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Thursday, June 20, 2024

From 0 to 40% Faster: How Porsche Informatik Revved Up Performance with Cloudflare

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CASE STUDY: Porsche Informatik relies on Cloudflare to manage brand and dealer network traffic, protect its websites from the internet, and automate cloud migration tasks.

Porsche Informatik is a subsidiary of Europe’s largest and most successful automotive distributor, Porsche Holding Salzburg. It develops groundbreaking software solutions for the mobility of the future. Its over 180 customized software solutions serve users in 34 countries across four continents. Porsche Informatik has been part of the Volkswagen Group since March 2011.

Volkswagen Group owns some of the continent’s most recognizable and prestigious automotive brands, including Porsche, Volkswagen, Audi, Bentley, CUPRA, Lamborghini, SEAT, and ŠKODA.

Challenge: Securing a global cloud migration

As Porsche Holdings’ full-service IT and technical services supplier, Porsche Informatik builds and maintains an international sales and support infrastructure that includes automobile dealership management, vehicle financing, distribution, and logistics planning systems.

Porsche Informatik had a series of very specific goals to achieve a safe, seamless transition to the cloud. These included:

  • Securing web assets and customer domains against increasingly sophisticated malicious Internet activity
  • Ensuring resilience and high availability in the face of unstable international network conditions to promote and retain customer trust
  • Automating domain migration and SSL management processes
  • Complying with European and international data localization regulations and best practices

“With the inventory of legacy applications we have amassed over the last 20 years, Porsche Informatik wanted to ensure that both our newer modern and our classic client-server applications were cloud-ready,” says Thomas Zangl, Head of Cloud and Virtualization service at Porsche Informatik. “To do that, we needed a partner like Cloudflare to help us address our challenges, limit the dependencies in our legacy applications, and gain maximum benefits of migrating workloads from our data centers to managed services in the cloud.”

Establishing a partnership — Securing web applications and public access points against DDoS attacks

Porsche Informatik began its Cloudflare journey in 2022 with smaller-scale tests and proofs of concept (POCs). However, with the outbreak of the Ukrainian conflict, it shifted from evaluating Cloudflare to implementing the Cloudflare WAF and Application services and Advanced DDoS Protection across all of its public websites, endpoints, and applications.

“We experienced a marked increase in malicious traffic from what appeared to be well-financed, professional groups, but Cloudflare absorbed the attacks directed towards us,” says Zangl. “We easily secured our public web infrastructure behind the global network’s best-in-class DDoS and zero-day exploit protection.”

Porsche Informatik and Cloudflare began their enterprise partnership based on the success of this real-world trial by fire. Porsche Informatik aimed to leverage the connectivity cloud and Cloudflare’s integrated performance, developer, and application services to streamline and simplify its full-scale cloud transformation.

“With all our public access points already safe behind Cloudflare, we decided to make everything easier to manage by consolidating security for all of our cloud-hosted workloads in using the Cloudflare ecosystem rather than a complex web of disparate technologies,” says Zangl.

Enhanced resilience and high availability improve the customer experience with 40% faster page loads

Because website and application performance are key drivers of consumer confidence, improving the customer experience topped Porsche Informatik’s list of transformation priorities.

“We needed to improve our resilience — to guarantee that our platforms offered optimal performance to all our users and remained available 99+% of the time,” asserts Zangl. “Anything less, and our reputation and user trust would suffer.”

To bolster that customer trust, Porsche Informatik began enhancing its customer experience. By transferring its web content and assets to the Cloudflare global network and leveraging Cloudflare’s 310 data centers in over 120 countries around the world, Porsche Informatik can engage with its customers at the point of service through 13,000 ISP, cloud, and enterprise network service providers.

“Cloudflare gave us next-level content delivery services that addressed our performance issues,” says Zangl. “The Cloudflare network puts us closer to our customers and provides them with the best website and customer service performance possible.”

For Porsche Informatik’s international network of customers, dealers, and service technicians, the improvements were unmistakable. Augmenting the CDN using Cloudflare Load Balancing, Argo Smart Routing, Cloudflare R2 Distributed Object Storage, and Workers from the Cloudflare developer platform to build and run applications near the end-user reduced bandwidth costs. It provided massive performance and usability improvements to Porsche Informatik’s online car configurator, ordering software, and service queues.

“We were a global company challenged by performance bottlenecks, especially outside Europe, because we were streaming from a European server,” says Günter Schulmeister, Porsche Informatik’s Cloud Transformation Lead. “Using Cloudflare to store and stream content on the global network, our partners in countries like Chile, Malaysia, and Japan enjoy the greatest gains — not only do they see far better website performance, they are better protected against cyber security attacks.”

