US News Why Deutsche Bahn is now storing its data at Microsoft and Amazon

12:30  28 october  2020
12:30  28 october  2020 Source:   t3n.de

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Actually, Deutsche Bahn had taken until 2022 to completely rebuild its computer infrastructure. But these days the last computers are being dismantled in the Berlin-Mahlsdorf data center.

Deutsche Bahn. © Shutterstock Deutsche Bahn.

At peak times, the railway itself operated around 8,000 servers in order to evaluate the huge data stream from the trains and the railway infrastructure. This also includes the sale of tickets via apps and the railway website.

The tasks of the railway IT also include operating the infrastructure for the DB Navigator smartphone app or monitoring the status of 28,000 points in real time. The remote control of the points alone enabled around 3,600 faults to be identified and prevented at an early stage last year.

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End of the railway server

The own railway servers no longer exist. Everything comes from the cloud. These are data centers from Microsoft and Amazon that provide storage space and computing power over the Internet with their Azure and AWS services. "We practically lifted the IT applications into the cloud under the rolling wheel and then optimized them further," says Christa Koenen, Head of IT at Deutsche Bahn. “We have now migrated several hundred applications to the cloud. And after the last application left our data center two weeks ago, we were now able to start the dismantling. ”

The customers of the Deutsche Bahn should not even notice the conversion behind the scenes. With more than 1,500 bookings per minute, it operates one of the largest ticket systems in Europe, which enables tickets to be purchased via digital channels such as bahn.de or the DB Navigator app. “That is our backbone, nothing should wobble. And that is now also the case in the cloud. ”On the contrary: the DB Navigator app no ​​longer fights around when there is a huge rush because the cloud servers can hardly be overloaded.

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The Deutsche Bahn wages correspond more or less to those for all other regional and long-distance services. According to data last collected in 2007, Germany lagged well behind a host of its western neighbors with regard to average salaries for train drivers (see graph above).

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Public criticism after relocation

When the Deutsche Bahn board of directors took the decision in 2016 to relocate 450 Deutsche Bahn applications to the cloud, the decision was also received critically by the public. After all, it was already becoming apparent at the time that a US group would come into play, which in case of doubt would be subject to US law. It was not just since Edward Snowden's revelations that it became clear that data protection laws in the USA are much more lax and that services such as the NSA collect large amounts of data on people and companies.

This data protection gap between Europe and the USA recently played a role in the judgment of the European Court of Justice (Schrems II), which overturned the EU data protection agreement Privacy Shield with the USA. According to this, the standard contracts that providers such as Amazon, Microsoft and Google provide to meet the legal obligations for their customers in Europe are not sufficient.

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Bahn IT boss Koenen says: “Right at the beginning of the project we placed a very special focus on security and data protection.” On the one hand, Deutsche Bahn relies on hard encryption to prevent curious glances from US services: “We encrypt all data and only we can decrypt it. That means that only we have access to the keys and not the cloud provider, ”emphasizes the managing director of the rail IT subsidiary DB Systel. This means that Deutsche Bahn can also operate applications in which data protection plays an important role in the cloud.

In addition to technical protection, Deutsche Bahn also uses small print: "We have contractually secured this with the cloud providers and regularly check compliance." The Deutsche Bahn only uses European data centers in Frankfurt and the Netherlands.

Risk of dependency

Nevertheless, Koenen sees the risk of becoming dependent on a large cloud operator. The railway is therefore pursuing a “multi-cloud strategy”. In addition to Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure is also used. However, providers from Germany or Europe were left with nothing. “At the time of the invitation to tender, there was still a clear functional gap between the providers from the USA and the European competitors. And in my opinion that has not changed sufficiently until today, ”says Koenen.

But that could change. Deutsche Bahn will continue to monitor the market because the cloud landscape will continue to develop in the coming years. “And it is absolutely not impossible that we will then change the cloud provider accordingly.”

The change also affected around 1,000 employees who were employed in the railway data centers. “We were able to keep almost all of them and train them further.” Many would have obtained what is known as a cloud driver's license and now work in the management of the cloud services. Some also went into software development and write programs for Deutsche Bahn. Specialists are still sought here: Deutsche Bahn hires around 1,000 IT and digital experts every year, and the trend is rising. dpa

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