Lotus F1 Team generates need for speed in the cloud

Lotus F1 Team has equipped itself with a private cloud to enable it to be more agile during its process of trying to identify new ways of creating a faster car.

Eleven teams, 22 drivers, 19 races in 19 countries, across six continents, and knowing after all that there can only be one winner is what drives the Lotus F1 Team to look for new ways on how to design, build, and manufacture some of the fastest cars, according to Lotus F1 Team CIO Michael Taylor.

Based in Enstone, United Kingdom, Lotus F1 Team produces two cars per year, each with approximately 4,000 parts, with "every single part of the car regularly reviewed to find ways to run a tighter process". 

Speaking at EMC World 2014, Taylor said in order to allow the team to continually enhance the performance of the cars, the design cycle is reiterated every two weeks and IT plays a key role in making that process happen.

"IT touches every aspect of our business from prototyping, to simulating, to computer performance to finding new ways of manufacturing thing, to changing the process, to constantly evolving," he said.

For example in 2014, Taylor said there are expectations to gain 2.5 seconds upwards in speed performance. In order for the company to be able to achieve that there are over 150 sensors to monitor "every heartbeat" of the car in real-time, and that feedback is delivered at sample speeds of 100 times per second from the car directly to the engineers.

"On average, 25MB of data per lap is generated and from there we are able to extract 250,000 statistics. Over the course of the race, we'll generate about 50GB of data and that data will be stored and retained on track site but also transferred back to UK headquarters," he said.

But it's not only on the track where technology is evolving; the company's backend infrastructure underwent a recent change.

Labelling 2014 as the "year of change for Formula 1", Taylor said some of the regulation changes will see engine powers restricted to 1600cc, the cars will need to be 30 percent more fuel efficient than last year, weight will be restricted to 690kgs, and while there are a total of 19 races, the company will be limited to five units per season.

In preparation of the regulatory changes happening in the front line, Lotus F1 Team worked with EMC and built a completely new architecture in the private cloud that would be "scalable, agile, 100 percent available, and cost-effective as every pound we spend in IT detracts money going into the car".

As part of the new architecture, the company runs active-active data centres — one at the company's headquarters and the other on-site at the tracks.

"It ensures our engineers and design team will always have access to the information they want and that's really important when they want to analyse the analytics from the track," Taylor said.

Security has also been a key focus for the company. "We needed to trust IT to ensure we had data protection because we had generated so much intellectual property we needed to ensure we were the only ones that had access to it and our competitors don't," Taylor said.

Taylor said another benefit of virtualising the system ensures the company can now have rapid provisioning and automation of infrastructure support depending on the amount of data that is being processed.

Despite the technical improvements this year at Lotus, in the four races held this season, the team has failed to score a single point, with a highest place finish for year currently sitting at 11th place.

Disclosure: Aimee Chanthadavong travelled to EMC World 2014 courtesy of EMC.

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