From Clash of Cultures to the Best of Both Worlds

The cooperation between engineers and IT experts is often challenging due to different ways of thinking – but it has great potential. IAV subsidiary CPU 24/7 develops engineering tools for a new generation of digital collaboration models. An interview with President Christian Müller-Bagehl and Dr. Michael Reichel, Head of Context Engineering at CPU 24/7.

What is the role of CPU 24/7 within the IAV family?

Reichel: We are Germany’s leading cloud provider for engineering. CPU 24/7 started out in 2006 as a high-performance computing service provider for computer-aided engineering. Today, we offer engineers in companies of various sizes a secure IT platform for all conceivable applications throughout the entire product development process.

Müller-Bagehl: We are increasingly working on a topic that we experience when we compare our development methods in engineering with what we see in our IT colleagues: The process models in the domains of IT and engineering sometimes diverge widely.

«Our goal is to intensify exchange and collaboration in such a way that we bring the best of both worlds together.»

Christian Müller-Bagehl — President, CPU 24/7

How do the differences between the two cultures manifest themselves?

Müller-Bagehl: Especially in the question of how they deal with complexity. In the “cloud world,” new services are emerging daily, the number of IT components is growing and they are dynamically interconnected. Managing complexity here means orchestrating the interaction of services as they are offered. Engineering, on the other hand, masters tasks by breaking projects down into many subtasks, developing the building blocks task-specifically, reassembling them and bringing them to market. This fits well in a world where these building blocks and products can be touched, but in a highly connected world, this leads to problems: The complexity increases, but the perfected method of mastering it becomes inefficient. It is like trying to knock in a screw with a hammer. The IT world didn’t have the time to devote to the perfection of mastering the building blocks – it had to learn quickly to master things outside its own sphere of influence in such a way that the added value reaches the customer quickly and noticeably. So some want to master complexity, others want to manage it.

So are there any commonalities?

Reichel: The same applies to both: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. However, the IT expert works specifically to keep the “turnaround time” – the time between parameterization or modification of the system and the gain in knowledge – as short as possible.

Müller-Bagehl: Both disciplines seek to quickly achieve good solutions with real added value for the customer. In the digital world, speed is very important, and it can only be achieved through collaboration and the latest digital methods. Engineering, on the other hand, thinks in terms of subject-specific pillars.

«We are convinced: It is important to provide engineering with the levers of the digital world.»

Dr. Michael Reichel — Head of Context Engineering, CPU 24/7

How is this reflected in the CPU 24/7 strategy?

On the one hand, this IAV subsidiary is strong in providing managed HPC resources that can be used to reduce turnaround times for engineers’ calculations without having to worry about hardware, connectivity or licenses. We are continuing to expand this expertise. On the other hand, we are setting up our Engineering Cloud. Here, we will place further services for engineers such as our Engineering Web Services, with which we provide applications based on a service catalog, container platforms and various collaboration and groupware solutions. We will increasingly offer services and tools in the area of context engineering to make methods of the IT world available to engineers.

What are the solution elements in such a toolbox?

Reichel: The core of the solution will be the so-called context map. It not only stores data points of different natures such as requirements, user stories, legal standards or architecture blocks, but also links them together in a meaningful way. In this way, for example, a solution architect can request contexts as a service: “Has this capability ever been developed in the overall system?,” “Have any decisions been made about this open source component in the past?,” “Who needs to be informed about the decisions?,” “Who is affected by them? The contexts found in this way form the basis of a discussion and ground it. In essence, it is therefore necessary to set up evaluation services that provide such facts for a discussion between the trades. With an appealing user interface and fast enough in the substructure to keep up with meetings in real time as a context map. Our expertise in the cloud business will help us with the latter in particular.

«We are firmly convinced that our offering will bring the two worlds, engineering and IT, closer together and create solutions that ultimately benefit everyone involved.»

Dr. Michael Reichel — Head of Context Engineering, CPU 24/7

So from the “clash of cultures” to the best of both worlds?

Müller-Bagehl: With our services, we create a meeting place for exchange. It is precisely the complementary cooperation of the two cultures that can create great added value.

Reichel: It is also important for us to invite companies that are themselves working on data-based solutions for engineering. We offer them the platform to scale securely in a German cloud and the opportunities to deliver “more than just a command line.” We are in the unique position to dovetail the perspective of IT with the processes of our customers.

The Engineering Cloud of CPU 24/7

CPU 24/7’s Engineering Cloud is a secure and dedicated IT platform that offers services for the entire product development and product lifecycle, including all relevant applications such as computer-aided engineering or data science. These services, such as HPC cluster solutions or applications-as-a-service, are provided and billed on demand. The CPU 24/7 Engineering Cloud helps to drive innovation faster and makes it more agile. This allows engineers to concentrate on their engineering tasks. The data never leaves Germany, because CPU 24/7 uses a German cloud in accordance with the highest security standards (ISO 27001, TISAX).

The article was published in automotion 03/2020, the automotive engineering magazine of IAV. Here you can order the automotion free of charge.

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