Jaguar Land Rover has transformed its IT from a very UK-centric operation to a globally scaled facility providing secure IT resources to its engineers worldwide. The move involved upgrading its datacentre infrastructure with virtualisation, automation and tools to support a mobile, collaborative workforce.
“Our IT landscape was very 1990s – mainframes, fat clients and a physical onsite process,” said Gordon McMullan, its chief technology officer (CTO).
One of the car maker’s biggest challenges was access to engineering skills to grow the business.
“There weren’t enough skills in the UK and we wanted to tap the engineering resources available in India and China,” McMullan said.
For that, it had to expand its infrastructure beyond the UK. But traditional expansion would bring security challenges to its Intellectual Property (IP) assets. “IP is a crucial asset for us and that’s why we chose to upgrade our infrastructure to a virtual datacentre.”
Using VMware’s virtualisation platform, JLR continues to host all its data resources in the UK datacentre but provides access to global engineers by provisioning virtual machines.
“In our current virtualised infrastructure, all the data, applications and IP resources stay within the UK and the central IT team is in complete control,” McMullan said.
But at the same time, it is able to provide unlimited data access to its engineers, enable collaboration between different engineering teams, control design versions and even track the data history of who accessed what.
“We give virtualised apps to users overseas.”
“Our virtual datacentre is a bit like the private cloud catering to users worldwide and we use public cloud services such as Google’s email client – so we effectively have a hybrid cloud set-up,” he said.
In its bid to use more cloud services, the IT team is assessing what applications to move to the cloud and what to retain in-house. But the benefits of virtualisation have been so useful that it has moved to the latest VMware virtualisation platform – vSphere 5.1.
The IT has also started designing systems and IT policies assuming that everyone is mobile, using multiple personal devices connecting over both local and global networks.
As a result, JLR is now planning to pilot VMware Horizon Suite to manage remote desktops and enable a collaborative and mobile workforce; and Mirage – a layered image management tool that separates the PC into logical layers which are owned and managed by either IT or the end users.
“Remote, ‘always on’ operations are here today and here to stay. Instead of treating remote work styles as an exception, success will mean designing systems and policies assuming that everyone is mobile, using multiple personal devices connecting over both local and global networks,” McMullan said.
“It’s a desktop vision we call ‘empowered user computing’, which describes the intersection of our virtualisation technologies, management platform and the demands of client computing. Horizon Suite will dramatically improve collaboration and productivity of our global workforce.”
The IT team is also preparing for a Windows 7 upgrade. But why Windows 7 when the next version is out already?
“That’s because a majority of our engineering apps are still built for Windows 7," said McMullan.
All this is part of JLR’s three to five-year multi-million pound IT transformation project. And halfway through it has already started yielding the benefits.
Backup process within the new infrastructure is a lot more efficient; the project has helped save time and money; server utilisation has increased dramatically; but most importantly, it has increased its manufacturing output while keeping the IT spend under control.
“The aim is to double the manufacturing output by the end of the project while keeping IT spend flat,” McMullan said.
The project has so far helped McMullan realise his objective of having an IT infrastructure that does not do just back-end but truly helps its users become efficient.
“We wanted complete control of IT as well as high efficiency and security. But we also wanted the IT to be invisible to the users and we have achieved all that,” he concluded.