Information Age caught up with some of the people behind the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport team to find out more about how they’re working with Rubrik – one of the fastest-growing unicorns in Silicon Valley – as big data becomes increasingly important in Formula One.
Over the course of the Spanish Grand Prix, the team set a new track record for the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya of 1:16:173 and stretched their lead in the title race to 17 points. But the celebrations did not stop there. Mercedes’ teammate Valtteri Bottas also crossed the finish line in second place to complete the 36th one-two victory for Mercedes-AMG since it re-entered Formula One as a works team in 2010.
All in all, it was a momentous weekend full of achievement, providing the perfect setting to showcase the skills and pace that have seen them dominate the track over the last four years.
But the winners aren’t just decided on race day…
Data makes the racing world go around
At an event in Barcelona, Mercedes brought together a group of its top technology partners – Rubrik, Qualcomm, Tibco and Pure Storage – and gave a select group of reporters a behind the scenes peak at the technologies that help give the team its competitive edge.
Just as data has become one of the most important assets for any business, it has also found its podium place in the world of sport. The Mercedes team generates a massive 500GB of data every race weekend from the car alone.
Data from the car takes a high-speed journey from its creation on one of the cars 200 sensors to being wirelessly transferred by Qualcomm at 1.9GB-a-second to Pure Storage arrays in the pitts. Once the data is there it needs to be analysed by Tibco and shared with the race team back at base in the UK – this 1500km trip takes just 0.04s – where it is stored on more Pure Storage arrays. Once all this data has been created and stored, it needs to be protected, that’s where one of Silicon Valley’s hottest startups comes in, cloud data management company Rubrik. Mercedes uses Rubrik’s platform for backing up and protecting high performance workloads and critical race data and information.
Speaking in the three story, steel and glass Mercedes motorhome at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Rubrik’s VP of EMEA Sales Engineering Jerry Rijnbeek told me that in F1 the main currency is time and Rubrik helps the team move faster and more efficiently.
“In F1, every thousandth of a second counts so it’s all about finding and making those marginal gains wherever you can. To achieve optimal performance in this hypercompetitive environment, the Mercedes team needs to harvest and analyse as much data as possible from each race. For example, they want to understand how the car performs differently in environments like dry Bahrain versus the UK. The smallest details matter.”
“All of this data needs to be backed-up, protected, and accessible 24/7. Prior to Rubrik, Mercedes was struggling to manage its data with an old IT solution that was slow, unreliable and clunky,” said Rijnbeek. “The team needed a new solution that could manage their data at F1 speeds and easily integrate with other next-gen technology partners, like Pure Storage. Mercedes adopted Rubrik’s cloud data management solution several months ago because we do just that. Rubrik provides Mercedes with a fast, simple and reliable solution that allows the IT team to focus on using its data to develop race winning enhancements, rather than worrying about protecting it.”
Every second counts…
The Mercedes-AMG team is a data driven organisation. With races and even the entire championship on the line, the team cannot afford to have outages or systems going down. If data is not kept safe or is not easy to access, then it cannot be used to record and analyse performance statistics.
Installed throughout the team’s factory in Brackley, over 500 virtual machines are currently protected by Rubrik, allowing the team’s IT department to dramatically reduce the time it spends on backup and recovery.
We sat down with Geoff Willis, the Director of Digital Engineering Transformation at Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, who told us that for him, the key to getting the most out of Rubrik was being able to roll it out to teams outside of IT.
“Our goal is to constantly develop our capability with the aim of winning Championships. Data is one of the keys to developing this capability and further our understanding, “Willis said. “We’re looking at how we can contribute to this in all departments, including IT. With Rubrik’s multi-tenancy and API driven functionality, we’ve been able to grant controlled access to both our Engineering Software Group and Technology Project Group allowing them to manage their own environments. Its simplicity means we can roll them forward or back and perform snapshots without direct IT support. This makes the whole process smoother, faster and more efficient.”
By investing in a data management and backup solution that is more simple, but just as effective, Mercedes-AMG is able to cut the total amount of human resource being spent maintaining it and recovering in the event of disaster. This, in turn, leaves more time to focus on enabling car performance while laying the foundations for future innovations in the cloud, which could translate directly into lap time.
In essence, Rubrik’s solution grants the gift of time. The Mercedes-AMG team are now able to keep their data more secure, move faster and prepare for the future.
And it’s a formula that certainly seems to be working so far. As this summer brings with it the next few stops on the Grand Prix Tour, we’re sure to see once again the impact that data has on one of the most watched sports in the world.