Burning Rubber on the Road to Virtualization

High-performance motorcycle designer and manufacturer Ducati Motor Holding has greatly expanded its use of virtualization and is speeding toward increased private cloud architectures.

With a server virtualization rate approaching 100 percent, Ducati has embraced virtualization rapidly in just the past few years, with resulting benefits of application flexibility and reduced capital costs. As a result, Ducati has also embraced private cloud models now across both its racing and street bike businesses.

To learn more about the technical and productivity benefits of virtualization and private clouds, we’re joined by Daniel Bellini, the CIO at Ducati Motor Holding in Bologna, Italy. He’s interviewd by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Listen to the podcast (11:27 minutes).

Here are some excerpts:

Daniel Bellini: Probably most people know about Ducati and the fact that Ducati is a global player in sports motorcycles. What some people may not know is that Ducati is not a very big company. It’s a relatively small company, selling little more than 40,000 units a year and has around 1,000 employees.

At the same time, we have all the complexities of a multinational manufacturing company in terms of product configuration, supply chain or distribution network articulation. Virtualization makes it possible to match all these business requirements with available human and economical resources.

Dana Gardner:: Some people like to gradually move into virtualization, but you’ve moved in very rapidly and are at almost 98 percent. Why so fast?

Bellini: Because of the company’s structure. Ducati is a privately owned company. When I joined the company in 2007, we had a very aggressive strategic plan that covered business, process and technology. Given the targets we would face in just three to four years, it was absolutely a necessity to move quickly into virtualization to enable all the other products.

Gardner: Of course, you have many internal systems. You have design, development, manufacturing and supply chain, as you mentioned. So, there’s great complexity, if not very large scale. What sort of applications didn’t make sense for virtualization?

Bellini: The only applications that didn’t make sense for virtualization are legacy applications, applications that I’m going to dismiss. Looking at the application footprint, I don’t think there is any application that is not going into virtualization.

Gardner:: And now to this notion of public cloud versus private cloud. Are you doing both or one versus the other, and why the mix that you’ve chosen?

Bellini: Private cloud is already a reality in Ducati. Over our private cloud, we supply services to all our commercial subsidiaries. We supply services to our assembly plant in Thailand or to our racing team at racing venues. So private cloud is already a reality.

In terms of public cloud, honestly, I haven’t any seen any real benefit in the public cloud yet for Ducati. My expectation from the public cloud would be to have something that has virtual unlimited scalability, both up and downward.

My idea is something that can provide virtually unlimited power when required and can go down to zero immediately when not required. This is something that hasn’t happened yet. At least it’s not something that I’ve received as a proposal from a partner yet.

Gardner:: How about security? Are there benefits for the security and control of your intellectual property in the private cloud that are attractive for you?

Bellini: Security is something that is common to all applications. I wouldn’t say that there’s a specific link between the private cloud and security, but we take always charge of the security as part of any design we bring to production, be it in the private cloud or just for internal use.

Gardner:: And because Ducati is often on the cutting edge of design and technology when it comes to your high-performance motorcycles, specifically in the racing domain, you need to be innovative. So with new applications and new technologies, has virtualization in a private cloud allowed you to move more rapidly to be more agile as a business in the total sense?

Bellini: This was benefit number one. Flexibility and agility was benefit number one. What we’ve done in the past years is absolutely incredible as compared to what technology was before that. We’ve been able to deploy applications, solutions, services and new architectures in an incredibly short time. The only requirement before that was careful order and infrastructure planning, but having done that, all the rest has been incredibly quick, compared to that previous period.

Gardner:: It’s also my understanding that you’re producing more than 40,000 motorcycles per year and that being efficient is important for you. How has virtualization helped you be conservative when it comes to managing costs?

Bellini: Virtualization has enabled us to support the business in very complex projects and rollouts, in delivering solution infrastructures in a very short time with very limited initial investment, which is always one thing that we have to consider when we do something new. In a company like Ducati, being efficient, being very careful and sensitive about cash flows, is a very important priority.

The private cloud and virtualization especially has enabled us to support the business and to support the growth of the company.

Gardner:: Let’s look a little bit to the future, Daniel. How about applying some of these same values and benefits to how you deliver applications to the client itself, perhaps desktop virtualization, perhaps mobile clients in place of PCs or full fat clients. Any thoughts about where the cloud enables you to be innovative in how you can produce better client environments for your users?

Bellini: Client desktop virtualization and the new mobile devices are a few things that are on our agenda. Actually, we have been already using desktop virtualization for few years, but now we’re looking into providing services to users who are away and high in demand.

The second thing is mobile devices. We’re seeing a lot of development and new ideas there. It’s something that we’re following carefully and closely, and is something that I expect will turn out into something real probably in the next 12 to 18 months in Ducati.

Gardner:: Any thoughts or words of wisdom for those who are undertaking virtualization now? If you could do this over again, is there anything that you might do differently and that you could share for others as they approach this.

Bellini: My suggestion would be just embrace it, test it, design it wisely, and believe in virtualization. Looking back, there is nothing that I would change with respect to what we’ve done in the last few years. My last advice would be to not be scared by the initial investment, which is something that is going to be repaid in an incredibly short time.

Dana Gardner

Dana Gardner is president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, which tracks trends, delivers forecasts and interprets the competitive landscape of enterprise applications and software infrastructure markets for clients. He also produces BriefingsDirect sponsored podcasts. Follow Dana Gardner on Twitter. Disclosure: VMware sponsored this podcast.

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