The IT manager of Renault F1 explains how he is managing his domain even with a significant budget cut, and advises fellow CIOs to align IT goals tightly with business requirements
In many ways, the problems faced by IT managers across the world are the same. However, each organisation battles with its own set of challenges as well, especially as it tries to come to terms with the worsening environment of global gloom.
"When you talk about datacentre and the infrastructure back at the factories I think that will be common to most IT managers and companies. The unique challenges appear around the racing elements, taking your infrastructure to 18 different countries or venues, and going racing and making sure that it stays reliable, and you can get the data securely back from the track. You start to lose control of your data because it is sitting in another country somewhere and you are pushing it back to two factories one in France, one in England," points out Graeme Hackland, IT manager of the Renault Formula One team.
According to him, the constant movement of data - from track, to infrastructure, to mobile workforce and back to home base - is a huge challenge. So also is data management and integrity, as well as storage.
"As the IT team we have looked at various technologies to help us with this challenge. There is data in motion and data at rest. I think we have done a pretty good job with data in motion, especially with information that flows to our third party manufacturers with our data rights management (DRM) solution," says Hackland.
He stresses though that more can be done with data at rest, and says the wider adoption of DRM across the company for internal functions is something that he will be looking into in the near future.
The firm has also systematically reduced its dependence on tape in recent times.
"We put two layers in between the servers and tape storage. We have put in a near line device that immediately reduces costs. I have also just put in a virtual tape library (VTL), which works well for us and has dramatically reduced restore times. The VLT will initially give us the ability to keep all of our monthly backups that are incrementals, and hopefully we will never have to move them to the tapes," says Hackland.
The company has also been busy with its datacentre facilities last year, and has recently put in place a supercomputer. In 2009, Hackland and his team plan to look intensely at virtualisation, de-duplication and security.
However, with the credit crunch affecting the motor sports industry in a major fashion, Hackland expects that some aspects of their work might be curtailed.
"Our IT budgets have been cut already by 70%. That is a significant reduction. And we are cutting our projects accordingly. I think the rate of development that we had last year we will not sustain this year. So communication with the directors is important, much more this year than it has ever been in terms of making sure that we are delivering the services that they need, that they understand that perhaps we cannot deliver everything that they need," says Hackland.
He also emphasises the necessity for IT managers to get in touch with the business goals, and align themselves more tightly with them, in order to emerge as unscathed as possible.