Lotus F1: 38°C? Sand in your Vblocks? Must be building a data center in Bahrain again

How the race aces stand up and tear down IT at speed

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Failure is not an option

As much as the performance of the Vblock matters, reliability matters even more. The cars can't run without the computer systems, and even in testing or practice sessions, IT must never say the car has to wait for them.

The IT department doesn't have the luxury of choosing between performance and reliability. It needs both. The trackside Vblock is the smallest in the VCE range, but still comes as a configuration of VCE-built compute: 70Tb of storage and switching, hardware and software which is guaranteed to work. There are winter and summer upgrades, but there is no spare at the track; the resilience is all built in.

Lotus owns three racks, but spares are not taken to races "just in case." One goes traveling, one lives at the factory and the third is used to run the demonstration car. The third system could be called in to replace one of the other two if necessary, and is also used for trying things out.

Each team pays more than $200 per kilo per season for shipping, so keeping the weight of the systems down is an element of the cost of running the IT service. The move to virtual servers has been a boon in this.

"Virtualisation has been mega for us," converged infrastructure specialist Anthony Smith told The Register. With 120 virtual machines running in the system, the team is looking at X-Racks VSpex Blue.

The storage is a combination of disk and SSD with automatic tiered priority, so that the data needed most rapidly is in the SSD. It's a more elegant set-up than just caching.


This is last year's car with this year's nose, set up for tyre change practice

Of course, software reliability is just as important as hardware. With an air of typical British understatement, Smith told El Reg: "If you apply a patch or software update and it doesn't work, you are going to find out at the worst possible time. If we haven't got the back-end systems, we can't send the car out. So before every race we run through all our software systems in a Virtual Garage, just to check everything works together."

It's not just EMC which is a strategic partner, the Microsoft Dynamics logos are a reflection that Lotus F1 is very much a Microsoft house, Smith explained: "We are fully dependent on Microsoft Dynamics for most aspects of running the company, from HR and payroll through to purchasing and production of all the parts throughout the factory.

"It is a business transformation project we have been working closely with Microsoft on for the last three years. Most of our in-house software is written with Microsoft tools and databases, but of course we have specialist mathematical modelling tools from various suppliers, such as Matlab."

Lotus is evaluating the latest Surfaces and uses them throughout the factory, with Lumias on the phone side. "It will take a while to replace the laptops our power users are using, but other people are finding there are plenty of advantages in using hybrid devices like the Surfaces," Smith said.


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