The automobile industry is undergoing the biggest transformation in its 100-plus year history – and automotive trade is changing just as dramatically. Digitization has become at once a major competitive factor and a catalyst, influencing every company in the industry, while simultaneously proving to be a resource to be taken advantage of. Companies wishing to benefit from it should prepare to adapt organizationally, culturally, and technically while being able to manage the resulting changes.
In many ways, digitization means that companies must orient themselves to the needs of the customers economically, strategically, and technically. This customer-centric focus runs through all value chains company-wide as well as the respective individual divisions of every company, from development and production to sales and service.
As a service provider, Porsche Informatik’s answer to the digital transformation of a worldwide automotive trade network is agility by design: More and more requirements for new applications are being developed in increasingly shorter periods of time, and these developments have to be market-ready faster than ever. This includes tailored business software for wholesale and retail and after-sales service, as well as financial services and the distribution of replacement parts.
More than 500 digitization specialists are working on the software running in 26 countries on three continents and individually adapting it to meet the specific requirements of each market. In total, this encompasses some 160 solutions with millions of users daily. Some of the more prominent examples include the used-car portal Das WeltAuto, the Car Configurator, which enables customers to design their next car, and the PIA Service app, which supports the digitalization of service activities seen from the customer’s point of view.
The journey to becoming a customer-centric company
Porsche Informatik is evolving from a provider of distributor-focused solutions into a provider of customer-focused solutions. Consider the PIA Service app, that provides customers direct access to vehicle information, with the help of a DiBox, and allows scheduling service appointments.
This is where Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform comes into play: orchestrating the end-customer applications and supporting the development process with excellent continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline integration. New solutions can therefore be provided much more frequently compared to legacy applications.
Private Cloud in an in-house data center | Legacy modernization via private cloud
Porsche Informatik established a private cloud, which was first hosted by data center provider eww ITandTEL, in April 2017. The hosting service provider utilizes Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform for a PaaS environment in order to make rapid application development and quick deployment possible for customers like us. This environment has now been fully migrated into an in-house data center and modernized in the process.
We are implementing new and necessary initiatives within our private cloud. The strategy here is to bring conventional infrastructure to the cloud. However, the private cloud capacity shouldn’t be built up too much in-house. It is ultimately a matter of being able to develop applications quickly and easily and putting the advantages of the cloud to use in our company. With the help of the Red Hat OpenShift private cloud, containers can be established so that the cloud can access the surrounding systems of the legacy applications.
Our sights are set on a public cloud in a further, future step. This will be designed as a pure cloud, which only uses core systems via defined Web service APIs and can provide applications for 26 countries – from Chile to Malaysia.
We bet on the right horse early in making the decision to implement Red Hat OpenShift, predicting that Kubernetes would become the de facto standard for Linux container development. Moreover, with data center provider eww ITandTEL, we had a partner on board who was already using Red Hat. Thanks to their support, the solution was online within four to six weeks – including the external data center.
Had that not been the case, our team would have had to implement a Kubernetes-based solution themselves, which would have required making a number of decisions around supporting applications and integrating the projects with upstream Kubernetes.
Time was certainly a factor in our decision to embrace OpenShift – implementing new operational procedures would have taken longer. We use Red Hat OpenShift because it is one of the best enterprise solutions when it comes to authorization, authentication, logging, and metrics, among other things.
Our team has now taken over operations for the in-house private cloud. We are taking an evolutionary approach so that we can gradually take the platform, as well as the solutions, to the next level.
In view of shortened development cycles, speed has priority. But how to achieve it? What has to change culturally, organizationally, and technically when applications have to be developed faster?
Changing organizational cultures
We recommend first organizing teams, processes, and tools according to the DevOps concept in order to effect the necessary cultural changes. Second, practices such as continuous integration and continuous delivery must be implemented to make non-stop software delivery to end users possible.
Time-to-market will ultimately improve when developers have the tools and capabilities to bring software into production in as little as a few hours, depending on the process realization. Here, the automation of this process with Red Hat OpenShift is easier to achieve in comparison to a pure Kubernetes solution.
In comparison to traditional software development, developers have more flexibility on one hand, and more responsibility on the other in an evolved organizational culture. Red Hat OpenShift helps support this cultural transformation.
The proverbial organizational ‘shift left’ in development cycles means that more responsibility shifts from operations to the developers as well as even to the business. Development is therefore, in the course of continuous delivery, now responsible for the patch management of images, scaling, and data backup.
More possibilities, freedom of choice, and room to act
The advantage of DevOps from a technical point of view lies in the infrastructure, for example, when we can immediately onboard a new developer team to the platform.
This opens up space because, compared to traditional approaches, new technologies generally are easier to operate, such as Node.js. In addition, our teams can choose whether they want to implement a database by taking the traditional route with Oracle or by choosing a program like MongoDB to cover any number of other application scenarios. This way, developers can set up applications completely on their own without having to administer the underlying infrastructure.
On the whole, the main effect of this solution is to bring products to the market faster and utilize customer feedback to make improvements more quickly. A clear advantage (compared to earlier times) that we attain through cultural and technical improvements and a new form of collaboration: co-creation within the business.
New applications that once took over a week are now up and running after just a few hours. Our goal is to reduce time-to-market by 90 percent – from weeks to mere days. Now we can get a visible result after a few hours.
|Christian Köberl, Software Architect
|Johannes Grumböck, Infrastructure Architect
Porsche Informatik, a subsidiary of Porsche Holding and a Volkswagen company, specializes in the development of automotive trading software. The company has been shaping tomorrow’s automotive business for more than 50 years.