Strategy for the Future

Marco Görgmaier gives insights into the BMW Group’s cloud approach

The Cloud Report had the opportunity to talk with Marco Görgmaier, Head of DevOps Plat- form and Cloud Technologies at BMW Group, about cloud strategy, technology, implementation, and the future.

What cloud strategy does the BMW Group pursue?
At the BMW Group, we pursue a multi cloud strategy and take a very strategic approach when selecting our cloud partners. Today we have three large public cloud providers – Hyperscalers – with whom we work: AWS, Microsoft Azure and the Google Cloud Platform. On-Premises we rely on Openshift from RedHat and OpenStack for Infrastructure-as-a-Service. By using multiple vendors, we avoid a single vendor lock-in. The risk here is the increased complexity. To manage this complexity, the various providers are used according to their strengths in the various domains: customer, vehicle and factory (production & logistics). Thus, the domains have clear degrees of freedom in the use of the different providers. For example, one domain works with AWS, another with Azure. Between domains with functional and technical dependencies, however, we ensure uniform use and stringency.

We also see Kubernetes as a central building block for switching between different cloud providers.

How is the cloud strategy implemented?
We provide our teams with very fast onboarding for all building blocks and cloud providers on our platform. Access and infrastructure are provided to the teams within an hour. For example, if a team chooses AWS, they can start developing immediately. We provide building blocks or templates that the teams can reuse. With our DevOps platform we follow a very integrated DevOps approach, i.e. it is important for us to optimize the value flow in software development and operation. The focus is clearly on enabling agile in-house software development. This is exactly the goal we have been pursuing for several years. This is an approach that we want to massively strengthen and further expand. The DevOps platform with the corresponding cloud-native technologies is the basis for this, which we provide to all teams worldwide. The platform team currently employs 80 people, while the BMW Group IT employs a total of 5,500 people in domains and products.

Which technologies does the BMW Group rely on and what should be considered?
Where possible, we rely on cloud-native open source technologies and solutions. A very central technology in the cloud environment for us is Kubernetes. Kubernetes is used to orchestrate container systems. The open source solution automates the setup, operation and scaling of containerized applications.
We also see Kubernetes as a central building block for switching between different cloud providers, which gives us a lot of flexibility. Especially when we build complex and large applications, we have to consider very carefully what should be used natively by a vendor like AWS or Azure, although you might risk a vendor lock-in and what should be built agnostically to remain changeable. For new and smaller applications, it can be crucial to focus on the speed-to-market. In this case, we deliberately use the native services of a cloud provider, even though we risk a lock-in. In the end, this is always a trade-off between switching costs and development costs in order to remain agnostic. Which way is the more entrepreneurial and financially sensible is therefore always a matter of weighing up from application case to application case.
The topic of skills, training and certification of our teams is therefore also decisive. In order to be able to decide which solution makes the most sense for a certain application and which can be best built architecturally, appropriate know-how is required. This is why we send our employees to the training and certification processes of the major cloud partners with whom we work. In addition, the BMW Group also has a targeted internal development of skills for all employees. In addition to a wide variety of training courses, this also takes place via a very active in-house com- munity, which above all also ensures “sharing of best practice” between the teams.

Increasing our internal software engineering competencies and the ability to design and develop first- class software solutions in- house are an integral part of the BMW Group IT strategy.

Are there in-house solutions? How do employees deal with them?
Yes, we bundle cloud services in our BMW Group DevOps platform. The platform also offers a secure foundation and integrated security tools. The platform ranges from our cloud solution in the BMW Group data center to public cloud providers. This helps the development teams enormously because they can focus on their core task, namely developing and operating MicroService applications of the highest quality. So far, this has been extremely well received. As already mentioned, we also benefit a lot here from the development of our active in-house community and our numerous training courses – the right skills are a core requirement for BizDevOps maturity. This year alone we have already enabled more than 500 developers through our trainings.
Increasing our internal software engineering competencies and the ability to design and develop first-class software solutions ourselves are an integral part of the BMW Group IT strategy. The Back2Code initiative has been shaping this internal competence development for two years and provides a framework for it. Through a variety of measures – from Meet-ups to information events to regular Coding Dojos – we ensure the indispensable exchange of experience. With the so-called Back2Code Campus, we have set up an innovative three-month program this year to ensure the best possible qualification of our software engineers. In accordance with our understanding of the role of a software engineer, we address the various tasks from requirements management to design and development as well as the operation of the software solutions. The participants will be released from their usual work for the duration of the program and trained in the latest technologies, tools and working methods by experienced software developers in groups of maximum 15 people. Upon completion of the program, participants return to their internal feature teams and apply what they have learned directly.

 

Fig. 1: BMW Group High Performance D3 platform

 

Critical TechWorks, which was founded last year as a joint venture, also plays a key role in in-house software development and platform usage. At the locations in Porto and Lisbon, competencies in the areas of premium mobility, automotive software engineering and the development of solutions for onboard and offboard applications are bundled. Of course, in this case, too, the approach applies: Cloud First. It is a central concern of ours that the teams that we have on site and that are also very much in contact with the teams at the other locations share insights on the use of the cloud at the BMW Group and the experience gained.

Fig. 2: Smart Data Analytics in Production System

 

Are there partners with whom the BMW Group cooperates?
Yes, there are, of course. For example, we see the large cloud providers as partners with whom we work at eye level. In April 2019, we introduced the Open Manufacturing Platform together with Microsoft. This is based on Microsoft Azure and will enable us to work with other companies to quickly deliver innovative software solutions to the manufacturing industry. This cooperation is not specifically intended for the automotive industry, but the goal is to establish an open technology platform for Smart-Factory solutions across all industries. The relationship is clearly shifting from “customer service providers” to strategic allies working together on solutions. The focus here is on learning from each other in a spirit of partnership, no longer just on selling licenses.

And last but not least: What does the future look like?
The future is, of course, difficult to predict. We have extremely short development cycles and enormous investments in new technologies in the cloud environment, especially with public cloud providers. I think this will also lead to a boost in innovation for us as a result of rapid technology development. If we succeed in the partnership with the public cloud providers already mentioned, this will generate an enormous transfer of innovation and, in the automotive sector, the decisive development of skills in cloud-native technologies. Especially for intelligent security solutions, there is enormous potential for the BMW Group.
The multi cloud strategy naturally involves complexity and we will have to invest more time in managing the interfaces and integration options. The central question will continue to be in the future: How do we deal with this complexity between the individual cloud providers we use? I think that this will be a crucial challenge for all large and internationally networked companies in the future. Networked services will also have to scale internationally. Due to regulatory requirements in individual countries alone, this requires the use of different providers.
All in all, I see a clear shift towards the public cloud to cover our enormous demand for networked services in production, logistics and, of course, above all in the services for our customers in our vehicles.

 

The interview was conducted by Julia Hahn

Marco Görgmaier

– With the BMW Group since 2012
– Previously at Audi
– Lastly Head of Strategic Planning and Innovation Management at BMW Group IT – in this role responsible for the IT strategy and the orientation of IT towards a BizDevOps setup with End2End setup in the product portfolio.
– Since January he is responsible for the domain “DevOps Platform and Cloud Technologies” with the corresponding IT products. The international team currently comprises almost 80 employees.
– The BMW Group IT DevOps Platform is the platform for the development teams of the BMW Group on which they can develop modern microservice applications in the cloud and operate them with higher quality and stability.

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