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Life in the IT fast lane: A chat with AT&T Williams' IT manager

Life in the IT fast lane: A chat with AT&T Williams' IT manager

AT&T Williams F1 IT manager Chris Williams talks Cloud and security

When you're IT manager of a Formula 1 racing team, getting time to watch all the races is something of a luxury. Forget about travelling around the world with the pit crew to exotic locations, too.

However, AT&T Williams F1 IT manager, Chris Taylor, isn’t complaining about having to stay at the team’s headquarters in Oxfordshire, England. From there, Taylor told Computerworld Australia he was looking forward to checking data from the next F1 race taking place in Istanbul, Turkey on May 8.

Thanks to a new temporary point of presence networking link from chief sponsor AT&T, the team is able to send data almost immediately back to Williams’ UK headquarters for analysing and processing.

Having a technology company for a sponsor is probably one of the biggest perks for Taylor; his job of analysing data has certainly become a lot easier with the recent addition of a Williams Technology Centre (WTC) at the Qatar Science & Technology Park.

The US telco has also seen fit to provide the team with a suite of advanced communications services to support its development and provide communications between the centre and Williams F1’s headquarters back in the UK. This will ensure that the Qatar-based centre becomes a virtual extension of the team’s core operation in the UK, ensuring speedy collaboration between the two locations over a virtual private network (VPN), again provided by AT&T.

The team is rolling out a wide area network (WAN) acceleration system in order to compress data travelling across those links between Qatar and the factory.

"With virtualisation we are now able the reliance of the network," he said. "We can now transfer data back quicker to the UK from race tracks overseas.”

Even the website is being outsourced to AT&T’s Cloud platform, offloading the responsibility of managing traffic peaks there. The modernisation of all these systems has helped the team gain pace on the speed of the cars racing around the track.

"An engineer in the UK is through remote session connected to that and can see that activity in real time. Traditionally he could not do that, he would have to wait for the data to be generated, uploaded, captured and transferred back to the UK."

While the AT&T Williams team was used to dealing with keeping racing data under wraps, Taylor said it was comforting to have a sponsor take care of the website details.

After Rubens Barrichello placed 13th in Shanghai, China, the team was now gearing up for the European circuit races.

"The IT equipment has just arrived back from Shanghai so we'll service that equipment and make sure there are no outstanding issues for Istanbul."

The winning racer himself, however, is quick to downplay notions that the technology behind the scenes or in the car are surpassing his own ability.

Once the race starts, Taylor will monitor it from home while also checking emails sent from the pit crew.

And if Barrichello pulls off a win, he would certainly be celebrating in suitable fashion.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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