Need for speed: enterprise and IT meet the road

Von Kavitha Rajasekhar

The heat was on at the Bahrain Formula-1 Grand Prix. With the racing cars zipping by at over 200 miles per hour generating an ear-shattering 130 decibels, the atmosphere is nothing short of electric. But today, the F1 is more than just being the ultimate racing enthusiasts fantasy, especially when it come to technology. Apart from the technology, there are also lessons that even CIOs can learn fro, especially on team-work, handling stress, costs and time management.

If one were to see Infrastructure management, telemetry, high-end processing, aerodynamic modeling and supercomputing all in action at once, that would have to be at the Formula One races. The business of racing no longer relies on adrenaline rushes to get the race going, but on cutting edge technology, which has become one of the key differentiators for the sport.

CNME spent a day at the races in Bahrain and caught up with technology to find out the role their technology plays. There is a simple point that these vendors are proving with their partnerships with F1 teams -- if their products can withstand the stress testing of F-1, then they can withstand demanding IT environments. To companies such as AMD, HP, Computer Associates and a host of others, the Formula-1 is as mission critical as it is to the racing companies themselves. Interestingly, the F1 is turning out to be an IT heavy industry by itself, much like any of the other emerging industry sectors.

F1 needs IT resource optimization too

I?Any company uses IT to process and deliver information. The race circuit is no different from say a bank, telco or an airline. They need information on time and all the 90 plus team members in an F1 team require information at the right time. The scale may vary, but the demands are the same. IT enables them to get the job done. In IT every component of the IT infrastructure matters, in the Grand Prix it?s clearer than ever -- everything is magnified and counted in seconds,? says Tim Peck, General Manager, BMC Middle East.

Take for instance, Panasonic Toyota Motorsport. The 3-year old racing team wanted to optimize its IT resources besides improve the speed and quality of IT services for enhanced strategic planning and cost savings. In order so, they turned to business service management solutions from BMC Software.

With more than 600 experts from 32 different nations based at its factory in Cologne, Germany, Toyota Motorsport is one of only two teams in the sport that undertakes the entire end-to-end design and manufacturing process under one roof.

As a manufacturer team, Toyota Motorsport must have all the processes in place to build and modify different aspects of a complete car within a very short timeframe -- sometimes within a week. Everything, from engine design and development to wind tunnel-based chassis research, happens on the same site. It?s vital that the right IT systems are always up and running and this requires a complex IT environment.

?Time is essential in the F1 business. To be competitive in this area you need the appropriate IT resources dedicated to the end-to-end process design and manufacturing cycles,? explains Waldemar Klemm, IT Systems Manager, Toyota Motorsport. ?We ask ourselves: Do we have the right IT resources in place to support company processes and demands? How can resources and budgets be controlled? How can we achieve the right level of efficiency??

After signing a 3-year contract for an undisclosed sum with BMC last year, Toyota deployed Patrol Classic, BMC Impact Manager, Network Management (Dashboard & Visualis), Remedy, Control-M software running on Linux and Microsoft Windows systems, the team?s IT staff can now monitor a chain of services running on servers and devices that support every single business process. Furthermore, by integrating the systems with SAP R/3 ERP suite and the Oracle database Klemm says the efficiency is extending beyond the race track. ?We have a process-related business point of view. We are now convinced of the ability to set up a process-driven and highly automated monitoring system, enabling us to achieve the appropriate efficiency with moderate resources to become more competitive.?

Toyota can now list and view all its processes, naming the most critical ones and the relation between them. Secondly, it identifies the sets of services that support those processes. Then it maps the appropriate chain of services in the business service management tool by collecting and analyzing the data to generate reports for every question that arises in seconds.

Even procedures for designing, building and monitoring the performance of its cars are streamlined. With business operations (people, processes and workflow) mapped to the underlying technology infrastructure, the team can now make better-informed decisions and respond instantly to fast-changing operational issues.

Data, data everywhere

Real-time data collection could be described as the engine for technology usage. During each race, over 6,000 parameters of data associated with each race are recorded in real-time and communicated back to the engineers working in the garage. For the McLaren Racing, the company behind the West McLaren Mercedes team, its partnership with technology major Computer Associates transcends the entire spectrum- from infrastructure management, to storage to security. Of particular importance would be the company?s remote technology or operations center, which sits at the heart of its research activities.

