Honda deploys hybrid cloud for car launches

Honda UK is using hybrid cloud computing within its IT infrastructure to support the growth of the company's websites.

Honda UK is using hybrid cloud computing within its IT infrastructure to support the growth of the company's websites.

Speaking at Cloud Expo, Mervyn Eyles, ICT infrastructure manager at Honda, said: “We are cost conscious and have evolved cloud computing in the business.”

He said the company's business is driven by big evolutionary events, such as new car launches. When launching the Accord Tourer, Honda's marketing team wanted to make a big splash. 

Need for IT flexibility

Eyles said the company needed to think about the IT impact on the website. The video for the launch became one of the most successful pieces of marketing at Honda – the website received more than a month's traffic in 24 hours. “We had 250,000 download requests for the new ad – the website crashed,” he said.

While IT was not to blame, Eyles realised Honda needed to do better. “Having infrastructure inhouse is not the best architecture to cope with this level of demand," he said. "It would also require a big investment.”

Eyles realised Honda would require scalable bandwidth. “When we used to lease from BT and AT&T we had fixed bandwidth. A hosting model needs flexibility,” he said.

Honda's private and public cloud strategy

The Accord Tourer launch was Honda's first move towards a cloud infrastructure, using a private cloud architecture, but the company ended up running two sites: one active and one on standby for disaster recovery.

For the launch of the Honda-CR-Z, the marketing team wanted to use social media through an application called “Mode Art”, which encouraged users to tweak photos and put them on Facebook. “We took our private cloud infrastructure and bolted on some Amazon public cloud storage to store the pictures users created,” said Eyles.

To deploy Amazon storage Honda had to agree to Amazon's standard terms and conditions. “Amazon is not geared up to corporate buying, and I had to make the purchase on my personal credit card," he said. "The maximum cost was only eight cents per month. It was not the most successful campaign. But the big advantage [of cloud computing] is if we don't use it we don't pay for it.”

Reducing operating costs

With the launch of the new Honda Civic in 2011, Eyles wanted to reduce the cost of its private cloud infrastructure and support capacity on-demand with built-in resilience. The company also wanted to make the cloud infrastructure green. “We did not want a commodity supplier. In the middle of the market are companies that provide solutions and services. And at the top end there are companies such as Rackspace, which offers total outsourcing,” he said.

Honda chose a mid-market cloud company called ICM Phoenix, which operates five UK datacentres in Glasgow, Leeds, Birmingham, London and Farnborough. Through ICM Phoenix (a merger of Servo Computer Services and ICM, a business continuity company), Honda runs an Active-Active infrastructure, which load balances resilience across the Leeds and Farnborough sites.

Eyles said the new set-up has enabled Honda to reduce its annual operations cost by 30% and increased the size of its virtual team, while providing 24/7 monitoring and a 15-minute SLA.


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