Audi targets hyperconverged infrastructure gains to simplify vehicle production

AUDI logo seen on AUDI car outside a dealership in South Edmonton
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A key figure at Audi has expressed the hope that the firm's VMware partnership will successfully lead to hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) in its production environment and lead other figures in the sector to follow in its footsteps.

Henning Loeser, head of Audi Production Lab, spoke at VMware Explore Barcelona about his team’s aim to virtualize programmable logic control (PLC) through HCI to make its production environment more scalable and efficient.

VMware has championed Audi as one of its partners at this year’s conference and dedicated a section of the keynote to the strides the firm has made in its production environment to date, as well as VMware’s growing efforts on operational technology (OT).

“We needed to have HCI that is real-time capable, that is deterministic, and that has the availability that we need for automation to work,” said Loeser. 

As Audi embraces the challenge of switching to manufacturing all-electric vehicles, with the goal of only selling electric vehicles from 2026, the firm has looked at how to use the moment to improve its manufacturing and automation.

Loeser’s team began looking into industry 4.0 and data analytics principles for its production environment seven years ago but only began discussions with VMware two years ago. It was seeking HCI to reduce downtime on specialized production devices, which led Audi to adopt ESXi, VMware’s bare metal hypervisor. 

Audi has already used the hypervisor to implement three processes: a manufacturing execution system (MES), a quality control system, and an application for regulating the torque of screwdrivers.

The main aim is to have a fourth system, the PLC, up and running in the next two years Loeser described the PLC as the “heart and brain” of the automation operation.

“Then we can really tap into what’s doable with today’s IT technology and utilize that for automation and production,” said Loeser.

Once the virtualized PLC is in place, Loeser said that Audi will be able to scale its edge hardware much more intelligently, cut costs, and more easily integrate advanced systems such as computer vision in the future.

Loeser said that HCI will not only allow IT managers to have oversight of all these systems but also to address the “maintenance nightmare” of all the added compute.

The journey to this goal is ongoing, and Audi and VMware have already run into issues that they have had to overcome together.

For example, while the MES operates at a maximum latency of 100ms — the limit at which humans begin to notice a delay — the PLCs will need to operate with no more than 8ms latency. This necessitated the use of cables for the system, and even then each network firewall adds 1-2ms of latency.


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Loeser added that this extreme low latency requirement would also prevent Audi from using private 5G for any of these systems.

“Why would you need a radio network instead of a cable? Cable is always more reliable than a radio network, so if it doesn’t move, we don’t need it,” he noted.

“It’s a different story for AGVs, and we have that in mind, but we’re looking for which use cases will require a 5G network.”

Audi also has to wait for the virtualized PLC to be CE-certified before it can be rolled out on a larger scale, or it would risk negating the safety certification of its entire automation zone.

Loeser held up other challenges as learning points from which other automotive manufacturers could benefit. 

At an earlier stage of testing Loeser’s team couldn’t figure out why some IPCs froze seemingly at random and had to be rebooted. This was eventually traced to a graphics driver that was causing memory leakage and is now a known issue to look out for.

Through HCI, IT managers could track whether the memory or the hard drive was unexpectedly filling up. Errors such as this could be far easier to detect through these centralized health metrics.

“If it’s only Audi that does this or only the VW Group, it’s no use to change these things,” said Loeser.

“One of the big purposes for me being here is to evangelize, spread the word that separating your computing from your hardware is sensible.”

Rory Bathgate
Features and Multimedia Editor

Rory Bathgate is Features and Multimedia Editor at ITPro, overseeing all in-depth content and case studies. He can also be found co-hosting the ITPro Podcast with Jane McCallion, swapping a keyboard for a microphone to discuss the latest learnings with thought leaders from across the tech sector.

In his free time, Rory enjoys photography, video editing, and good science fiction. After graduating from the University of Kent with a BA in English and American Literature, Rory undertook an MA in Eighteenth-Century Studies at King’s College London. He joined ITPro in 2022 as a graduate, following four years in student journalism. You can contact Rory at or on LinkedIn.