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's performance. Top performance is also required to deliver an exceptional viewing and online experience to racing 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?
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 have 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 communications platforms 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, linking 240 countries and territories. This, in turn, enables the Formula One Management team and its stakeholders to tap into a resilient and super-fast connection capable of transporting vital real-time data securely across the globe. At the race circuits, temporary secure 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 ten-fold.
The benefits of fibre-over-satellite include speed, bandwidth and responsive, cross-platform content delivery. Having high-speed connectivity at the trackside enables the F1 teams to transfer data - engine performance, for example - 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 are key
The Formula 1 website 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 - including 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 a global 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.
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Mehul Kapadia is MD for F1 Business atTata Communications.