After a tumultuous winter for the team and the sport of F1 at large, Lotus is looking to bounce back in a major way with a striking new car design and overhauled IT infrastructure.
Much like the opening race in Australia, in which neither Lotus machine crossed the finish line, the IT revamp has proven to be a challenge, albeit a rewarding one, according to the team's IT/IS director Michael Taylor.
"We're slightly behind [with] the ambitious targets we set and the business not being ready to accept all of the changes," admitted Taylor. "Downtime in the Formula 1 world is definitely not an option so trying to migrate a legacy data centre to a new all-singing, all-dancing dual-purpose facility has been quite a challenge."
Last year, V3 spoke to Taylor's predecessor Graeme Hackland (now at rival team Williams) about his intentions to overhaul its IT infrastructure, with help from the likes of EMC and Avanade, to ensure it was ready for the seemingly never-ending data growth all F1 teams are experiencing.
"We probably underestimated the amount of work involved," said Taylor. Nonetheless, he said, the experience itself has been "fantastic", with EMC in particular working closely with the team to take it over to a converged infrastructure model.
One of the most recent upgrades to the Lotus IT operation was a major performance increase to its computer-aided design (CAD) systems, which saw the time taken to process some common tasks reduced from 60 to five seconds.
IT is often the part of a business which is only noticed when the email system goes down, a trait that is even recognisable in Lotus. "We're always challenged about what we're not doing as opposed to what we are doing," Taylor explained. However, he has a plan to promote the IT brand within the team.
"One of the initiatives we've got is to make sure we recognise our successes," he said. "We're into the third month of the year and already a fair way down our list of 20 successfully delivered improvements to the business from an IT perspective. We are just starting to resonate that message and there are groups inside the business which are reporting improvements."
Nonetheless, the complexity of the 2014 cars, which place a much greater emphasis on hybrid electric power than ever before, put a huge strain on the team in terms of data analytics. Perversely, even though the amount of data created by the cars will increase, the amount of data which is actually usable simply does not scale.
"Over the last two years we've seen 80 percent data growth," Taylor explained. "I could comfortably say we're not seeing an increase in the data we're accessing that's in line with that."
As is always the way, time and money are against the analytics team. "If we had unbound resources to both of those, the cars would be 10 seconds per lap faster," said Taylor.
Lotus had ambitions at the start of 2013 to be world champions by the end of 2015. While right now that may seem far-fetched, things can change quickly in F1. And there isn't much that can drive that change quicker than solid IT.
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