To compete at the highest levels of F1 requires not only best-in-class drivers and teams, but also best-in-class technology and business processes. In today's modern racing environment where split second decisions can make or break a grand prix weekend, McLaren's new NTT Communications SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Network) solution is proving invaluable when it comes to delivering serious race gains.
As the first F1 team believed to be using such technology, NTT Communications SD-WAN financial performance is no less impressive. By providing considerable operational savings for the team, the NTT Communications technology has now been recognised by the wider McLaren business and is being explored for broader use throughout its organisation.
Improved Communications for Increased
Prior to using NTT Communications SD-WAN technology, the trackside McLaren team would use an MPLS connection to send real-time video back to ‘Mission Control' at McLaren's Woking base. However, the system was expensive and didn't have the bandwidth for the 11.8 billion data points being sent per year. This caused video lag and image quality issues, hindering the team's ability to monitor each race and quickly and accurately assess each situation.
Using its new NTT Communications SD-WAN capability that operates via a simple and more cost-efficient broadband internet service, the team in Woking can now synchronise race data with high quality live video feeds. This enables them to rapidly review what they see, run race simulations and provide quicker and better strategic race advice to McLaren Racing's trackside Head of Race Strategy, Randeep Singh.
"F1 is a business as well as a sport, but the reality is that we have to be just as strategic with our business decisions as we are with our race tactics," comments Singh.
"With this solution, we estimate that we can shave 7 to 8 seconds from video delay between track and Mission Control, meaning that our vast team of experts in Mission Control can be involved in all decision making in a timely manner. When some decisions have to be made quicker than a few seconds it's important not to have delays that block our experts from being involved in those decisions."
Utilising NTT Communications SD-WAN at Silverstone this year, the McLaren Racing team's ability to make a quick decision and pit both drivers under the second safety car, enabled a change of tyres that gave McLaren a good chance of gaining many positions. "Our result at Silverstone perfectly demonstrates how technology that enables us to make smart decisions, can result in tangible race benefits," explains Fernando Alonso.
In addition to aiding communications, the team's SD-WAN line is considered a great back-up facility too. "Having another dedicated and separate 20MB line means that should our own race systems go down while handling critical car and driver data, we could continue to race. Using SD-WAN in this hybrid setup allows us to complement the existing MPLS network, so it's able to act as a backup network" adds Singh.
Plug-and-Play Trackside Installation
With 21 grand prix in 21 different countries, the ability to set-up the NTT Communications SD-WAN system both quickly and easily, is also a big advantage to the trackside team.
Joe Bawn, Infrastructure Engineer, McLaren Racing, comments, "When we reach each track at the start of a grand prix weekend, there are literally hours and hours of set-up before the cars can even start their engines. But, because the NTT Communications SD-WAN solution operates via a normal internet connection available at the race track, we enjoy plug-and-play operability that's up and running within minutes. This ensures good team communication from the outset and saves us valuable time."
Ten years ago, only 100MB of data would be produced by McLaren Racing over a race weekend. In 2018 it has now reached one terabyte. Such is the change in volume and the reliance on data to power essential team communications and machine learning, that the NTT Communications SD-WAN service is considered a key race tool.
"Like any new technology introduction, the NTT Communications solution took a few weeks to stabilise, but we are now in a really good place," adds Bawn. "They've given us a scalable solution that's perfect for today but also capable of meeting our needs for tomorrow. What's more, so far, we're enjoying 100% uptime. As a cloud system requiring no maintenance, no storage and with impressive reliability, it's a very valuable asset."
Hybrid WAN provides financial results
Beyond the track, the financial performance of the NTT Communications solution is winning fans across the McLaren business too. In addition to its technical ability, NTT Communications' SD-WAN solution is enabling McLaren Racing to save tens of thousands of pounds per year on purchasing additional bandwidth. Because of this, its technology is currently being considered to support the wider McLaren Group in connecting its 80 offices and data centres, situated over large geographic distances – driving further cost efficiencies and valuable business benefits.
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