Luxury Brand, Aston Martin Lagonda, Simplifies IT Ops | Juniper Global Summit
Aston Martin drives automation and innovation with Juniper.
Juniper and luxury auto maker Aston Martin share a similar approach to innovation and mutual dedication to engineering excellence and simplicity. Hear how Juniper helped Aston Martin simplify IT Ops in this interview with Network Architect Darryl Alder.
How Aston Martin simplified its operations with automation
How Aston Martin adapted its workforce to work remotely
How the scalability of Juniper’s switching platform allows Aston Martin to expand and contract quickly
Who is this for?
0:07 -Hello everyone.
0:08 My name is James Morgan.
0:09 I'm the vice president of Enterprise Sales here at Juniper Networks.
0:12 I'm delighted that today joining me is Darryl Alder,
0:16 who's the Network Architect at Aston Martin Lagonda.
0:19 Darryl, our two companies have got a very similar approach to innovation,
0:23 continually pushing the boundaries to deliver true competitive advantage
0:27 to our customers through engineering excellence and simplicity.
0:30 Aston Martin is already a well-established Juniper customer
0:32 with deployments across its major manufacturing,
0:35 administration, and customer-facing sites.
0:38 Darryl, welcome, and thank you for joining us today.
0:41 -Great. Thank you.
0:43 -To kick things off, maybe could you give me an overview
0:46 of Aston Martin and your role in particular?
0:48 -Sure. Absolutely.
0:50 Well, thanks for having me.
0:52 My role at Aston Martin is as a network architect.
0:55 I'm responsible for all of the internal connectivity, both wired and wireless.
1:02 That's all servers, devices, end-users, that kind of thing.
1:07 I look after the LAN and the WAN side as well,
1:11 obviously, all of the geographic sites
1:14 and all the campus connections as well.
1:17 My role involves being the technical lead for the network team,
1:21 so a point of escalation that's monitoring the junior engineers.
1:26 Also, advising senior management on new networking technologies,
1:31 strategies, and how that's suitable for Aston Martin going forward.
1:37 -Our mission is all around, "Experience-First Networking." Can you explain?
1:42 Just take a minute or two as to how you're delivering
1:45 an exceptional experience for the business and its users?
1:49 -Sure. No worries.
1:51 The complexities of the network, and in fact, IT in general,
1:54 it needs to be somewhat hidden from the end-users.
1:57 At the end of the day, we're not an IT company.
2:00 Aston Martin is all about luxury automotive.
2:03 The more we can detach that complexity from end-users,
2:08 the more focused and productive they can be
2:10 on their day-to-day jobs.
2:14 The data centers we have, for example,
2:17 we plan to make greater use of them.
2:19 Ultimately the end-users don't need to know how a data center works,
2:23 they just need to know that their application is available,
2:26 it's fast, and it just works.
2:29 There's that really. It's just detached in a way from that
2:33 so that they can experience the connectivity,
2:36 experience the network as a facilitator then to their end game.
2:41 -Sure. Of course, during 2020, which was an incredibly difficult year
2:47 for individuals and businesses alike.
2:51 Can you maybe give some examples
2:54 as to how you were able to fundamentally
2:57 make things work and pivot to that kind of
3:00 what was the new environment that many are calling,
3:03 "The current environment and the ongoing one?"
3:06 -Sure. No worries.
3:09 IT is all about problem-solving.
3:12 Whilst the business it's generally not been an offsite style of business,
3:18 obviously, you can't build a car from home,
3:21 the general culture at Aston Martin has been working within an office.
3:26 However, IT themselves have always had technical ability to work remotely.
3:33 To give you an example,
3:34 changes out of hours needs to be done to lessen the impact on production.
3:41 IT staff, have always had the ability to dial in
3:45 whether that's VPN or site-to-site VPN connection or whatever.
3:49 IT has always had that technical ability.
3:52 When we went into the new way of working,
3:56 when everyone started working from home,
3:58 it was fairly trivial just to scale that up for all the end-users,
4:02 because we already have that baseline in place.
4:06 We could just turn up the tap really, and expand that to all users.
4:10 I think it was a little bit of a culture shift
4:13 for a lot of end-users that just weren't used to that,
4:16 maybe just not so much the technical side of it,
4:20 but the workflow, the work process.
4:25 If you've been working in the office for a long time,
4:28 you're used to things set up in a certain way.
4:32 For example, if the finance department had
4:36 an end-of-month's process that they run,
4:38 but they have to go through a VPN first,
4:41 there was just that little extra hop that they would have to work through.
4:45 In the beginning, it was quite tricky,
4:47 but it was only because it was the first time we saw a process,
4:51 the first end of month, the first end of quarter, that sort of thing.
4:55 Now we're about a year on, it's just not that new anymore,
5:00 so people get it now.
5:04 It's been challenging, but that's what we're here for at the end of the day.
5:10 -Yes, absolutely.
5:11 That's the case of transforming
5:14 and pivoting to that environment and that scenario.
