Data Center Key In The World Of High Tech Racing

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Practice has begun, marking the beginning of the 2009 FIA Formula One World Championship. The first race of the season is being held this Sunday, March 29 in Melbourne, Australia in Albert Park.

The course there, as described on the Formula One Web site, is a “technically demanding, high-speed ‘street’ circuit.” Cars reach maximum speeds of 300 km/h (185 mph) and average 225 km/h (140 mph) around the 5.3 kilometre (3.3 mile) 16-turn lap. The track surface is bumpy, particularly in the braking areas, hard on the brakes and slippery at the start of the race weekend before the road rubbers in.

Twenty drivers from these 10 teams practiced on Friday (in Australia), with their standings as follows after the second round of the day: #1 McLaren-Mercedes; #2 Ferrari; #3 BMW Sauber; #4 Renault; #5 Toyota; #6 STR-Ferrari; #7 RBR-Renault; #8 Williams-Toyota; #9 Force India-Mercedes; #10 Brawn-Mercedes

The Ferrari Action
In a recent trip to Maranello, Italy, I had the opportunity to visit the data center for Scuderia Ferrari, the division of the Ferrari automobile company concerned with racing (the Ferrari team finished the 2008 Formula One season in 1st position). The data center, located at the Ferrari headquarters, was put into operation in 2005 and supports the IT operations of the company’s Formula One activities.

This steering wheel from a 2006 race car shows the numerous controls used by drivers.
This steering wheel from a 2006 race car shows the numerous controls used by drivers.

The cars that are raced in Formula One events are high tech machines. At each race, Scuderia Ferrari sets up an on-site data center where team technicians track their car’s performance during a race in real time. They can then communicate information to the driver, enabling the driver to track all aspects of the car’s performance (i.e. acceleration, braking) as they compete. Gathering this information also enables the team to improve performance for upcoming races.

The data center at Ferrari plays a central part in this exchange of information, and as Piergiorgio Grossi, CIO, Ferrari explained to the group during my visit, the data center needed to provide two things—flexibility and reliability (he expected more than 99.999%).

The facility was built to house both medium- and high-density operations (drawing up to 20kW per rack); to that end the designers took a “box within a box” approach, housing the high-density, more cooling-intensive, section separately within the larger data center space.

Flexibility in configuration, capacity, and cooling led Ferrari to utilize APC by Schneider Electric power and cooling equipment (APC also oversaw the construction, except for the IT equipment). The company chose to use APC’s Row Based cooling and built the facility using the APC InfraStruXure standardized methodology.

Piergiorgio Grossi, CIO, Ferrari
Piergiorgio Grossi, CIO, Ferrari

During the tour, Rob Bunger, director, business
development enterprise & systems, North America at APC, noted, “Ferrari was an early adopter of Row Based cooling and built a data center using the APC InfraStruXure standardized methodology. Not only have they reliably powered and cooled high density loads, but they have also been able to grow with IT refreshes and improvements to the power & cooling with minimal disruption to their operations.” Commenting on the well maintained appearance of the facility, Bunger pointed to Ferrari’s implementation of standardized solutions, along with their operation procedures.

Scuderia Ferrarri data center in Maranello, Italy
Scuderia Ferrarri data center in Maranello, Italy

Massimo MartelliRossi, data center manager at Ferrari, has overseen the space for the past four years, and he takes great care to ensure the facility is in in tip-top shape. Several times during our visit, he used a trusty device to spot check the temperature and humidity within the rows of server racks (he can also check this data from his desk).

Cabling is tidily bundled above the racks. MartelliRossi explains this makes for easier access to change out components in the center. He also explains that Ferrari’s decision to locate cabling above the racks, rather than under floor, avoids two potential problems—damage to cable, in case the two large cooling pipes below ever burst, and prevention of rabbits and other creatures from chewing on them.

The data center of Scuderia Ferrari is in the thick of its high season. For the next eight months, throughout the Formula One season, this high tech gem in the Italian countryside will keep things moving on racetracks throughout the world.

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