Versa redefines McLaren's F1 speed strategy
British Formula One (F1) team, McLaren Racing, is the second most successful team in Formula One history after Ferrari, having won 182 races, 12 Drivers’ Championships and eight Constructors’ Championships.
One of their biggest challenges they have is ensuring the accurate transmission of data for both machine and driver performance. “Every single movement in the car, every steering wheel input, every throttle input, every brake pressure input is transmitted immediately in real-time to the engineers in the garage,” says Andre Kannemeyer, CTO at Duxbury Networking, distributor of Versa solutions in South Africa.
Racing data acquisition is the recording of parameters that allow an engineering team to later analyse the behaviour of the entire car or specific data points like engine RPM, fuel temperature, pressure, wheel speed, damper displacement and suspension load. Each F1 car has around 1.25 kilometres of wiring and approximately 200 sensors, some of which generate data readings of up to 1 000 times per second. A single race-car can generate around 1.5 billion samples of data every race, consuming more than 100 gigabytes of storage.
This steady and massive flow of data is crucial for the McLaren engineering team to gain insights into the performance of both car and driver during a race. Real-time access to this data enables the engineering team to make critical changes or on-the-fly adjustments that can improve the performance of both the driver and the car on the race track.
The challenge was highlighted when an R&D engineer from the McLaren team, attending a pre-season practice in Barcelona in 2017, noticed occasional video jitter on the screens in the garage. The engineering team found the issue was that the media-rich data was flowing through a congested and low-capacity MPLS (multi-protocol label switching).
The McLaren team realised that the telemetry data, and IP-based real-time camera feed from the car and the racing track, was being routed through the same MPLS circuit. This resulted in the IP camera feed quality being negatively impacted due to the congestion, causing jitter.
Another challenge the McLaren team wanted to tackle was linked to the fact that the Formula One races are held at various racing circuits across the globe. The McLaren engineering team needs to rapidly set up the on-track network infrastructure, typically on a Monday and Tuesday before each race weekend, and quickly dismantle the entire set-up post-race to transfer the equipment to the next race location as quickly as possible, well ahead of the next competition.
“The McLaren Technology team needed a solution that would help improve their access to real-time sensor data with reliability and stability. The speed at the which the copious amounts of data (a significant portion of which is media-rich data like video) needed to be transferred in real-time seemed like a daunting task for legacy WAN technologies. This was even more challenging because the data needed to be transmitted to McLaren’s Technology Centre in the United Kingdom from F1 circuits located across the globe,” says Kannemeyer.
The McLaren engineering team had three critical areas they needed to address:
- Ensure maximum and intelligent utilisation of available bandwidth at any moment in time with automated intelligent dynamic traffic steering and prioritisation of traffic.
- Provision on-demand bandwidth for the high-speed transmitting of media-rich telemetry data, cost-effectively.
- Deploy a network in as little time as possible at different locations before each race.
Versa’s Secure SD-WAN allowed McLaren to complete a successful test deployment during the 2017 Japan Grand Prix. McLaren was able to send 100GB of data without any jitter or delay during the race, from the race pit in Japan to the company’s technology centre in the UK.
The successful test deployment convinced McLaren that the benefits and the value-add of SD-WAN would enable their edge infrastructure to be more agile and give them an edge over their competition.
“McLaren now leverages direct Internet access as an additional path along with a primary MPLS circuit – turning each race pit into a hybrid-WAN connected edge. Direct Internet access allows flexibility to accommodate for any sudden spikes in bandwidth demand during a race. SD-WAN enables prioritised and dynamic traffic steering of mission-critical race data, such as telemetry and video, by recognising the underlying network performance and application experience, ensuring the traffic is always steered through the best possible path,” says Kannemeyer.
The solution optimises the use of multiple transports (Internet, MPLS, wireless) to direct and prioritise traffic based on pre-set parameters like time, data priority, application, application and network experience. Additionally, McLaren can see network and bandwidth availability and capacity needs quickly to immediately optimise data transmission during a race, giving them an edge to adjust and deploy changes in real-time.
“With Versa’s SD-WAN, McLaren benefits from a software-defined platform that enables the engineering teams to quickly set up the network infrastructure before every race. Single touch deployment and centralised control and provisioning of network services like secure track to HQ connectivity, application traffic policies, unified threat management (UTM) and Web proxy makes it easier and quicker for them to set up secure optimised network connectivity in preparation for race weekend,” says Kannemeyer.