“Twenty-two times a year, we build a data centre right down at the edge,” said Ed Green, head of commercial technology at McLaren Racing, a British motor racing team based in Surrey, England.
For McLaren, the edge is wherever in the world the company’s Formula 1 racing team is competing. An IT setup at each racing site links the entire team, including mechanics, engineers, crew members, and the drivers of McLaren’s two Formula 1 race cars.
“Once these two cars make their way around the track – and Lando [Norris] and Daniel [Ricciardo] do it at 200 miles an hour – 300 sensors are producing a terabyte-and-a-half worth of information that we have to analyse to try and find the edge. And when I talk about edge, it's milliseconds,” said Green, who spoke at the VMware Explore conference.
Milliseconds can make the difference between finishing first or last.
“Everything we do is about marginal gains and trying to find ways to go faster," Green said, "and that means our people have to work all around the world.”
When the pandemic hit, McLaren had the advantage of being accustomed to supporting remote employees’ technology requirements. “We've done that for over 30 years. We've been working out at the edge in garages, in trucks, from hotel rooms, the airplane lounge, you name it,” Green said.
So on the one hand, IT could focus on “taking the good lessons we've learned from having a team of 80 engineers traveling the world and scaling that into bedrooms, front rooms, and wherever [employees] are working from,” Green said.
But on the other hand, it wasn’t that simple. “Delivering IT services to the people at the edge used to be a case of delivering a laptop and stand back and don't touch it. But we needed to do something different,” Green said.
One step McLaren took is to deploy VMware Workspace ONE across the entire organisation. Workspace ONE is VMware's platform for delivering and managing applications across multiple devices.
It integrates access control, application management and multi-platform endpoint management. For McLaren, it's a way to manage access to applications that might be in its own data centres, in the public cloud, or at the edge trackside.
At the VMware Explore event, Green showed an example of a technician who’s a tire expert, accessing real-time information from the field. “He'll be analysing all of the data coming from the car to predict what tire we should move to next,” Green said. “That's critical in this modern era of Formula 1 racing.”
Workspace ONE was also key to the deployment of a new fleet of Android devices that McLaren gave to employees in the field.
“We put Android phones into people's pockets, all running Workspace ONE, allowing us to deliver secure access right to the edge. So the engineers can look at trackside data on their phones in a secure way,” Green said.
Off the track, McLaren uses Workspace ONE to manage technology that’s available in its guest hospitality areas. In the past, those areas were physically adjacent to the track but digitally cut off from the action.
“You could go and have a look down on top of the cars, but you couldn't get the data onto your phone or device,” Green said. “We wanted a way to securely deploy a suite of applications so our guests, whenever they joined us at the race, could see [data] on their tablets and phones and use it to interact with us a little bit more.”
“It's no good saying we’re one of the most technically advanced sports on the planet when all you can do in our hospitality area is just look down on the garage.”
Now with the newly deployed applications, “you can look at the same weather charts the strategists look at. You can watch the race. You can look inside the garage and even see some of the telemetry coming from the cars,” Green said. And, importantly for IT, “if those devices leave the circuit, we know we can shut them down and keep them secure.”