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Volkswagen undergoes culture shift to match its new open source approach

Tamlin Magee | Oct. 18, 2017
Volkwagen's IT department head Carsten Schade gives an update on the company's digital transformation progress.

A year on from the last time Computerworld UK met with Volkswagen at the Cloud Foundry Summit and the company is in the middle of its "experimental phase", on the path to embracing open source and wider digital transformation.

Department head for IT at Volkswagen Carsten Schade spoke to Computerworld UK on the sidelines of the 2017 Summit and says that the company has got its head around many of the technical challenges for The Cloud Foundry and OpenStack at its various campuses. But for a global company that manufactures 10 million cars a year, the process of cultural change is still ongoing.

"Some years ago we set up a lab situation for running apps in Berlin," says Schade. "We set up Cloud Foundry there, we used it, and we now have a very stable platform and a lot of knowledge - they are a kind of a role model now for the company where we try to adapt things as much as it's possible in a huge company like Volkswagen."

"Now we are steady and beginning this cultural change, and we are hiring on a large scale in the next couple of months, hopefully. We have got big plans and Cloud Foundry is one of the main platforms."

In September last year, head of group IT architecture and technology for Volkswagen Roy Sauer explained that the business was focusing on a move from a "traditional car manufacturer to a mobility service provider".

To begin with, that meant proof of concepts and a tendering process to figure out which technology vendors and platforms might be the best fit - VW opted for a multi-cloud approach and picked Pivotal over HPE to deliver its application development layer on top of an OpenStack private cloud.

Today, Schade explains, Volkswagen is rolling out its cloud environments around the world. It just opened a data centre at a Skoda plant in the Czech Republic and there will be two more this year, with an additional seven to follow next year. He says most of the typical tasks required in setting up a totally private cloud environment are now automated and can be up and running in a couple of days.

There are, of course, challenges surrounding complexities with the various cloud layers. "With Pivotal where we focused on one thing, our OpenStack environment is not an exclusive one, we also run Kubernetes or whatever you like," says Schade. "From a Volkswagen developer perspective you can use this OpenStack environment in different ways, you can set up your own VMs, you can use Cloud Foundry as well.

"That causes some problems with dependencies on the stack below Cloud Foundry. That's not so easy to handle. There's one recommendation from the Pivotal guys: we could have an exclusive OpenStack environment for Cloud Foundry then another one for different workloads. We're discussing the best way around that right now."


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