Cloud, innovation and culture change: Volvo’s experience
According to Anders Rahm Nilonz, Volvo Group’s Connected Solutions’ mission is to drive prosperity through transport and infrastructure solutions.
The Director for Cloud Centre of Excellence (COE), was speaking at Trescon’s World Cloud Show, about how software development is changing the landscape, and is a key enabler for the connected solutions division to create services around automation, electromobility and connectivity.
To date, there are over 1 million connected customer assets. About 40 devops teams handle the lifecycle of over 200 microservices that have to do with anything from geo-fencing, to fuel efficiency, to driver scores and predictive maintenance.
Last year, to mark the 1 millionth connected customer asset milestone, Volvo Group’s CTO Lars Stenqvist had commented, “The Volvo Group is a pioneer in connected vehicles and we use the knowledge and insight we get from connectivity in strategic alliances with customers and other partners to speed up the innovation cycle.”
A connected customer asset in this case is defined as trucks, buses and construction equipment. Besides speeding up the innovation cycle, there is potential to increase these assets’ and machines’ uptime, reduce their emissions and noise, as well as improve traffic and site safety.
Anders shared that there are over 100 deployments of new code every day, in different environments for staging, testing, and QA. “Our system is gathering more than 2 terabytes of log data. Over 1500 messages per second come from vehicles and assets to our platforms,” he explained.
Connected services is the new arena that vehicle makers are competing in to win hearts and minds of consumers.
Besides focusing on differentiators, enabling teams to move fast was key. This is the ability to test ‘ideas’ out in some environments based on what teams want to do, and move it to production, if it ‘flies’. “We are now 100 deploys a day into production. There is rapid growth in that area.”
Security is also important. “Vehicles are in a very tough spot and they need to be super secure to handle our services. We are on the way to doing that by moving to the cloud.” Also, investment into automated IT delivery for the business led to less human-prone errors, and more secure environments.
For the longest time, business and IT have had different requirements and needs – business wants new business models, flexibility, value for money, and great results. The IT side of the organisation however, want reliable, secure and compliant service, system uptime 24/7, and cost optimisation.
Anders said, “We try to get business a little closer to IT, and vice versa by getting each party to understand the other’s pain points.”
Anders said, “We saw that when we optimise delivery, some central teams in our delivery became bottlenecks, and that governance had been implemented a little too rigid.
“To get an edge, and get our hands on new tech that cloud service providers (CSP) can provide, we needed to think a little differently.”
Essentially, cloud technologies should enable the business and so a list of characteristics were defined.
The first few key characteristics include decentralised decision-making and democratising experimentation. There are teams that are solely focused on research and development, and they would hand over directly to the runtime or the production organisation. “So innovation goes directly into our teams (in this way),” Anders said.
He explained, “All teams should have capability to their own services, it creates a performance-oriented mindset.”
This was enabled by creating different accounts in cloud for each microservice owner. This helped to reduce “blast radius of impacting failures”. Microservice owners will also be responsible for optimising their own spend.
Anders explained,“They make their own choices when it comes to technology. There are different parameters to consider like how to maintain it in runtme, how to deal with the lifecycle, the security… and of course, what do all these cost you in the long run?
“It’s not just about technology, we need to take leadership of this journey (to the cloud), and put decision-making as close to the teams as possible.”
Anders also listed skillsets and future requirements, as other items of consideration when an organisation like Volvo Group wants innovation to take root and flourish as an organisational culture.