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Formula One racing team revs up new storage engine

To speed up its cars, British American Racing (BAR) turned to BlueArc Corp.'s new Si8000 range of products to help speed up its data storage infrastructure.

British American Racing (BAR) is a comparative upstart in the world of racing. The Formula One Team participated in its first Grand Prix event just four years ago and managed to come in a respectable fifth. Since then, the team has had many successes and was even selected by Honda as part of its return to Formula One racing.

As part of its competitive advantage, BAR has continually invested in innovative technology solutions. "Formula One is a performance-driven industry," said Roberto Volo, head of IT at BAR at the time BlueArc was adopted. "We actively seek every competitive advantage available -- our storage is no exception."

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In a deal worth more than $600,000, BAR selected BlueArc Corp.'s SiliconServer storage system for the design of its Formula One cars for the next three years. The Si7500 product set a speed record, outperforming BAR's existing storage arrangement by up to 4.2 minutes on save time for hefty 119 Mb CAD/CAM files. Tests also proved it was actually faster to save to BlueArc storage than it was to save to local disk.

BAR ultimately took delivery of products from BlueArc's new Si8000 range -- which was launched in September 2002 -- and has several improvements on the Si7500. The BlueArc array (and Si8300 and two Si8700s) equals 16 TB of storage. According to BlueArc, the Si8000 SiliconServer family provides mixed-mode sharing of Windows (CIFS) and Unix (NFS), plus FTP and HTTP for high-speed file transfer and downloads. BlueArc's NAS features can be configured, monitored and managed by a Web GUI accessible from any point on the network, as well as from visual telemetry that enables quick interpretation of any its services.

"Race/test people occupy mini offices of their own that are more complex than most large branch offices would be," noted David France, the current IT manager at BAR. He explained that the organization's IT infrastructure must support approximately 400 people at its headquarters in Brackley, northwest of London in the U.K. It also has to be able to support approximately 80 people when they travel with race/test teams.

To support headquarters and mobile operations, France ssaid the BAR infrastructure includes Foundry network switches, 50 HPQ Windows servers, approximately 400 NT/Windows 2000 clients, SQL databases all around the building (including SAP) and 80 users of CAD/CAM software.

The BlueArc solution supports 200 GB of CAD data storage. "The whole company relies on this application," France said. In addition to helping improve CAD/CAM performance, BlueArc is also the repository for all company shared data (another 600 GB). With its high speed and snapshot ability, France said BlueArc will be used in the future for car telemetry data and all other user data.

BAR is able to use the new technology and the supplier is able to showcase it in use in a highly visible organization.

"A Formula One team like BAR relies very heavily on the use of up-to-date technology," France said. "Being a leader -- rather than a laggard -- in the use of technology can make a difference to team performance and competitiveness," he said. "BAR is constantly on the lookout for new technologies that could add value to the organization."

BAR expected it would soon need to keep significantly more telemetry data than it had previously and also needed to improve the speed of access and recovery of the large CAD files in the design office, France noted.

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