GM Pivotal Use Case

Achieve time to market for General Motors, or lose 40% Of Global Revenues

A blog post by Shinya Kimura

At SpringOne in Austin Texas, it was almost all about time to market, K8s. And almost every sessions, you would hear people/cultural transformation, collaboration. I was lucky enough to have a seat to chat with Pivotal’s Global Chief Technology Officer. He also agrees at the end of the day it is always people, no matter what type of technologies customers have.

One session, I remember as most memorable was the General Motors transformation use case session. It was only 30 min and not really technical session and very high-level but I thought I can quickly share with y’all.

The session was presented by Zac Grantham, Sr. Development Manager, General Motors and Timothy Schneider, Sr Manager Advanced Cloud Platforms, General Motors

@Pivotal Spring One in Austin Texas


Automated cars, Connected cars, about 100 years old automotive company is in the battle of new generation of car today.

General Motors provides an Infotainment System in their vehicles that makes web service calls to the cloud for 1) an In-Vehicle App Store, and 2) to save/load Personal Profiles.

1) In-Vehicle App Store creates a platform for new opportunities (e.g., radio stations, Starbucks, fast food restaurants etc).

2) Personal profiles will allow GM to get ready for new business, plus customers of course don’t need to adjust seats every time.

In their view, It only takes about 30 seconds to decide to purchase a new car when customers sit and feel a car at the dealer. So taking leverage of “personalized” seats will help them purchase, but also GM is thinking that maybe there may be an era of “use a car rather than owning it” on the way.

Out of the blue, A big challenge

General Motors was suddenly put under a very challenging situation, as 2017’s China’s new data privacy law which requires all data generated data in China to stay in China. At the time, General Motors’ infotainment capabilities were not supported by their own servers in China.

If General Motors did not come up with a solution immediately and deliver on time, they will be kicked out of selling cars in China.

(40% of Global revenue of GM is from China market, it is their biggest market and will be for a while, losing China market means good-bye GM).

The announcement was a surprise, and they had about a year to prepare. But the safety of product was most critical (car products life time can be a couple of decades), so they would not skip those Vehicle testing process. It takes about 4 – 6 month, which means they had about 6 month for development and install of new HW in China.

In China’s foreign direct investment (FDI) rule, there must be a joint venture established in China and at least 51% share owned by local. Not only that, there is about 12 hours of time difference between US and China. Collaboration was always difficult for this project.


How they did it?

The pending deadline in China meant speed was critical, so General Motors relied heavily on Spring Boot, Spring Cloud, Concourse, and Pivotal Platform to move quickly. (which was the main topics of the Spring One event back then)

Using microservices and Pivotal Platform, they were able to deploy development instances and start real-world vehicle testing much faster. In order to meet legal compliant, General Motors built a new Pivotal Platform Foundation in China and once they were ready transitioned their applications to China, deploying with confidence.



At the time they were only using Pivotal products in a small environment, but not for any large or critical environment, and they had previously not had leadership buy in to roll out Pivotal at scale.

But they got confident that the only way to make the deadline is not go with traditional virtualization approach but Pivotal approach.

They did not talk about HW but they did not use public cloud for infrastructure as the cloud architecture manager told us that they have better private cloud which was:

1) More secure,

2) lower cost than public cloud


They are continuously on their journey of DX

And as we know there was no big news of General Motors loosing China marketing and those presenters still have their jobs. They succeeded with their initiative. The presenters also shared with us how their team members, including those in China, worked hard and collaborated well together to get this done. They were very proud of their accomplishment, not just the execution, as I sensed, but in figuring out new ways to solve the biggest challenge they had.


Well done GM and Pivotal!