5:18 How would you classify where you are in your networking journey
5:22 with Juniper in particular, of course,
5:24 and what your plans are going forward and what that will look like?
5:31 Local switching at each site is based on the Juniper platform.
5:35 We use the EX4300s.
5:38 There's absolutely no plans to change that right now.
5:40 It absolutely suits us perfectly.
5:43 The key for us is the scalability that that platform offers.
5:48 We very often get projects that either expand or contract
5:52 and we don't get that much notice either.
5:56 Where we thought a site might house 10 users, it's suddenly 20 or 30 or 40.
6:02 Suddenly, it scales up.
6:04 That platforms great for that sort of thing,
6:07 just scaling up and back down again.
6:10 Not only the scalability,
6:11 I think the unified codebase, the unified configuration.
6:16 I've often said we're a very small team
6:19 to have that ability of transferring configurations
6:23 between sites, between platforms.
6:25 Well, not even platforms because it's only a single platform.
6:29 To take a configuration template, for example,
6:32 and deploy those is relatively straightforward.
6:36 That's key for us.
6:39 The other thing for Juniper and our journey is wireless,
6:44 is becoming absolutely business-critical.
6:46 I think there was a time 5, 10 years ago when wireless was nice to have,
6:53 unfortunately, that's just not the case now.
6:55 An outage in wireless or even integrated service
6:59 is absolutely impacting.
7:00 It has huge impacts for the business.
7:03 It can stop production,
7:06 or it can seriously degrade certain targets.
7:12 The current wireless system that we have it's okay.
7:16 It works, but it doesn't really provide the insights and the analytics
7:20 to be able to say, "Oh, okay, we've got a potential problem here.
7:25 How about we start moving things around a little bit,
7:28 start deploying may be an access point here, or moving it around."
7:32 We just don't have that analytics right now,
7:34 and so, some of the cloud-based controllers that are coming out.
7:39 It make sense.
7:41 It reduces that site dependency,
7:43 moves the controllers away from that complexity.
7:48 It just makes sense for the business really.
7:51 -Yes, absolutely.
7:52 Customers tell me time and time again actually the operational
7:58 challenges that Wi-Fi present, it's a major headache.
8:03 Especially in certain environments,
8:06 manufacturing being a key one, of course,
8:08 where a cloud-based controller with that analytics
8:12 and telemetry really is a bit of a game-changer.
8:15 Having said that, what plans do you have for Mist
8:19 and the AI platform that provides across our enterprise portfolio?
8:25 -Yes, we're investigating that literally, as we speak.
8:29 Just a few weeks ago,
8:30 I had delivered a couple of the Mist wireless access points
8:34 to trial out actually.
8:37 We really like the look of the insights,
8:41 especially things like guest users, temporary contractors,
8:46 maybe people that aren't full-time Aston Martin permanent staff.
8:50 We've got a lot of visitors coming and going in all of our sites, really.
8:54 To have that analytics there to see where people are going,
8:59 what they're doing, what they need access to,
9:01 that is really quite exciting for us.
9:07 To give you an example,
9:08 lunchtimes then in the main factories in Gaydon and Saint Athan,
9:13 a lot of the technicians need to finish at a very specific time
9:17 because otherwise, the production is a bit fragmented.
9:21 We have scenarios where the restaurants are highly populated one minute
9:28 and then nothing the next.
9:29 If we can maybe look at some of the location analytics,
9:33 privacy aside,
9:35 but just looking at the population density of certain locations,
9:39 if we can have some real-time information on that,
9:42 it could really help us
9:45 drive how the production runs break times, for example,
9:49 or potentially splitting up break times, that sort of thing.
9:52 It's just one small example.
9:54 With the social distancing and things that are going on now,
9:58 I think not just IT, but a lot of areas of the business
10:02 like production, even security, they can make use of the analytics.
10:06 It's really exciting times for us.
10:08 -Yes, absolutely.
10:09 That's quite for the Juniper colleagues listening.
10:13 We often think allocation by services in a certain vertical that would make sense,
10:17 but actually, it'll run across the spectrum
10:20 as we move into this world of post-COVID and the lockdown.
10:25 -You mentioned earlier about a small team as a common theme
10:29 as well among customers I talk to
10:30 is having to do more with less results to an extent.
10:34 In particular, how are you leveraging automation
10:37 and some of the benefits that can bring?
10:40 -We're starting to use automation techniques such as infrastructure's code
10:45 taking the concept beyond static templates.
10:49 Historically you would have a switch that is based on a template.
10:55 Rather than having one big config
10:57 and you cut and paste them and highlight the bits you want to change
11:01 and copy and paste that,
11:03 we're looking at configuration snippets then.
11:07 If you want to change the NTP server, for example,
11:11 it's just a very small piece of code that's held in one place.
11:14 It's version-controlled.
11:16 If we change it, we deploy that to all of the devices in one hit.
11:21 I think we've got about 167 or so switches now.
