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What drives an F1 car?

Nurdianah Md Nur | Oct. 4, 2013
Besides having a powerful engine and good aerodynamic design, an F1 car needs to leverage useful technologies, such as analytics and ERP solutions, to have a leg up on competitors.

Whitmarsh added that in future, SAP HANA will provide McLaren engineers with instant access to 10 years of historical data. "[For example,] the team looking at a particular car setting at a particular Grand Prix over the past five races at that circuit could instantly access that past data."

The Nerve Centre
During a Grand Prix, data is constantly moving. The raw data from the sensors are wirelessly transmitted to the garage on the racetrack before being relayed to the headquarters at the team's base for analysis. The processed data will then be sent back to the garage to help the team make the necessary decisions. To ensure a smooth and quick delivery of data, the Caterham F1 Team (Caterham) relies on its five-feet-tall (1.5 m) half-rack. Anthony Smith, Caterham's Senior IT Support Engineer, said: "Every piece of data and machine runs through the half-rack — it's the core of our network."

 Some key features of the half-rack include:

  • Dell PowerConnect 7048 switches, which handle most of Caterham's routing and connectivity for servers as well as the power distribution
  • Three Dell PowerEdge servers that act as 'physical' hosts, with about 30 virtual hosts running on VMware vSphere 4 server software
  • Two Dell EqualLogic arrays used for high performance and bulk storage. The high performance array is comprised of solid state drives and hosts all the virtual machines. The other array consisting of conventional spinning discs provides storage capacity.
  • A pull-out keyboard and monitor that manages all the virtual machines.
  • Two UPSs (Uninterruptible Power Supplies) to provide power resilience and prevent blackouts, sags or surges

The half-rack achieves its name as it is able to fit Caterham's trackside infrastructure (consisting of the above technologies) into just half a rack, whereas the infrastructure of other teams generally fill an entire rack. Smith attributed this ability to the use of virtual machines. "If you haven't got virtual machines like we have here, there could be as many as 30 servers, which would take up [more than half a rack]." Since the trackside infrastructure follows the teams to the Grand Prix around the world, having a lighter infrastructure would help the team save on shipping costs.

Looking forward, Caterham intends to replace the current half-rack with Dell PowerEdge VRTX, a shared infrastructure platform with integrated servers, storage and networking technology in a single, compact tower chassis. According to Caterham, VRTX will increase the efficiency of its operations by minimising power consumption and cabling requirement. VRTX will also improve the reliability of the servers as it reduces the cooling requirements. In addition, Caterham can reduce its spending on shipping its trackside infrastructure to races as VRTX is more compact and lighter than the half-rack.


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