'My ambition is to be the first team to have all trackside systems in the cloud,' says Caterham F1 IT head

By Danny Palmer
30 Jul 2014 View Comments
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Caterham wants to be the first team on the Formula 1 grid to host its whole trackside IT infrastructure in the cloud.

Initially founded as Team Lotus in 2010, the new outfit had to prepare for the globetrotting nature of Formula 1 - which this season has Grand Prix events taking place in 19 countries - and for Bill Peters, head of group IT at Caterham Group, the best way to do this was by deploying cloud-based solutions from Dell Software.

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"We're a very heavily virtualised environment, we set out from the get-go to virtualise our enterprise and trackside systems," he told Computing. And while the team still needs to use a lot of hardware – it uses Dell's PowerEdge VRTX shared infrastructure platform in its wind tunnel – Peters believes cloud represents the way forward.

"We see that as the next step from IT in terms of stepping towards cloud, looking at a hybrid cloud environment," he said. "My ambition is to be the first team to have our trackside systems in the cloud, so we're planning progression towards that."

Peters explained how the team "set out to virtualise our trackside environment from the outset", which he described as giving Caterham a slight edge on its rivals when it comes to transporting IT infrastructure, as the team doesn't need to spend as long waiting for equipment to become operational, which means it can get cars on track quickly during test sessions.

"Typically lots of teams still carry four or five racks full of IT equipment to every event. We've managed to condense that down to a half-size rack with a completely virtualised environment," he said.

"[Another benefit] of that is we save a huge amount of money in terms of shifting this kit around the world. Ultimately, we'd like to not carry any kit other than tablets and we're gradually moving towards that situation," he said.

Peters described how his IT team was initially sceptical about the deployment of cloud technology, but has since come round to it.

"They obviously had concerns about it, about what it'd mean for their jobs. If they were looking after an in-house solution at the moment, they'd see that as their role," he said, but explained how now IT staff can focus on other, more important tasks than maintenance.

"But I very much see it as commoditising the administrative side of things and allowing my guys to focus on where I need to focus, which is applications and tools. I think it's just a shift in emphasis," Peters said.

He also explained why he decided to stop providing staff with BlackBerry devices as an enterprise mobility tool and instead move to an iPhone-based mobile infrastructure.

Look out for Computing's full interview with Caterham Group head of group IT Bill Peters, which will be published in the near future.

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