Ford Motor Company keeps drivers connected

A suite of IBM WebSphere software creates a strong, scalable service delivery network

Published on 04-Nov-2013

"You have to make sure that [requests are] authenticated properly. So we’ve used our WebSphere DataPower appliances to really validate the authenticity of some of the transactions coming through." - Vijay Sankaran, IT chief technology director, Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company


Deployment country:
United States

Connectivity and Integration, Mobile, Service Oriented Architecture


Founded in 1903, Ford Motor Company manufactures and distributes Ford and Lincoln automobiles around the world. Headquartered in Dearborn, Michigan, Ford has 65 plants worldwide and approximately 172,000 employees. The organization also provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company.

Business need:
To empower consumers by connecting them from their car to third-party applications within their mobile devices, Ford Motor Company needed to create a reliable service delivery network.

The company used a suite of IBM offerings, including IBM® WebSphere® DataPower® appliances, to create an enterprise service bus (ESB) as part of a service-oriented architecture (SOA).

Ford now connects drivers to their favorite mobile apps through the vehicle console while they are on the road.

Case Study

Founded in 1903, Ford Motor Company manufactures and distributes Ford and Lincoln automobiles around the world. Headquartered in Dearborn, Michigan, Ford has 65 plants worldwide and approximately 172,000 employees. The organization also provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company.

Creating an in-vehicle technology platform

Automobile manufacturing is no longer just about the parts in the assembly line. The automotive industry has rapidly evolved to include sophisticated technology that requires millions of lines of software code. “We’re moving from being a fundamentally manufacturing automotive engineering company to something that really focuses much more holistically around technology as a real mechanism and platform to evolve our vehicles and consumer services moving forward,” says Vijay Sankaran, IT chief technology director at Ford. The Ford Fusion model, for example, includes 16 million lines of code. “What that means for a company like Ford Motor Company is that we’ve got to make sure that whole system is integrated, so we have to learn how to design, build, test and integrate software in a much more meaningful sort of way,” says Sankaran.

Approximately five years ago, Ford introduced its first in-vehicle technology platform. “Consumers really wanted to bring their devices into the vehicle, be able to make phone calls, be able to play music,” says Sankaran. However, mobile devices were only the beginning. Consumers’ devices quickly began to include services, such as Pandora, Twitter, Facebook and other apps. “We had the idea that consumers want to stay connected throughout their entire day, and being inside the vehicle is part of that paradigm,” adds Sankaran. Ford wanted to integrate these third-party services into the vehicle to enable consumers to interact with services, such as Pandora, using voice commands, touchscreen controls or steering-wheel-mounted buttons. To do this, the company needed to create a service delivery network.

Helping drivers stay connected

After evaluating the available technologies in the marketplace, Ford selected IBM WebSphere software as the basis for its service delivery network. “One of the things that really led us to leveraging a lot of the WebSphere platform was the other parts of the ecosystem that already existed at Ford Motor Company,” says Sankaran. “We use the IBM Rational set of tools to build a lot of our software applications and services.” Another key factor in the company’s decision to go with the IBM solution was ease of integration. “Standards were also a really important consideration as we evaluated different technologies. And the IBM set of tools had a lot of leadership in terms of supporting a lot of the different protocols and standards for information exchange as well as conversion of XML [Extensible Markup Language] and other formats,” says Sankaran.

Ford uses IBM WebSphere DataPower appliances to serve as the ESB for the company’s SOA. Using the appliances, Ford connects consumers to their favorite mobile apps using the vehicle console. “For customers to be able to leverage those back-end services, the service delivery network is critical in terms of taking those requests, routing them over the mobile phone, getting them out into the cloud, and being able to connect back into the Ford data centers as well as other third-party service providers in a safe and secure way,” says Sankaran. Ford found that the WebSphere DataPower appliances deliver the features it needs to properly validate requests coming into the system. “The challenge really entails making sure that the message gets from Point A, to Point B, to Point C, to Point D, and then back, once you’ve gotten the request done,” says Sankaran. “You have to make sure that it’s authenticated properly. So we’ve used our WebSphere DataPower appliances to really validate the authenticity of some of the transactions coming through.”

Ford has also worked on applying the WebSphere platform to capture information gathered by vehicle sensors and using it to provide a more customized driving experience. “There are so many possibilities; it is really exciting to think about where it might be able to go and how it can help take vehicle ownership and drivability to the next level,” says Judy Asher, enterprise technology research manager at Ford.

The WebSphere DataPower appliances provide workload-balancing capabilities that help Ford adjust to spikes in demand. “There are more than a million vehicles on the road with our technology, and a lot of those people are accessing services with that service delivery network,” says Sankaran. “So clearly we need to have the ability to scale as we go forward, as well as load-balance. Making sure that these services are available to our customers all the time is of the upmost importance.” With the WebSphere solution, Ford easily adds appliances as need increases and takes advantage of workload-balancing features.

Expanding the solution

Ford also uses IBM Business Process Manager software to globally integrate its entire organization with common processes ranging from customer-focused ordering and delivery of vehicles to capacity management planning, product development and financial processes “You’re collecting data about your processes, about what people are doing, and you’re able to actually create new models and new rules that help you continue to improve that process,” says Sankaran. “You can potentially take out steps or be able to do more real-time decisioning through those different process steps.”

Ford has also explored how other IBM offerings could help it innovate further. “We did a proof of concept to take an application and put it into IBM Worklight® and to do a native mobile web app, and we did a side-by-side comparison,” says Asher. “It really helps to show people what’s possible. So by marking up these applications in a proof of concept way, they can make more informed decisions, and Ford can determine what we need to do from a strategic perspective to move forward with mobile.”

Additionally, Ford has considered using IBM MessageSight software. “Some of the new products like MessageSight really represent potentially new capabilities that we can leverage to build that platform even further,” says Sankaran. “We’ve got a very strong strategic relationship with IBM, and IBM always comes to us with great ideas around how we can evolve ourselves toward our business vision.”

For more information

To learn more about IBM WebSphere software, please contact your IBM marketing representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website:

This is an IBM MobileFirst reference.

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

WebSphere DataPower Integration Appliance XI50, IBM Business Process Manager Advanced, WebSphere Application Server

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2013 IBM Corporation Software Group Route 100 Somers, NY 10589 Produced in the United States of America November 2013 IBM, the IBM logo,, DataPower, and WebSphere are trademarks of International Business Machines Corp., registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Other product and service names might be trademarks of IBM or other companies. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the web at “Copyright and trademark information” at This document is current as of the initial date of publication and may be changed by IBM at any time. Not all offerings are available in every country in which IBM operates. The performance data and client examples cited are presented for illustrative purposes only. Actual performance results may vary depending on specific configurations and operating conditions. THE INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT IS PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND ANY WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF NON-INFRINGEMENT. IBM products are warranted according to the terms and conditions of the agreements under which they are provided. WSC14500-USEN-00