Real “F1 Tech” For Your Enterprise #LWYBF
For all of you interested in Information Technology AND Formula One, this is for you. Here is an interview which I conducted earlier this year and was recently published in GPWEEK.
Earlier this year I attended the EMC World Conference in Las Vegas. While roaming around the pavilion, I noticed a Team Lotus F1 race car. Obviously I developed severe tunnel vision as I marched steadily towards it with reckless abandon, uninterested in the wake I left behind from my determined course.
As I marveled at the E21 as I do each time I’m up-close and personal with an F1 car, I was struck by an idea. Why not take my experience in the IT field and marry it with my passion for Formula One?
Each time I’m in the F1 paddock, I’m in awe over the efforts and technologies required to pick up and move this wonderful circus around the globe. Rarely however, do we ever get an insight on the other side of the technology that keeps this sport moving at the speed of the times.
I made some calls and sent some emails and eventually received a replies from my friend Andy Stobart at Lotus F1 team and my friends at Burn Energy Drink, with a name and contact information for the team’s account manager at EMC, Jonathan Keighley. I reached out to Jonathan and he agreed to answer of few technical questions with regards to how EMC helps empower the Lotus F1 team from the Information Technology perspective.
Q: Technology is a massive ingredient to the formula of F1’s success. More than just the bits on the car, there are so many components used both at headquarters and track-side. What EMC gear is normally found track-side typically? Does it change for fly-away races?
A: In partnership with VCE, EMC has successfully implemented and continue to support a VBLOCK at the track-side for Lotus F1 Team. VBLOCK is a converged architecture consisting of storage and provisioning from EMC, switches and servers from Cisco, and VMware virtualization software running on the servers. The VBLOCK is pre-architected and does not change in its setup per race; however the workloads that are required from the VBLOCK changes in regards to Lotus F1 Team’s requirements. It provides a powerful platform for the running of workloads such as data analysis. The simplified architecture improves the automation and orchestration of workloads as well as a reduction in the space, power and cooling required at track-side to run the equipment.
Q: Is data replicated from track-side to headquarters synchronously via Recover Point or do you use a virtual appliance to mimic a physical appliance?
A: Data is currently replicated between the track-side environments and the data-centers using a 3rd party application.Syncplicity provides the Lotus F1 Team with secure file transfer internally (within Enstone) and externally between 3rd part suppliers / partners – not between track-side and the data-centers.
Q: EMC has an impressive variety of technologies under its corporate umbrella including VMWare, Networker, Avamar, Data Domain, Atmos and Mozy Pro to name just a few, can you share with us what EMC technologies are provided to EMC’s F1 program and give us a brief description of how each of them are applied?
A: Vblock – Utilized within the data-center and track-side environments providing converged and standardized compute, storage, network and virtualization technologies from Cisco, EMC and VMware. Vblock systems provide the core compute and storage capacity that underpins the various IT services being delivered.
Data Domain – Provides the Lotus F1 Team with the ability to backup and archive data within the data-center environments.
Atmos / Cloud Tiering Appliance (CTA) – Atmos is used to provide the Lotus F1 Team with a Cloud storage tier. Used in conjunction with the Cloud Tiering Appliance, Atmos provide the Lotus F1 Team with the ability to tier their data based upon policy.
ViPR SRM – Provides the Lotus F1 Team with the ability to monitor and report on all aspects of the IT infrastructure environment from a single console.
EMC VPLEX – Provides continuous availability and data mobility between the two data-centers.
Syncplicity – Provides secure file transfer and synchronization internally within the Lotus F1 Team and externally between 3rd party suppliers / partners
EMC Data Protection Advisor – Provides end-to-end visibility of the data protection environment in terms of monitoring, analysis and reporting.
Q: Many may believe that because the technology is used in such an elite sport such as Formula One, that it may not be feasible for smaller budget enterprises. That’s not the case at all though given technologies such as virtualization, deduplication and snapshots. The overall benefits of which considerably reduce the amount of physical infrastructure and therefore physical and carbon footprint as well as cost. How have these technologies helped Lotus with their technical requirements?
A: One of the most compelling reasons companies of all sizes partner with EMC is due to our breadth of products and services that are not only complimentary to each other but can also be tailored to fit the size of requirement demanded from them. EMC prides itself on giving our customer options; understanding a customer’s business needs and objectives and mapping them to technology that is tailored to bring them true value. Whether you are a Formula 1 Team or small law firm the ability to reduce cost is paramount, embracing new technologies that can reduce physical infrastructure will inevitably deliver cost reduction and in an ever conscientious society also their impact on the environment. With the introduction of VBLOCK into the Lotus F1 Team they saw double the performance and double the capacity within the same DC footprint. The reduced power consumption and size of their track-side VBLOCK also allows them to consume less and deliver more, whether that be transportation costs or footprint within the pit garage.
Q: How do EMC and Lotus tackle critical issues like uptime/high availability and redundancy?
A: Clearly high availability and resilience of the IT infrastructure are of paramount importance to the Lotus F1 Team as any downtime can have a critical impact on the development of the car or in the case of track-side have a direct impact on the competitiveness of the car. As such the architecture has been designed in such a way that both data-centers are active with the ability to migrate workloads non-disruptively to cater for both planned and un-planned outages as well as ensuring that all resources are utilised effectively.
Q: Follow up question, what happens if a disk array were to fail track-side? Has EMC ever had to assist Lotus with recovering data?
A: Each EMC VNX array has redundant components so that no single point of failure can cause the array to fail. In the case of track-side, a complete standby track-side environment is available if required.
Q: If a component fails, does the team carry hot spares or are they serviced by EMC support in the nations they are currently racing in?
A: Component failure would be dealt with using a combination of both on-site spares and local EMC support depending upon the nature of the component failure.
Q: When traveling to different contents, there are different power requirements, how do you deal with the change in infrastructure between North America/Europe/Asia for instance?
A: This is dealt with by the local infrastructure and facilities teams at each location.
Q: Does Lotus employ EMC staff to support the IT efforts track-side?
A: At this stage no but it is being currently considered with Lotus to ensure the partnership is followed through right from the factory through to track-side.
Q: Tell us what your role is and how you help find the best EMC solutions for Lotus to use in this traveling circus we all love so much.
A: My role within EMC is the Account Manager for Lotus F1 Team. With me, I have an extensive and credible team supporting all we do with Lotus F1 Team; from supporting the current infrastructure to growing the partnership further. An F1 Team is a complex place with unique requirements that are ever changing in such a fast paced world. As the partnership enters the second year we are still learning about the team, thinking you know all you can, would be a grave mistake. We aim to ever understand the challenges they have and how we can, through IT, give them competitive advantage. In essence I am responsible for leading and growing the EMC-Lotus F1 Team partnership; further developing the technical collaboration with the objective of ensuring the Lotus F1 Team gain competitive advantage. For Lotus F1 Team, the IT program is the foundation on which they have adapted to the 2014 regulation changes, awarding it the best opportunity to compete for the World Championship. We now have the building blocks in place in regards to infrastructure – now we can begin to build on this.
A warm thank you to Jonathan, EMC, Lotus F1 Team and Burn Energy Drink.