“Cloudflare reduced the loading time of our webpages by 40%,” says Zangl. “Having a globally distributed assets cache, using Workers to power our applications, and avoiding bottlenecks with smart routing and load balancer makes our websites faster and more reliable.”

Reducing bandwidth consumption by 95% and improving server performance on the global network

Cloudflare’s connectivity cloud also reduces the load on Porsche Informatik’s core data centers, both in the cloud and on-premises. According to Zangl, the global network handles 95% of Porsche Informatik’s public traffic. Besides the cost savings, Cloudflare frees up enough headroom on Porsche Informatik’s local servers to efficiently fulfill other business objectives.

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“By caching our public access content on Cloudflare, we have gained the capacity to onboard new services and tolerate greater loads without overprovisioning costly bandwidth,” says Daniel Ivanovski, Systems Engineer at Porsche Informatik. That improves the performance of our internal and back office applications and allows us to manage our cloud services more cost-effectively.”

Automating customer domain management and migration for 3000+ websites

With all of Porsche Holding’s and Volkswagen Group’s dealer, financing, and brand websites under its care, Porsche Informatik needed to find an efficient method of maintaining DNS, managing security certificates, and migrating customer website sites into the cloud. This was a daunting task, exacerbated by the fact that most of the domains were independently owned by subsidiaries. Using Cloudflare SSL for SaaS and the Cloudflare API, Zangl’s team has streamlined the cumbersome process.

“We automate the website migration and SSL certificate maintenance process — I love it,” says Zangl. “Using Cloudflare API integration and an Everything as Code (EaC) approach to manage infrastructures, GitLab, and merge requests to define and delegate which websites need moving and provisioning, we have shared the burden, moving 3000 websites using customer-facing teams across the organization. Beyond ensuring that changes are correct and well-documented, my people can focus on exploring other technologies.”

With the sites live in the cloud, SSL for SaaS automates the certificate management lifecycle and simplifies site maintenance and configuration, ensuring the web portfolio remains secure and up-to-date.

Meeting data localization and international regulatory requirements

Porsche Holding Salzburg operates in a highly regulated environment as an automotive commerce industry institution that sells vehicles and provides banking services. As a result, the company’s Cloud migration presented Porsche Informatik with challenges specific to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and other regulatory bodies.

“We are a European company, and most of our customers are in Europe, so the GDPR dictates very specifically where and how we can store corporate and user data,” explains Schulmeister. “Cloudflare provides its enterprise partners with the right toolset to promote GDPR compliance.”

Using the Cloudflare Data Localization Suite, Porsche Informatik maintains rigorous, auditable control over its data, determining precisely how and where it stores, transports, and encrypts information. Cloudflare also empowers the company to establish business rules for deploying region-specific Workers to execute its serverless applications and specify the location of data centers with authorization to inspect data for threats or anomalies.

The Cloudflare experience

After working closely with Cloudflare throughout the transformation, Schulmeister expresses confidence in the partnership between the Cloudflare and Porsche Informatik teams.

“It was like receiving first-class, white-glove service. Our enterprise partnership with Cloudflare gave us access to localization features and services, dedicated account and support teams, and Cloudflare’s great solution architects,” he says. “From the beginning, Cloudflare understood that cloud transformation is about more than simply deploying cloud services; it’s also about adapting to new challenges.”

Moving forward

Porsche Informatik plans to continue driving innovation toward a holistic online buying and automobile ownership experience. As it advances the automotive commerce sector to align with its vision, it recognizes Cloudflare as a pivotal component of its roadmap.

“The future car dealership will be completely digital,” says Zangl. “Soon, websites or online applications will support most, if not all, of the processes in our industry. As those applications become the heart of the business, customer trust and our success depend on innovation, security, availability, scalability, and performance. Cloudflare is the partner that allows us to focus on developing those applications without worrying about outside influences.” As Porsche Informatik and its clients continue to explore use cases for enhancing their products and services with emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), the company sees Cloudflare playing a pivotal role, providing solutions where cyber security and AI intersect.

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“Cloudflare is an industry leader in connectivity — it already monitors and secures a very large portion of the world’s Internet traffic and few other platforms can make sense of what is happening online on such a grand scale,” says Schulmeister. “As we continue to innovate, Cloudflare is uniquely equipped to meet the challenge that AI presents in a way that is secure, scalable, and easily managed from a single access point.”

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