For more than 100 years the British car manufacturer Aston Martin has been producing high performance luxury vehicles, from the iconic DB5 made famous through the James Bond films, through to its various ventures into automotive racing.
Like all organisations, Aston Martin has also had to respond to challenges of the digital era, from the technology used in manufacturing and marketing, to the technological complexity of the vehicles themselves.
Those needs have led Aston Martin to rethink how it moves data between the people who need it. As network architect Darryl Alder explains, there is a lot more to his company’s networking needs than just bigger pipes.
Why is technology so important to Aston Martin?
Aston Martin has this high-performance, precision brand, and another way that we're perceived is for luxury and our rich heritage. You often hear about James Bond and the DB5 and all the classic vehicles. However, that doesn't mean that we don't have to compete in a modern market, so digital technology helps us with the modern competition in in the automotive industry.
How mature would you say that Aston Martin's digital capabilities were today?
We've come an awfully long way from some of the on-premises legacy systems that we've been managing. We're really keen on some of the newer cloud technologies that are coming along. One of our guiding principles is to automate the network where possible.
What kind of demands does Aston Martin place on its network?
We need to have highly available networks with very low latency. To give you an example, our production team have something known as ‘track time’. And that means that a vehicle, throughout its production journey, stays at a particular station and has a particular task carried out on that vehicle, and the technicians have a certain amount of time to do that. One task they might do is take a wheel nut, for example, that needs to be tightened to a very specific torque setting. That torque setting needs to be recorded against the technician, and against the station, the tool that was used, the date and time, and so on. So all those little pieces of information that comprise the entire vehicle need to go back onto the network quickly in order to move that production line along. That's probably the main requirement of our network - the low latency and the high response times.
Can you give me an understanding of how you first bought Juniper into the business?
They've been they've been with us a while. We select brands to work with that align well to our vision, and every single one of those vendors must share our vision. And we felt that Juniper really did that. They are reducing complexity, and that's absolutely key for us. We're a very small team, we can't be bogged down with complexity in our network. The other good thing about Juniper is that it lends itself to automation and network programmability. I really like the idea that Juniper is an API driven company, and we can then develop our own dashboards and monitoring systems and scripts that suit our needs.
How is Juniper supporting the growth and transformation of the business over time?
Juniper has really kept up with industry trends. It's allowed us to maintain our network and it's kept us aligned together. I think an example of that would be something like in our two main production facilities, where we have our own on-premises data centres. One thing we really like is the fact that those two data centres can provide disaster recovery to one another. Another benefit we often talk about is scalability. The automotive industry is quite a fluid industry, we often have projects that come and go quite quickly. So a scalable platform really helps with that.
You've just selected Juniper for wireless connectivity. What was behind that decision?
Wireless is my pet project. We selected the Mist platform from Juniper because it played well to our cloud-first strategy. And we also appreciate that the Mist platform isn't just Juniper’s answer to wireless. The Mist AI helps us with a lot of the wireless radio resource management, but it also helps us with something called Wired Assurance. We've got quite an established wired connectivity estate, so the Mist platform can provide a single pane of glass. We've already got the wired infrastructure in place, so it made sense to have those as converged infrastructure. One of my visions for the users on the network is that the end users shouldn't really care about the difference between wired and wireless, they should just be able to work.