Not long after announcing that it is building a huge OpenStack private cloud, German car manufacturer Volkswagen has revealed details of plans to add an application development layer, based on Pivotal Cloud Foundry.
Cloud Foundry is an open source platform as a service (PaaS), which makes development of applications simpler and more efficient. For Volkswagen, the move to a modern infrastructure environment is vital to creating new services around connected cars, for example.
"Our business now completely has a focus to move from a traditional car manufacturer to a mobility service provider," Roy Sauer, Volkswagen's head of Group IT Architecture and Technology, tells Computerworld UK at the Cloud Foundry Summit in Frankfurt. "We have started to define our IT strategy and we have seen that we need to speed up our software development and deliver our solutions much faster."
Sauer says that the open source nature of Cloud Foundry is fundamental to the decision. "A year ago we decided to implement a hybrid cloud platform solution in order to come up with this faster delivery, because, as a big organisation, we are always looking to ensure that we don't have vendor lock-in."
Having completed a proof of concept in June, Sauer is confident of some of the benefits that will be realised as the platform is rolled out more widely.
"The biggest benefit is the speed," he says. "Usually we have big monolithic applications where you probably have only two release cycles in a year, which means you probably have to plan any enhancements a year prior to get it delivered."
With its proof of concept, Volkswagen has reduced this down to once a week.
This is not the only expected benefit. Sauer explains: "In terms of cost we see compared to a traditional infrastructure and platforms that we probably have fifty percent less operations costs and [potentially] even more so."
Proof of concept
The initial use for Cloud Foundry is a consumer-facing 'car configuration' application. This allows customers to view various Volkswagen car models with different colours and features.
Sauer says that more sales and marketing applications will be targeted next as the rollout continues.
Another big area is connected cars. One of the benefits here, other than speed of development, is the ability to move workloads into the different geographies that public cloud providers operate in.
Cloud Foundry is supported across a range of clouds, including Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform and IBM Softlayer.
"The reason why we choose Cloud Foundry is that we have a chance for a multicloud environment," says Sauer.
"We will go for a hybrid solution. This means we have implemented on a small scale in an on-premise cloud in the Volkswagen data centres and we want to link to several public cloud providers like AWS, IBM or Azure.
"Because of this use case with connectivity we need a global distribution of IT. Each and every car will sooner or later be connected to data centres wherever they drive around the world and they need a global footprint for that.
"[We will have] own data centres for critical data, for secure data, and several public cloud providers because we have to have this global footprint. And even to swap from one public provider to another if it's necessary.
"There are so many different data protection regulations in the world, you really need to have many different data centre locations," he adds.
Sauer said that the PoC was conducted following a market evaluation that saw a direct comparison between Pivotal and HPE's Helion private cloud. "Both vendors were very keen to start with us and the first implementation of the PoC took only a week and we could start with our use cases.
"We decided to choose real projects which have developed smaller applications and we used this project to let developers get with their hands on the platforms.
"We found out that the Pivotal product was better than the other product. Some criteria about the partners - the knowledge and culture of the partners, but also the product in terms of the operational stability of the product has been much better with Pivotal. So we had a very clear decision."
However, Sauer adds that one of the benefits of the platform is that the manufacturer is not tied in to just one vendor.
"It is an open-source platform where we always have the chance to move to other platforms as well. So we are not heavily binded to software providers. We could also change from Pivotal Cloud Foundry to another Cloud Foundry and that is the reason why we have chosen it."
Sauer explains that the plan is for the Cloud Foundry implementation to reach the scale of its OpenStack project. This is substantial to say the least: Volkswagen is expected to have one of the top five or ten largest enterprise deployments in the world when complete, according to service provider partner Mirantis, spanning thousands of physical nodes.
There is no rush to reach this level. Volkswagen has in the region of 8,000 applications currently - including legacy monolithic apps - and will only be targeting newly-built software, aside from systems that are well-suited to a microservices architecture.
"The scale at the moment is fairly small," explains Sauer, but will be expanded from one installation in Europe currently to a global rollout in the next few months. "In the next half a year we will have another instances in the Americas and we will put one in Asia Pacific and a second in Europe for our private cloud."
Sauer anticipates that one of the hurdles will be a change in culture organisationally as it creates a modern infrastructure environment.
"What we also need to do is create this way of working, this culture and knowledge of cloud-ready applications design in our software development areas," he says.
"Without having this processes and skills we would lack all the designed applications. So our perspective is that we grow slowly at the moment.
"We have at least 30 applications which we would like to go onto this platform and we just cant handle at the moment,. But I am pretty sure we will grow very fast as we have decided this as the platform for our whole group, our 12 different brands.
"The journey has probably just started - I am not sure if it will overrun us or if can we handle it," he says, jokingly. "We will see in the future."