11:25 If I was to change the NTP server, yes, I could change the template,
11:29 but I still got to roll that out to everything.
11:31 It's still one big template changed.
11:33 If we can take the config snippet and say,
11:36 "Okay, Here is my one piece of code and it's just one line,
11:40 Share system services NTP server."
11:43 If I can change that in just one place
11:45 like I said it's all version-controlled and off we go, perfect.
11:49 That's a good idea of what we're trying to achieve.
11:54 It's, just one small example
11:55 that we're looking at of the other bits and pieces.
11:59 The main challenge though is actually the culture shift.
12:03 It's coming, but there's always that temptation to say,
12:06 "Oh, okay, we've got a specific problem.
12:09 We buy tech products to then solve that problem,"
12:13 where in actual fact we've got the technology there already.
12:16 The Junos operating system is great for automation.
12:21 The XML Base output from some of the RPCs, I won't get too technical,
12:26 but it absolutely lends itself to scripting,
12:29 to automation, to even driven operational scripts, that sort of thing.
12:35 It's coming slowly but automation we need to do automation for the right reasons.
12:41 If we don't, you can very quickly fix the network with automation,
12:46 on the other hand, you can quickly destroy the network with automation.
12:50 We're just making sure we're using the automation
12:52 for the right reasons and in the right scenarios.
12:55 Yes, it's coming.
12:56 We're doing really well.
12:58 -Absolutely and actually, you've inadvertently done a fantastic job
13:02 in pitching the business case and the challenge around
13:07 a reason another recent acquisition we made which is abstract.
13:10 That's all about close-loop intent-based
13:15 automation of the data center in particular.
13:18 Exactly that scenario you're talking about, being able to bring that.
13:21 -Well, exactly.
13:22 We're trying to get into that idea of,
13:26 "What you want and what you've got,"
13:28 sort of a desired versus an observed state.
13:33 We're just iterating between the two really.
13:36 Once you got that nailed down, it makes life a lot simpler
13:41 to say, "Well, that's what I'm aiming for because that's what we've defined.
13:45 That's what I've got.
13:45 How do I make the two match?"
13:48 If that means to start with doing something manually, okay, that's fine.
13:52 Then look at automating that cycle between the two.
13:56 Yes, exciting times.
13:58 -Totally get it. Totally get it.
13:59 Just in terms of wrapping things up,
14:02 we talked about a few other key macro trends.
14:05 Here's another one for you, which is the cloud.
14:10 How Aston Martin and you and your team
14:14 are harnessing the real benefits and capabilities that the cloud can bring?
14:20 -It's quite a timely question really
14:23 because we're actually in the middle of a quite major ERP migration to the cloud.
14:28 It will be so far as a service product, of course.
14:34 It replaces a number of fragmented products
14:39 that we've got currently internally.
14:41 That's quite a large project.
14:45 It means then the Internet connectivity for every site,
14:48 not just the main factories, has to be absolutely key.
14:54 We can't get away from that.
14:57 Historically, if you don't have an Internet connection,
15:00 it doesn't stop production because you can carry on.
15:05 Yes, you don't get emails, yes, you don't make phone calls,
15:07 and yes, it is a pain for the office users,
15:10 but when you host stuff internally, production can still run.
15:17 Now, moving to the cloud, brings about some great advantages.
15:22 If that goes wrong, it has the potential to really be quite damaging.
15:27 A lot of in-house systems that we've got,
15:30 for example, our PLM platform, that's CAD,
15:35 CAE, computer-aided design engineering,
15:38 it's got huge compute and storage requirements
15:42 that don't really suit public cloud offerings.
15:47 We have to consider the fact that there's always going to be data centers
15:52 that we've got internally to house that computing and storage platforms.
15:56 Gaydon just recently has it's data center refresh.
16:00 Saint Athan is actually mid-cycle.
16:04 Even though we hear Saint Athan is quite a new project,
16:07 it's been ongoing for the last three years.
16:09 I've been working at Aston for just coming up five years now.
16:12 It started not long after I started.
16:17 That refresh cycle is coming up as well.
16:20 If we can move, our systems
16:23 that need to be hosted internally across those two data centers
16:26 using something like VXLAN EVPN that kind of thing.
16:31 It means then that we're using the private cloud
16:34 in the truest sense of the word, not just a server in a cupboard somewhere.
16:39 Again, it's exciting times for us.
16:41 I keep saying that, but with the right technology,
16:44 it's Juniper-based at both data centers.
16:46 Even if the storage and compute different vendors,
16:50 if we can have a common technology underlying,
16:54 again it gets back to what we said at the beginning
16:57 about the experience for the end-users.
17:00 -Darryl, listen, really appreciate the insight and the time you've taken.
17:04 I've found it fascinating and just thanks, once again,
17:07 for your trust and business with Juniper.
17:10 I look forward to catching up with you again
17:11 maybe in person over a beer at some point.
17:14 -Absolutely, yes. Look forward to it. Thanks very much.