Portrait of Mrs. Anne Rethmann

The entire IT infrastructure from the cloud

Autobahn GmbH will manage the freeways in Germany from January 2021 and is relying entirely on the cloud for its IT.

“Everything is new – but we aren’t reinventing the wheel”

The German highway authority Autobahn GmbH was founded a year and a half ago as a wholly-owned company of the German federal government, and will assume responsibility for all tasks relating to Germany’s autobahns (freeways) on January 1, 2021. What stage are you at right now with preparations?

We are well on schedule and things are moving forward. This progress has only been possible thanks to a great effort by the entire setup team. On January 1, 2021, Autobahn GmbH will take overall responsibility for Germany’s freeways – replacing the previous structure where projects and tasks were managed at the individual federal state level. 

What were the reasons behind setting up a dedicated authority responsible for managing and developing Germany’s autobahns?

Portrait of Mrs. Anne Rethmann

Anne Rethmann, Managing Director of Finance at Autobahn GmbH des Bundes

In terms of road construction, we see that each region of Germany is very diverse. We want a more uniform approach in the future, which is why our goal is to pull together the administration of Germany’s entire autobahn network under one roof. The foundations for this are the legal regulations for reforming Germany’s federal highways, which were initiated by the country’s federal and state governments in 2017. We want to plan and build faster and more efficiently, and we want to cut traffic jams by creating a nationwide traffic management system. In addition, it is important for us to guarantee drivers a safe, service-driven autobahn experience – particularly through continuous innovations in the areas of IT, construction and mobility.

Today, from an IT point of view, it can be hugely advantageous to build up a company from scratch. What is Autobahn GmbH’s IT strategy? Is everything new or will you leverage IT from previous setups?  

We will build an independent IT infrastructure for our company. Where ERP is concerned, we have decided to implement SAP solutions, and we have a large number of specialist applications that we will consolidate in the future. In that sense, everything we are doing is new, but we aren’t reinventing the wheel. In concrete terms, we are validating the existing best practice processes and solutions in each region and will use these to create a target landscape for our three core processes: planning, construction and operation. In addition, we are providing impetus for comprehensive new solutions in the areas of geoinformation and traffic management. At the moment, though, we are focusing most closely on the functions and processes that will be essential on January 1, 2021.

Are there any requirements from the German federal government in terms of IT equipment? If so, what are they?

Of course, we will meet their expectations. We will implement the guidelines of the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), and fulfill the requirements of GDPR and the German act governing the identification of critical infrastructures (Kritis-Verordnung).  In addition, we will support the goals of reforming and digitizing Germany’s freeways with an efficient, process-oriented and innovative application landscape.

Which IT and network solutions will the company rely on? You will probably be deploying cloud solutions in most cases – or are you planning to build your own data center?

We have decided not to build our own data center. Developments in this area are so fast-moving that it is actually no longer worth investing resources into it. This also applies to the many security aspects that play a role in this regard. That is why we are leveraging cloud-based solutions – and here, too, we will ensure compliance with data protection regulations. The BSI’s regulations and GDPR requirements are undoubtedly binding in this area and these will be met in full.

Ten subsidiaries, 41 regional offices, 42 traffic control centers and 189 autobahn maintenance offices – will all of these locations be networked, and what does this network look like from a technological perspective?

In addition to the autobahns, there is already a second network in place that is used in each federal state for telematics applications, traffic management and the operation of tunnels. We will modernize this network to create an interconnected Germany-wide backbone that can also be used for office communications and other digital applications in the future.

It is difficult for any enterprise to recruit the right quantity and quality of IT staff. You are looking for a broad range of IT experts from a wide variety of fields. How difficult is it to find enough suitably qualified specialists? 

It is certainly quite a challenge; after all, we are not alone in the marketplace. But we also have a lot to offer potential employees, such as a very good collective labor agreement and the historic opportunity to participate in building and designing an innovative IT and application landscape from the ground up. And as a matter of fact, we have had a lot of applicants.

Author: Roger Homrich
Photos: Press images Autobahn GmbH

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