Developer Stefan Spieß has been on board since 2013 and working on the VW Connected Vehicle platform that will find its new home in the Cloud – and brings with it a host of structural, organizational and technological changes.
To ask naively: In what ways has your job landscape changed since 2013?
When I joined the platform project way back, we used to be a very small team, kind of the extended workbench of our customer – the VW Group. We developed our software only in a local landscape – our servers that is. In those days, automation was still rather difficult, a lot was done manually, copying data from A to B.
When and why did this change?
That transformed through the years. Along with big Cloud providers such as Amazon or Microsoft, the DevOps approach was also being developed. The development teams and operative department used to be two different departments: We would develop software and the customer would then be responsible for its deployment. DevOp teams, however, are not only responsible for the development but also for the deployment – all the way to production.
What’s the advantage of this?
Fewer parties and interfaces are involved which speeds things up and helps establish automation. Plus, you receive feedback faster, which then goes immediately into the development process.
How did that change your position in the VW Group?
The moment VW established Car.Software.Org with Microsoft on board, we were assigned completely new roles. VW wanted us to assume end-to-end responsibility in this constellation.
And what is Microsoft’s part in this?
With the MCVP (Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform) Microsoft provided a product that runs in the Azure Cloud landscape and is similar to our Connected Car platform – the VW Group’s platform to date. Microsoft offers this product as a white label product, which means that no brand-specific processes are involved – but also no applications that can be monetized at the moment. And this is where we enter the scene. Our platform has a slew of brand-specific functions and connected services that have to be integrated. We are a linking element, since we know VW’s business processes rather well and bring a lot of domain knowledge to the table. But Microsoft provides us with a platform that is extremely helpful in this situation.
What characterizes the Microsoft platform?
In this context I simply have to sing Microsoft’s praises here; Azure is a really cool product. Some years ago, Microsoft began to open up more to Open-Source technologies, DevOps and agile processes. That’s reflected in the product landscape of Microsoft. One element of Azure is a product that’s called ”Azure DevOps“. Everybody is familiar with the existing standard workflow: infrastructure from Jira, where you do your planning, the source code administration in a bitbucket system, deployment then happens via a continuous integration platform such as Jenkin –and then gets subsequently deployed in a Kubernetes Cluster. With Microsoft you get all of this rolled into one product and thanks to the DevOp approach, coordination can be done quickly. In the past it used to take weeks before a single line of code was written. It was like a “eureka” moment when I joined the Car.Software.Org team last year. Within a few days we were deploying ready-to-run applications. In the old organizational structure that used to take weeks, even months sometimes.
How big is the team?
In the CarSoftware.Org we work in several teams, called “Workstreams”. Valtech Mobility is represented with three workstreams. There’s “Hybrid Architecture”, which is my team for example. We are a team of 8 plus the colleagues from VW and Microsoft. We used to work together in this team before and across companies. And then there is also the team “Container Update”. As the name suggests, this team works primarily on transferring new updates into the vehicle. The third workstream is called “Extended Vehicle”.
What is your team responsible for?
The Microsoft Cloud infrastructure is a new technology, which is called IoT edge. If you want to integrate it into VW Group vehicles, you face certain challenges: A concrete example would: the connected vehicles and their services that are already on the road have, so far, only communicated with the old platform. We teach them the use of the IoT interface, how to communicate with the Microsoft platform. That explains the name ‘Hybrid Architecture’. We assume the role of an adapter, so to speak, the middleman between the ”old“ and the ”new“ world.