Success Story – ZF Friedrichshafen AG

ownCloud Helps ZF to Collaborate Across Company Boundaries

As a major international corporation, the exchange of files and information with internal and external users is part of ZF Friedrichshafen’s daily business operations. A smooth collaboration across the entire supply chain is critical to their business. In order to exchange files of any size securely with external suppliers, customers, partners, and agencies, ZF wanted to provide an Enterprise File Share and Sync (EFSS) solution that enables data exchange under their control. Public cloud services, such as Dropbox or Google Drive and FTP servers, that are beyond the control of IT need to be abolished within corporations. Because confidential information is usually stored unencrypted and the data is stored in unknown data centers outside the control of the company’s own IT, public cloud services entail many risks regarding data security and industrial espionage. It was important to ZF to retain control of the data exchange and to be able to trace what data is leaving the company and to whom it is made available.

ZF Friedrichshafen plans to federate three ownCloud instances worldwide and will build a seamless and secure private cloud network.

Selection Criteria and Advantages of ownCloud

ZF Friedrichshafen was, therefore, looking for an easy-to-use, group-wide solution for secure file sharing that would also include increasingly popular mobile devices. The sovereignty of its own IT over administration and ZF’s internal access management was an important criterion for ZF when deciding to use ownCloud. The goal of the cloud project was to establish an easy-to-use platform for secure data exchange with external users and to make it available to every ZF employee. Another advantage ownCloud has over competitors is ZF’s open source preference as part of the gradual conversion to open stack. With ownCloud, ZF Friedrichshafen now has a secure and flexible solution for the file exchange of sensitive company data and is prepared for future extensions of the IT infrastructure thanks to the open API interfaces.

The advantages of ownCloud became particularly clear when working with TRW, which was acquired in 2015. ZF states that “ownCloud helps us to work together, especially across company boundaries. After the merger with TRW, fast data exchange was critical to success in certain areas. In addition, the traceability of all activities is of great importance from a compliance perspective.”

Project Realization

At the beginning of February 2016, ownCloud was rolled out at ZF Friedrichshafen and currently has 8,000 users. Every week, around 400 new users are added and integrated into the cloud system. The overall project will comprise a total of up to 70,000 users. ownCloud will initially be installed in the company’s own data centers, i.e. on-premise. The data centers are currently only operated in Germany, but it is planned to use ownCloud in data centers in the USA, Asia and South America and to interconnect them via ownCloud’s Federated Cloud Sharing capabilities. The goal is to be able to rapidly exchange files with external persons without line latencies from the locations to a central authority in Germany.

With ownCloud, users will be able to provide password-protected folders via a link on the Internet to enable external persons to upload data. For immediate sharing, a publicly accessible link is generated that can be distributed at will and has a fixed expiration time. In order to achieve the highest possible acceptance, no storage limit is initially set, but the data is deleted after a few days. ZF plans to use different folders so that data will not be deleted but will remain permanently. The costs for this are then to be allocated internally. Furthermore, ZF provides a self-service portal through which external suppliers can register to automatically receive an ownCloud user account after verification of their identity. This speeds up the cooperation with external suppliers and reduces the IT administration effort, in contrast to a classic FTP server.

On the technical side, ZF uses a highly available 3-tier architecture with clustered web servers in virtual environments. Furthermore, an identity provider for federation is used. This passes a token to ownCloud for authentication and thus enables single sign-on.

To ensure complete data security, the new “Password Policy” feature was developed at ZF’s request. The ownCloud administrator can now specify how many and which characters must be used when setting a password for the external links. To check the uploaded files ownCloud’s internal open source virus scanner, Clam AV, is used. For further security, code scans of each ownCloud version are performed, so all new versions are scanned for vulnerabilities by an external security company and the report is then submitted to ownCloud. The successful results reflect the intensive work that ownCloud invests in its own security analysis.

As always, the advice and handling by the contractual partner Comparex was impeccable.


ZF Friedrichshafen already has precise plans for the use of ownCloud. In addition to the rollout of the mobile and desktop clients with ZF branding, an automatic document classification using ownCloud’s tagging feature will also be introduced. The use of smart cards in cloud systems is also being considered. Integration with other entities such as the new ZF-TRW divisions and integration via SAML will be important in guaranteeing closer and more secure cooperation. Above all, ownCloud’s unique Federated Cloud Sharing also contributes to better cooperation. ZF Friedrichshafen plans to federate three ownCloud instances worldwide and will build a seamless and secure private cloud network in which each instance has individual and site-specific security precautions. This makes it possible to guarantee smooth file sharing across all company locations.

About ZF

ZF is a leading global technology group in driveline and chassis technology, as well as active and passive safety technology. The company has 137,000 employees at 230 locations in almost 40 countries. In 2016, ZF achieved sales of approximately EUR 35. To continue to be successful with innovative products in the future, ZF spends about five percent of annual sales on research and development. ZF is one of the world’s largest automotive suppliers.

ZF lets vehicles see, think and act. With its products, the company pursues a vision zero, the goal of mobility without accidents and emissions. With its comprehensive portfolio, ZF improves mobility and services not only for passenger cars, but also for commercial vehicles and industrial technology applications. Further information can also be found at

About Comparex

With 30 years of market experience, COMPAREX addresses public administration and medium-sized businesses as well as industrial companies and international corporations. The product portfolio includes software licenses from more than 3,000 manufacturers as well as consulting and services. A special focus of COMPAREX Germany is the development of innovative and customized cloud computing solutions. Further information can also be found at

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