The technology team at Mercedes-Benz, a German automaker, has spent seven years creating a fleet consisting of 900 Kubernetes servers to support hundreds of developers. This provides a modern infrastructure platform that the company claims are scalable.
After Google had released its container orchestration tool in 2014 and the automaker began to explore Kubernetes for application deployment. Mercedes-Benz Tech Innovation–a wholly-owned subsidiary, of the storied automobile manufacturer–has been developing the technology-focused expertise to support hundreds or even thousands of business-aligned applications teams with individual technology requirements.
“We knew that one shared Kubernetes cluster wouldn’t work for our needs and that no vendor distribution was suitable for our requirements. But we had the engineers who were skilled,” Jens Erat, a Mercedes-Benz Tech Innovation engineer, said at KubeCon Europe the previous month. We developed a 100% free open source platform FOSS (free and open-source software) that was created by the same devops team. This platform is completely functional without licensing or support.
Mercedes-Benz has 900 Kubernetes Clusters running on-premises, through four global data centers using OpenStack. The clusters run on version 1.23, which Mercedes-Benz acquired at the end of 2021.
This may not seem like the most extensive Kubernetes estate in comparison to cloud vendors. However, only 10% of organizations use more than 50 clusters, according to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation’s 2019 survey. It is also five times larger than CERN, the Kubernetes environment that CERN shared at KubeCon Europe. CERN runs 210 clusters.
Mercedes-Benz Tech Innovation has made it easy for hundreds of application teams to request their Kubernetes-based cluster. It is automated using a collection of Muller’s homemade tools. The result is usually a pre-provisioned, production cluster. However, it also includes smaller staging/dev centers. This can often happen within hours or even minutes of your request.
“Devops, a new organizational model. It was all DevOps just five to six short years ago. People were talking a lot about “you build it and run it”. InfoWorld heard from Jorg Schuler who is the team leader at Mercedes-Benz Tech Innovation.
He said, “Our goal is to provide an ecosystem and empower app groups.” This ecosystem was built on principles of API-driven, self-service, and API-driven.
The estate is not managed solely by one platform team. It’s managed by five. Two of these make up a combined team of around a dozen engineers who attention to the core Kubernetes-as-a-service platform. There are also platforms teams for database and monitoring as a service and logging an as a service.
It can still prove difficult for businesses to add to these teams. Schuler said, “It is difficult finding Kubernetes specialist.” “It’s extremely useful to offer education & training on this platform. Developers will need to come together in a community setting through boot camps, training portals, and the sandbox environment.
Mercedes-Benz Tech Innovation has built all the necessary muscle to manage Kubernetes on a large scale. This allows it to prepare to move more workloads onto the public cloud. There, it could use more managed services such as Amazon’s Elastic Kubernetes Service or Microsoft Azure Kubernetes Service. This will help to lighten the cognitive load for the platform and the devops team.
Muller stated that “We are still in the stage of evaluating whether or not we go for EKS. But at the moment we prefer doing it on ours because then, we have exactly the same architecture off-prem and on-prem.”
The Kubernetes managed version may ease the load for the Mercedes Benz Tech Innovation platform team, but the application teams still need assistance in moving to Kubernetes containers.
A golden path is an alternative method to accelerate progress. These are Helm charts that can serve as templates for certain functionality like access management or identity management.
Muller stated, “We must provide golden paths to some things as services to reduce cognitive load and allow them the ability to deliver what is best: business values.”
The maturity levels across the teams will differ, so Muller sees it as his responsibility to give them a safe place to learn. He stated that they can go to the cloud when they are mature enough.
Mercedes-Benz Tech Innovation takes control of some golden paths using some inner source methods. Other golden paths are still in what Muller terms “a community status,” where they might be given full ownership or management if they get positive responses.
These golden paths could be eventually codified into a “Spotify Backstage style catalog.” Muller claims they are currently working to “proof of Concepts” for a central development portal that will integrate all the services.