Onsite analytics and data processing are performed to ensure that the McLaren team is fully optimizing their race strategy and able to make instantaneous operational decisions. In addition to the onsite operation center, there is a larger central operations center located at the McLaren Technology Center. Live data is transmitted to headquarters so that more complex analysis and computing can be performed.

?We do a lot of simulation and complex ?what if? analysis back at the main operation center. This enables us to centralize the engineers in one location rather then sending them round the globe?, says Jonathan Neale, Managing Director at McLaren Racing.

Although this approach is functionally effective, it introduces an added layer of complexity, which adds to the need for a system that runs without disruption. Security itself presents yet another task to handle with McLaren experiencing a staggering 100 percent growth rate of attacks on their systems each year, making it even more critical that its business operations are protected. McLaren implemented eTrust SCC as the security management platform for its main Central Operation center. eTrust SCC enables McLaren to correlate and analyze security events from its diverse infrastructure of security devices, business critical applications, and operating systems.

?McLaren also has to protect its non-race day computer systems for complete operational efficiency. McLaren?s primary intellectual property is the car itself. All data relating to the existing car and research and development for subsequent cars is highly confidential.?

?With the rise in the sophistication of security risks, it is critical for McLaren to be able to proactively manage and secure its heterogeneous infrastructure so that its systems and data cannot be compromised in any way,? adds Neale.

Partnering to provide an end-to-end data and infrastructure management solution, CA ?s Unicenter Network and Systems Management (Unicenter NSM) for system management, BrightStor Storage Resource Manager for ensuring high system storage availability, eTrust Security Command Center (eTrust SCC) and CleverPath Portal are part of McLaren?s portfolio of technology components.

?With the assistance of CA Technology Services, McLaren has implemented an integrated solution to manage, secure, and validate all aspects of the onsite Garage and main Operation Center. By working closely with CA, we are able to identify and integrate new uses of the software to improve our handling of data, which has a direct impact on how well we can design, build and race our cars. We are a zero fault tolerance organization -- on a race weekend it is not conceivable that IT would let us down,? says Neale.

Turning statistics into results

Telemetry and real-time measurement of data is intrinsic to most F1 racing teams. Telemetry itself refers to the automatic measurement and transmission of data by wire, radio, or other means from a remote source. In Formula One this data includes vital information about engine performance, aerodynamic efficiency, oil pressure, tyre grip and brake wear, as well as numerous measurements taken from the car regarding the driver"s progression on the track.

In the case of the Williams F1 BMW FW27 team, every second of every lap sees over 150,000 measurements being fed into the on-board computer from almost 200 separate sensors on the car. This data is then transmitted securely, using microwave technology, to the engineers in the pit lane, and compiled and processed simultaneously on a range of HP computing platforms for further analysis by the team.

Using specially created WilliamsF1 software, the computers translate the data into a numerical and graphical form that the Team can interpret. Once assembled, these graph readouts supply the engineers and technicians with an accurate, real-time picture of how the drivers and cars are performing.

"We can track the car right round the circuit," said Sam Michael, Chief Operations Engineer at WilliamsF1. "We have multiple pages covering everything from the driver to the hydraulics, the steering angle into the corner, where he has lifted off the throttle to anything we want, really,? Michael says.

Similarly, for the West McLaren Mercedes team the telemetry data that is transmitted from the car"s sensors to the garage and Central Operations Center is displayed on-screen in a graphical format.

?To analyze the large volume of information being generated, McLaren utilizes the customizable graphical interfaces of Unicenter NSM to display data in an easy to understand fashion. This enables us to quickly make on-site decisions regarding adjustments in our race strategy,? says McLaren?s Neale.

It is not only the engineers who get access to the benefits of telemetry. Many drivers also use the telemetry to evaluate their driving and locate areas where they could improve their lap times by accelerating earlier, braking later or taking a better line around a corner. Drivers can also use their team mate"s telemetry data in an overlay to compare relative performance and highlight possible areas for improvement.

