McLaren Racing relies on state-of-the-art computing at the edge of the racetrack

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“Twenty-two times a year we build a data center at the edge,” said Ed Green, business technology manager at McLaren Racing, a British motor racing team based in Surrey, England.

For McLaren, the advantage is everywhere the company’s Formula 1 racing team competes. A computer setup at each race site connects the entire team, including the mechanics, engineers, crew members and drivers of McLaren’s two Formula 1 racing cars.

“Once these two cars have gone around the track – and Lando [Norris] and Daniel [Ricciardo] do it at 200 miles an hour – 300 sensors produce a terabyte and a half of information that we have to analyze to try to find the limit. And when I say edge, it’s milliseconds,” said Green, who spoke at this week’s VMware Explore conference.

Milliseconds can make the difference between finishing first or last. “Everything we do is about marginal gains and trying to find ways to go faster,” Green said, “and that means our people have to work all over the world.”

When the pandemic hit, McLaren had the advantage of being used to meeting the technology needs of remote employees. “We have been doing this for over 30 years. We’ve trained on the periphery in garages, trucks, hotel rooms, the airplane lounge, and more. said Green.

So, on the one hand, IT could focus on “taking the good lessons we learned from having a team of 80 engineers traveling the world and adapting them to bedrooms, front rooms and wherever [employees] work from,” Green said.

But on the other hand, it was not so simple. “Before, providing IT services to people at the edge was about providing a laptop, stepping back and not touching it. But we had to do something different,” Green said.

One of the steps McLaren took was to roll out VMware Workspace ONE across the organization.

Workspace ONE is VMware’s platform for delivering and managing applications across multiple devices. It integrates access control, application management and cross-platform endpoint management. For McLaren, it’s a way to manage access to applications that may be in its own data centers, in the public cloud or at the trackside.

At the VMware Explore event, Green demonstrated the example of an expert tire technician, accessing real-time information in the field. “It will analyze all the data coming from the car to predict which tire we should switch to next,” Green said. “It’s essential in this modern era of Formula 1.”

Workspace ONE also played a key role in rolling out a new fleet of Android devices that McLaren made available to employees in the field.

“We put Android phones in people’s pockets, all running Workspace ONE, which allows us to provide secure access right to the edge. So engineers can view ground data on their phones in a secure way,” Green said.

Off track, McLaren uses Workspace ONE to manage the technology available in its hospitality areas. In the past, these areas were physically adjacent to the track but digitally cut off from the action.

“You could go look over the cars, but you couldn’t get the data on your phone or device,” Green said. “We wanted a way to securely deploy a suite of apps so that our guests, every time they join us on the run, can see [data] on their tablets and phones and use it to interact with us a bit more.

“There is no point in saying that we are one of the most technically advanced sports in the world when all you can do in our reception area is look down on the garage.

Now, with the newly rolled out apps, “you can check the same weather maps that strategists check. You can watch the race. You can look inside the garage and even see some of the telemetry from the cars,” a Green said. And, important for computing, “if these devices leave the circuit, we know we can turn them off and keep them safe.”

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