Formula One racing is one of the world’s most technologically advanced sports, generating hundreds of gigabytes of data from car telemetry alone every race weekend. Teams have long acknowledged the importance of data, but bringing the same attention to data storage has been a long process.
Last week, cloud backup and security firm Acronis entered into a partnership with Williams Martini Racing Formula One (Williams F1) to solve that problem, and we at Computing visited the Williams factory in Oxfordshire to learn more.
Williams will use Acronis solutions for cloud backup, data protection, disaster recovery, software-defined storage and file sync and share.
Graeme Hackland is Williams F1’s CIO. He has been reporting on data risk, which he describes as “a red box that we want to turn green,” to the team’s board since he joined Williams four years ago.
Teams were quite conservative when Hackland entered the racing world in 1971. That’s no longer possible, and he told us that he spends a lot of time trying to bring new technology partners into Williams; Acronis is one of them.
“Absolutely everything [in racing] is data driven,” Hackland said. Williams collects around 200GB of data every race weekend, and uses its analysis to fuel future decisions. That collection actually represented a problem to the team, which when Hackland joined was totally on-prem.
“We had to flush a fair amount of data because we couldn’t afford to keep it all,” he said. Now, in the middle of its digital transformation – Williams runs about 40 per cent of its business-critical apps in the cloud, and paper-based processes have been digitised – that is less of a problem.
The move wasn’t entirely risk-free, though. Without a dedicated backup solution, Williams had to rely on cloud vendors to protect its data, which was limiting. By partnering with Acronis on backup, Hackland said, the team is free to pursue niche providers and startups at the cutting edge of technology.
Cloud ensures resilience
A key part of the new partnership has been moving archive data to the cloud, which includes years of tape storage. “We’ve been learning a lot about what tapes last longer than a year,” Hackland quipped.
Despite engineers insisting on most of Williams’ data being available in fast frontline storage, 80 per cent of it hasn’t been accessed in the last four years. Working with Acronis, Williams has been ‘tiering’ its data by order of importance as it moves it to the cloud.
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