Connected Car

By Matt Watts, Director, Technology and Strategy EMEA, NetApp

In my last blog, I shared how finance companies are rushing to adopt new “third-platform” technologies in an effort to stay ahead of startups that are unimpeded by legacy baggage. I also explored how this trend is driving the incumbents to shift their IT spend in an effort to reduce costs-and how a Data Fabric powered by NetApp can help these companies stay competitive.

This time, I want to examine how a tidal wave of new data from connected cars has become a catalyst for change in the auto industry, and how some companies are building data fabrics in order to ride the wave. These are among the topics covered in detail at our NetApp Insight user conference in Berlin.

A Tsunami of New Data

To reduce data center costs, auto companies are getting creative in how they build their infrastructures, with many turning to open source storage platforms like OpenStack. It’s a trend we think will continue, which is why NetApp offers solutions for building private and hybrid clouds based on OpenStack. For example, our FlexPod® data center platform from NetApp and Cisco allows you to get up and running with an OpenStack private cloud in days, with predictable costs and without the typical design and implementation risk.

The NetApp vision of a Data Fabric enables auto companies to connect their private clouds with hyperscale cloud providers like Amazon or Managed Service Providers (MSPs) for storing certain types of data-such as video streams from connected cars. For temporary storage purposes, if you don’t need to access the video frequently, it’s quite cost effective to move it off premises to a cloud provider, as you would any other longer-term backup or archive data. The Data Fabric does this very well.

The data deluge also affects automotive designers using advanced computer design packages. Much of what designers used to do with wooden, plastic or clay models they now do digitally with full 3D designs. As these digital assemblies become larger and more complex, designers need to have access to data at very high speeds. This need will only grow as the industry adopts virtual reality (VR) solutions like Oculus Rift, as it inevitably will. VR solutions will allow you to walk around a virtual model of a car and kick the tires as it were a physical model. This will require extremely high-speed access to information through rapid application performance and responsiveness-which is exactly what NetApp’s all-flash storage arrays deliver.

Big Data Applications

While just about every industry is trying to reduce the cost of storage and data management, the challenge is magnified in the automotive industry. For example, a representative from one car company told me that the amount of data they collected went through the roof when they put just two autonomous (driverless) cars on the road for testing. In a span of three months, the two vehicles generated 4.5 petabytes of data-nearly a third as much as the entire company had accumulated over the previous 20 years!

As we move into the new world of autonomous vehicles, car companies are developing new applications that will create vast quantities of data (check out the kinds of data sets involved in this TED talk by the head of Google’s driverless car program). These will need to be analyzed at incredible speed, which is going to place more demands on storage and data management than ever before. The Data Fabric is well positioned to handle that.

Pretty much every new car sold today by a major automotive company is a connected car. In Germany, Audi and Volkswagen vehicles are connected to the Vodafone network.  Each vehicle reports back over the Vodafone network how you’re driving, your location and a slew of other telemetry about the vehicle. Vodafone uses big data analytics to extract value out of this information and provides it to Audi and Volkswagen, which then use the data to calculate things like what your service interval should be, whether you need new tires, new brakes and so on. Car companies are starting to monetize the information coming out of the vehicles. Whole industries are starting to see this shift from generating revenue from the products they sell, to monetizing the information that comes back to them because of the products they sell.

The Internet of Connected Car-Related Things

How can NetApp help auto companies navigate the demands of this new reality? Virdata is one customer we’re working with in the connected car space to deploy cloud-based Internet of Things (IoT) solutions. The Virdata platform is deployed using Openstack, on FlexPod. The Virdata-enabled solution can allow millions of connected cars to publish large datasets at high frequency, making it possible to track vehicle location, monitor vehicle and engine functions, and capture and remotely interpret things like car engine-generated fault codes.

The solution can even enable real-time monitoring of drivers’ vital signs such as heart rate, which can help reduce the likelihood of drivers falling asleep at the wheel. The resulting wealth of business insights that can be derived from this mountain of big data has the potential to open up opportunities for car manufacturers, insurance companies, leasing companies, emergency responders and other stakeholders in the automotive industry. Oftentimes, these types of data mining will be based on next-generation big data analytics platforms such as Cloudera, Hortonworks and SAP HANA, for which we have fully certified architectures.

Looking to the future, connected and autonomous cars will also enable an array of different third-platform/LOB experiences for consumers. We’re already seeing this in things like the iPhone app that lets MINI owners interact with their car. In the not-too-distant future, this connectivity could enable in-car purchases or personally targeted advertising-such as a gift incentive or discount if a driver stops to refuel at the next Shell gas station, or even changes in how an individual interacts with their car. In a more extreme scenario, a driver might be able to purchase an extra 200 horsepower at the touch of a button-a capability akin to the “insane mode” or “ludicrous mode” options available today in the Tesla Model S, except delivered across the network. These are all part of the massive changes that so many other industries are going through as the Internet of Things takes off. We hope you’ll come learn more about them in Berlin at NetApp Insight.

Data Fabric is NetApp’s vision for the future of data management. It gives you the freedom to seamlessly manage your data across the hybrid cloud. You can move data where you need it most, innovate faster, and always make the best decisions for you and your organization.

Data Fabric


Matt Watts

Matt Watts works closely with the Office of the CTO, Product Operations and Marketing teams at NetApp, but spends most of his time at events or with businesses articulating NetApp’s Strategy and the business value of IT. He has over 25 years of IT experience and has been with NetApp for the last 12 years.

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