Volkswagen chooses OpenStack for private cloud

Inside VW’s big bet on an open source private cloud


The second largest car manufacturer in the world, Volkswagen Group, will use the open-source cloud computing platform OpenStack to build a private cloud that will host websites for its brands VW, Audi and Porsche, and be a platform for innovating automotive technology, the company announced today.

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For the past two years VW officials at the company’s Wolfsburg, Germany, headquarters debated what platform to use. VW decided to first build a private cloud based on OpenStack that will eventually span thousands of physical nodes across multiple data centers in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Eventually VW hopes to incorporate public cloud resources to create a hybrid cloud, said officials with VW’s consultant, Mirantis.

When fully built out VW’s private cloud could be one of the top five or 10 largest OpenStack-based clouds in production, said Mirantis co-founder and chief marketing officer Boris Renski. According to the OpenStack Foundation’s user survey in October 2015, only 7% of OpenStack production deployments surpassed 1,000 nodes. Only 2% of OpenStack deployments were in the industrial/manufacturing industry.

“The Group IT Cloud is a new way to deliver Volkswagen applications at any scale, in a single global network, consistent across VW brands,” wrote Mario Mueller, Corporate Director IT Operational Services & Infrastructure Technologies, Volkswagen Group in an email interview. “Over time, all net new applications will run on this cloud which will naturally replace most of the legacy systems.” 

It’s built entirely atop x86 hardware, using a Red Hat operating system and the Kernel Virtual Machine (KVM) hypervisor (95% of OpenStack production clouds use KVM, OpenStack’s user survey shows) with Mirantis’ licensed OpenStack distribution provisioning the virtual machines. VW officials said they’re using OpenStack’s Nuetron/OVS/VXLan technology for networking and Ceph for storage, with others likely to be added. Renski said VW is in the midst of choosing a platform as a service (PaaS) layer to act as an application development and hosting environment that would run on top of the OpenStack IaaS.

In the final stages of the vendor vetting process, VW officials conducted an evaluation assessment across 64 use cases before choosing Mirantis, which bases its software entirely off of code from the open source project. Mirantis packages the open source components into a product bundle to ease installation and management and provides 24/7 help desk support, basic triage of bugs plus continuous updates and patches of the software.

“Cost savings will derive from the flexibility not being reliant on single vendors any more,” Mueller wrote. Though the project was not done with cost savings being a primary consideration. Renski said VW will use the platform to help produce cutting-edge technology, like self-driving car applications. “Far more important is VW’s new agility to develop applications and the faster time to market since VW is transforming from a ‘product to services’ company,” Mueller wrote.

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.