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Renault Sport Formula 1 considers deploying VCE VxRail for trackside data analytics

The Renault Sport Formula 1 team explains why it is considering a refresh of its trackside converged infrastructure setup

The Renault Sports Formula 1 team is considering the deployment of VCE’s VxRail range of hyper-converged infrastructure appliances to carry out trackside analysis of its vehicles’ race day performances.

Renault completed its takeover of Lotus F1 in December 2015, paving the way for its return to Formula 1 racing as a constructor just in time for the 2016 season.

Renault operates two enterprise-grade VCE Vblocks at its factory site that are used to run the entire company, as well as a smaller, entry-level Vblock 200 converged infrastructure unit.

The latter provides it with a source of portable compute power that can be used to analyse the huge quantities of telemetry data its cars generate in real-time during a race.  

Speaking to Computer Weekly, Antony Smith, infrastructure manager at Renault, said having access to this information is essential for developing and correcting the organisation’s race day strategy.

“We have a feed of data that is relayed off the car in real time and we’re using that to make decisions about tyre choices, pit stops, the driver’s performance and the car,” said Smith.

“We’re running simulations throughout the race to see what would be the best strategy because it’s not just a case of the car being the fastest on the track, you need to have a strategy in place to get ahead during pit stops and that sort of thing requires a  reasonable amount of compute power.”

VCE’s product portfolio

The Vblock 200 the company uses is two to three years old and is “hardly stressed” by the hundreds of virtual machines it is used to run during a typical race, said Smith. Even so, the company is floating the idea of replacing it with one of VCE’s lighter-weight and soon-to-be launched 2U VxRail appliances.

The latter is being mooted by VCE as a mid-market or enterprise branch office play, and features virtualisation, compute, storage and data protection capabilities all in a single converged infrastructure package.

“It is an appliance that has been specifically engineered with the VMware software stack embedded into it, and is designed to complement the existing portfolio of VCE products,” said Nigel Moulten, chief technology officer of VCE.

The appliances come equipped with licenses for VMware vSphere, vCentre Server and VMware Virtual SAN, as well as EMC’s virtual machine disaster recovery software RecoverPoint.

“We can ship a mix of solid state disk and traditional spinning media, as part of it, and it has four open lots where users can put the appropriate compute and memory configuration that they want,” Moulten added.

The company also has plans to bring an all-Flash version of the appliance to market on 1 June 2016.

Around the world with VxRail

From Renault’s perspective, the VxRail has a number of things going for it that could see it do away with its Vblock 200 altogether.

“A Vblock is fine for an office environment, but when you want to fly it around the world, they can be a little heavy,” said Smith.

“With the Vblock 200, you are looking at around 350kgs, but we could potentially reduce this to 50kgs for a 2U appliance with a VxRail – and when you are paying around $250 per kilo in freight charges, that’s quite a saving.”

Smith said he can envisage a scenario where the VxRail could be used in tandem with the vBlock 200 trackside for disaster recovery purposes.

“Travelling around the world, accidents do happen, and we’ve been next to garages that have caught fire in the past, and they’ve lost all of their IT equipment in the process or the freight containing it hasn’t turned up,” he said.

“We could use VxRail to constantly monitor and copy our main Vblock, so if there was a flood or a lightning strike, we could have a replacement spun up to replace it.”

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