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Lotus F1 switches gears, plans hybrid storage cloud

Lotus F1 Formula One racing team begins its drive to a hybrid storage cloud with an array of EMC storage to cope with challenging rule changes.

New engine mandates in Formula One auto racing have prompted the Lotus F1 team to move to a hybrid storage cloud model in order to eliminate downtime and deliver applications to the race track more efficiently.

The immediate plan is to use EMC storage to set up a private cloud this year. Eventually, British-based Lotus F1 expects to put data in a public cloud as well for a hybrid storage cloud setup, according to director of IT Graeme Hackland.

The Lotus F1 team will install VCE Vblock systems with EMC storage, Cisco compute and VMware software in its data centers and in its tracks for track-side processing. It will also add to its data center: EMC VNX arrays and Atmos object storage for long-term data retention; VPLEX federated storage; Syncplicity file-sharing and collaboration software; Cloud Tiering Appliance for data migration between Vblock and Atmos storage; Data Domain deduplication backup appliances; and Documentum content management storage. The racing team will also use VMware vCloud Director to build its private clouds.

Some EMC products will replace existing systems, such as NetApp storage arrays and perhaps Symantec backup appliances, but the new technology gives Lotus F1 the cloud capabilities it lacks.

Lotus F1 plans to get the EMC data center products up and running during a two-week break from the racing circuit in August. The trackside changes will come after the season ends in late November.

Using a hybrid storage cloud will bring Lotus F1 away from the traditional client-server model for delivering applications to users. "One of the things we want to do is make our applications cloud-aware," Hackland said. "We're not ready to shove everything into the public cloud, so we want to build our cloud capability in-house for the next three to five years. Then we'll rewrite the applications and change our software so we can switch over.

"We want to be able to pick what we want to run on our private cloud and what we want to stick into the public cloud, and be able to switch back and forth," he explained. "Some parts of the year it will make sense to have the race applications in a public cloud; [and at] other [times] we'll want our design and aerodynamics data in the public cloud."

Hackland said the main goal was more reliable application delivery. "The way we deliver applications now requires downtime every time we want to do an upgrade, and we want to get away from that," he said.

According to Hackland, Formula One engine changes for the 2014 season prompted his team to change the way it uses technology. In 2014, Formula One cars must replace the traditional V8 engines they've used since 2006 with more fuel-friendly turbocharged V6 engines equipped with energy recovery systems. That means teams at the track need new data to set up the cars for race day.

"The car this year is similar to last year's car," Hackland said. "Before they even run for the first time on a Friday for a race, they have a good idea how they're going to set up the car based on last year's race. That won't be the same next year, so it will be much more difficult to set up the car."

He said the racing team will need to search across races and multiple parameters instead of only looking at one race from the previous year. "That's a capability we don't have now," he said. He expects the Vblocks to increase performance at the track enough to enable that search capability.

He said the new hybrid cloud storage setup will also help with disaster recovery. "Too many of our services are now stuck in one data center," Hackland said. "That's a risk we've accepted. What the new technology will do is split those data centers seamlessly so if we have an issue or do an upgrade, we can switch between the two."

Hackland said the new gear means the end of long-standing partnerships, through no fault of the partners. "We'll have EMC and NetApp storage the rest of the year," he said. "NetApp has done well for us, but with this project we're looking at transforming the business in many areas."

Lotus F1 will likely keep Symantec backup software, but the NetBackup and Backup Exec appliances for backup at the track may no longer be necessary. "We'll put Vblocks at the track, and I'm not certain if we'll still need backup appliances," Hackland said.

The storage upgrade is part of an ongoing tech refresh at Lotus F1, he said. Hackland said the team's switch to Microsoft Dynamics CRM last year was part of the overhaul, and there will be other changes.

"We're transforming the way we do manufacturing," he said. "We're trying to revolutionize everything we do."

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