Learning from McLaren’s Data Storage Strategy
Posted on Tuesday, July 23, 2019
As a major Formula 1 team that invests millions of dollars in making improvements to their race cars, McLaren are heavy investors in IT and data storage technologies. In a wide-ranging interview with TheNextPlatform, Paul Brimacombe, head of IT architecture at The McLaren Group discusses many of the storage challenges they face.
A new era of software defined storage
Because of the unusual nature of their business, McLaren operates a mix of storage platforms. A large data center at head office performs Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence operations on information being fed back by thousands of sensors built into each car. 850 virtual servers are complemented by unspecified HPC and supercomputing capabilities.
McLaren operate a further 850 virtual machines hosted on Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services. As with other public cloud users, flexibility is the major factor behind cloud adoption.
Finally, the race team is backed by a ‘portable’ data center that is shipped between each race venue over the course of the year. Comprising two racks of Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd servers, the platform receives telemetry data from each car, helping to provide real time insights that diagnose the health of the vehicle, and provide important feedback for use by the race strategists.
Another server refresh
Tucked away in the middle of the interview is an almost throw-away comment about previous storage strategy. By selecting a uniform Dell EMC VNX layer with VPLEX, data operations became somewhat constrained. Brimacombe is quoted as saying ‘Now we have one storage type with one performance tier and one characteristic, where actually our modern businesses– Applied, Automotive, Racing– sometimes want block storage.’
The next refresh will see a combination of technologies deployed; VNX platform to Isilon for file storage, to ECS for object storage and to VxFlex for block storage.
Even for those businesses who don’t deal with millions of data points daily, McLaren’s experiences are of interest. In order to achieve maximum performance without compromising flexibility, organizations will need to consider their technology choices carefully.
The good news is that in a software-defined storage platform, the underlying hardware is less of an issue. Which means that it may not be too late to adjust storage type with the right management console in place.