Supercomputing at work

Supercomputing finally meets its match with the F1 races. Perhaps the ultimate platform to test its mettle, technology partner to the BMW Williams F1 Team, Hewlett Packard, plays a key role in enabling high-end computing for the team. Linux-based supercomputing solutions, wireless local area network (wLAN), mobility computing, as well as printing and imaging technologies, which support the team across car design, performance management, manufacturing and telemetry are some of the areas where the HP-BMW partnership is made full use of.

?We make full use of HP"s breadth and depth of technological know-how," said Neil Davis, IT development manager at WilliamsF1. "This means that we can maintain a more efficient IT organization internally and concentrate on the business of building and racing cars. HP"s global presence ensures that we can count on their support whether at headquarters, tests or on the track," says Davis.

At the launch of the 2005 BMW WilliamsF1 Team car, the FW27, HP enabled the WilliamsF1 design team to access twice as many aerodynamic models in computational fluid dynamics this year than ever previously possible, thus allowing the team to investigate the optimal design for the car.

The aerodynamic and structural characteristics of the FW27 were modeled on a powerful HP supercomputing infrastructure with flexible capacity provided by a utility computing system at HP Labs Bristol. This facility, which provides enterprise customers with a pay-as-you-go resource, allowed the Williams F1 team to manage peaks in workload.

?Prediction, using computational fluid dynamics, was our main tool to assess the implications of the new FIA rules for the 2005 season, and to consider a wide range of potential solutions. We augmented our in-house capability with the use of HP?s Bristol Labs utility computing facility, which allows us to run computations using external resource at peak load times, such as during the new car design phase,? says Sam Michael, technical director at Williams F1.

Racing goes right down to the chip

As such, teams like Toyota, Mclaren and BMW are not the only ones turning to IT for competitive advantage. For companies such as AMD, the racetrack is shaping to be the best benchmarking lab in the world for its chips as it helps Scuderia Ferrari fine tune their cars at a granular level and operate faster. ?F1 is an early technology adopter segment as a leading-edge technology solution can help it differentiate versus other Formula1?s teams. IT managers and CIOs are referring to F1 in order to understand how new solutions are used and at the same time analyzing their reliability impact in mission critical enterprise usage. It?s a segment where reliability and new technology must sync and perfectly and be well orchestrated,? says Gianluca Degliesposti, Director Business Development, AMD Europe, Middle East & Africa.

Starting from the chassis design of the new 2005 model Ferrari used for the first time at the Bahrain Grand Prix, technology is playing a more vital role than ever. With the system being fully designed in CAD/CAM workstations, the prototype is then passed onto the testing team. Off track, wind tunnels, weather conditions, aerodynamics -- all of which affect race car performance, AMD works closely with Ferrari?s IT infrastructure and racing team to perform complex engine simulations, fluid and aerodynamics, run telemetry applications, real-time performance diagnostics in conjunction with structural and kinematical analysis is all done on a 64-bit platform to shorten the development time.

This kind of demanding IT usage is no different if not more, from any other business, which relies on IT says AMD?s Degliesposti. ?The F1 is challenging as we have to meet each department?s computing needs, diverse software applications, security and different mobility issues and still provide a stable yet flexible processing platform. These are elements that are essential for the applications that are critical for the enterprise, such as high-performance reliable computing, web serving, messaging and collaboration.?

Having such bleeding edge IT infrastructure, helps the Ferrari team to get back to the garage faster and improve the car before the actual race. Getting its act right, off track is only half the challenge for Ferrari. On track, the car is controlled largely by software. With sensors all over the car, the onboard control unit, in addition to performing a controlling role, transmits data to the garage for telemetry analysis.

With gigabytes of data being generated by each car for an average race that lasts about 90 minutes, during test sessions and the actual Grand Prix, Ferrari uses large amounts of processing power to collect the data and send it to the pits for real-time analysis.

Jane Nottage, F1 Consultant for AMD and Ferrari at the Bahrain Grand Prix says simply investing in the latest and greatest technology is no guarantee to success on the race track or outside. ?F1 companies spend millions on IT, but not all of them win.

Apart from the technology, there is team-work, handling stress, costs and time management that CIOs can learn from. Everything has to be clockwork, every milli second matters. A lot of IT managers can apply the most demanding and equally fragile technology lessons to their own IT infrastructure."