A winning formula

Few industries epitomise the phrase ‘I.T. is the business’ more than Formula One racing. Tim Lohman takes a look at the I.T. on and off the track that drives the highly innovative Sport.

Mobility, DR, Cloud

The front end of Caterham’s track-side IT is also highly reliant on mobile devices. In-garage monitors allow access to telemetry, video feeds, and lap times. And, like just about any other industry you’d care to mention, tablet PCs are making inroads.

“In the garage there are multiple screens people can look at but we’ve changed that so that instead of having to look at the screen they can now have that on their laptops. The drivers also need them as well when they are sitting in the garage so they can have their laps times.” The drivers will definitely have tablets – very soon,” Smith says. “We were actually hoping that it would be for [the Melbourne] race. We have just got some of the Latitude STs… and they will make it much cleaner and neater in the garage. The driver will also be able to select what he wants. At the moment there is a screen and a remote control but it is not very nice and not very easy.”

Looking further ahead, Smith says that if he were gifted a cool million dollars to invest in his IT, he’d spend it where it really counts: getting greater reliability and portable compute power to the team.

“We are so limited on space and what we can spend, so we have everything built to the bare minimum to do [the job] reliably,” he says. “We are well placed with what we have got, but the next stage would be more virtual machines, more hosts… splitting everything up for better DR and that is really it.

“The biggest improvements we can make now are for what happens when things go wrong — when we lose power or can‘t access things. You don’t ever want to get to the point where you can’t have the car leave the garage as your servers aren’t working. I have known that to happen and it is not a very nice feeling.”

While these days it seems like there isn’t a problem Cloud computing can’t fix, but Smith says he’d rather keep his applications local for the greater reliability it provides.

“It isn’t the distances and the [latency] — it’s that we rely on one piece of fibre coming into the circuit,” he says. “If you put everything in the Cloud and that fibre dies, like it has done occasionally, you’re in trouble.”

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