31/07/2013

By Mehul Kapadia, Managing Director, F1® Business, Tata Communications


Formula 1® is all about the drive for innovation, using the latest technologies and seamless teamwork to get that extra tenth of a second out of the team car’s performance. Top performance is also required to deliver an exceptional viewing and online experience to race fans all over the world, as they are an important part of the ecosystem. The organisation performs one of the biggest logistical undertakings that exists in sport today by moving its operations to a new temporary location almost every two weeks during the race season.

Grand Prix races occur in some of the most diverse and challenging environments across the globe, from the streets of Monaco to the desert of Abu Dhabi. No matter how difficult or remote the terrain, every race venue has to be able to host thousands of people and be connected to the rest of the world and fans everywhere. In a sport where milliseconds count, even the smallest downtime can be disastrous, and technology plays a critical part in this operation.

Businesses today operate in an incredibly volatile economic environment. Formula 1® has always worked under extreme conditions and is a master at adapting to new challenges. As more and more businesses go global, comprising several geographically disparate teams, the collaboration and communications technology used by the Formula 1® teams should provide inspiration for today’s enterprises.

So what can enterprises learn from Formula 1®?

Using the power of a global communications network

Formula 1® races are a masterclass in large-scale event organisation within a tight timeframe and it is unlikely that your organisation will require to put on an event for a global audience on a week’s notice; however, for any organisation that operates across multiple locations, the same principles apply: data and communication channels need to be fast, reliable, secure and available 24/7.

While many of the generic requirements are the same from one business to the next, every organisation has its own individual culture that a communications platform needs to adapt to. It is therefore important to look for a partner that understands your industry and is able to offer a customised service and high levels of support throughout the working relationship.

Formula One Management, for example, chose a partner that was able to deliver a consistent and reliable connection that powers the organisation’s diverse global operations including the head office and temporary race locations. The organisation has access to the world’s largest Tier 1 network spanning the world, linking 240 countries and territories, enabling the Formula One Management team and its stakeholders to tap into a resilient and super-fast connection that is able to transport vital real-time data securely across the globe. At the race circuits, temporarysecure MPLS circuits are installed, configured and tested by the partner in just one week. Thanks to Tata Communications’ network, bandwidth speed at the grand prix venues has increased by a factor of ten compared to previously.

The benefits of fibre over satellite include speed, bandwidth and any-device content delivery. By having high speed connectivity at the trackside enables the F1® teams to transfer data, such as engine performance, in real-time to engineers on the other side of the world. It is no surprise then that the communications infrastructure is the crucial backbone to the F1® industry.

Managed services and hosting — a key consideration for today’s business

The Formula 1® website, www.formula1.com, is a key destination for race fans all over the world. On any given race weekend, visitor numbers spike to up to 100 times the usual number as a vast amount of real-time data is shared with up to seven million simultaneous viewers in over 188 countries. While most organisations won’t usually experience a sudden onslaught of such scale, for those operating in industries such as e-commerce, financial services or media, sudden traffic spikes are very common and advanced load balancing technology is required to keep the lights on.

In case of the Formula 1® website, the diversity of content that includes rich-media, live-streams, live race reports and more, demands that the web systems provide consistent performance and user experience across a multitude of bandwidths and rich-media capable devices. It requires consistent delivery of content to users accessing the site from anywhere in the world, even on slow connectors such as 2G and dialup, and requires instant-on delivery and highly reduced latency.

A bundle of services including a global content delivery network, global IP network, on-site engineering as well as comprehensive business continuity and disaster recovery plans provide a fully resilient system with built-in redundancy. This ensures that in the event of an outage in the primary site, everything will switch over to back-up systems and the system will keep running as normal at all times — a crucial requirement for any business in today’s 24/7 business culture.

Communication — the heart and soul of an international organisation

Formula 1® is a multi-billion dollar business that operates within a framework of high-profile partners, including race teams, sponsors, media organisations and fans. The communications infrastructure is the backbone to this truly global business. It is an industry that shows what teamwork, dedication and the drive for innovation can achieve, especially if you have the right tools to play with. It is a model for the agile, modern, international business, and I am sure any organisation with global ambitions can learn something by observing its approach, whatever industry it operates in.