realities,” he explains.

Not only does Mueller believe OpenStack makes sense from an innovation perspective, but a solely public cloud approach would not be the best fit economically.

“Public clouds today feature a very broad range of infrastructure services and go horizontally across all industries,” Mueller explains. “Because of that, when it comes to large-scale vertical use cases – like automotive cloud for VW group – the economics don’t work as well.”

However, he adds that VW is not going for an exclusively private cloud, and will be looking into hybrid cloud in the near term.

But over time all net new applications will run on this cloud, which will also replace most of the legacy systems.

There are three main phases to the project. The first was to have the initial version of the infrastructure as a service (IaaS) cloud complete by December 2015, while phases two and three are penned in for completion by July this year.

These will include enhancements to IaaS and a hybrid version of IaaS, along with the company’s first platform as a service implementation with a CI/CD toolchain. Customer-facing applications will begin to appear around July 2016, the company hopes.

Volkswagen expects to scale the project across multiple data centres in America, Europe and Asia, with thousands of physical hosts. Its first OpenStack cloud, located in Wolfsburg, Germany, comprises a few hundred physical nodes.

Of course, there are challenges ahead for businesses embracing OpenStack. 

For its part, Volkswagen would like to see features in OpenStack to make replacing legacy virtualisation systems easier, and to make it usable as one platform across all workloads.

“Although we’re not prepared to disclose specifics yet,” Mueller says, “VW will closely collaborate with the OpenStack community, as well as Mirantis and Intel, to make these enhancements.”

Read next: The Guardian goes all-in on AWS public cloud after OpenStack 'disaster’

Read next: BMW chooses OpenStack for private cloud over commercial vendors due to lock-in risk

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