Communicating at the speed of F1

By Howard Solomon

Assistant Editor, Network World Canada

It’s Formula One week in Montreal again, which means IT companies have been urging industry reporters to come to the track and see how they support some of the world’s leading-edge racing cars. AMD (Ferrari), Intel and Dell (BMW), SAP and Vodafone (McLaren), Siemens (Red Bull), Panasonic and EMC (Toyota) are among the companies that have invested products and marketing dollars. AT&T, lead sponsor of the Williams squad, invited us on Thursday to take a peek at the garage and then chat about network and communications technology.

Formula One teams, for those who don’t know, run multi-million dollar machines at races in 17 countries. The cars are wired with hundreds of sensors that spew out gigabytes of data on everything from the temperature of the tires to the shape of the suspension. Much of it has to be then uploaded to the teams’ headquarters – mostly in Europe – for massaging, then fired back to the tracks for last-minute adjustments.

Before the company came along, Williams, which is not backed with bucks from a major car company, was stumbling in the dark ages with satellite and DSL links, taking about 40 minutes to transmit 50Mb files a day.

Since AT&T became a sponsor two years ago, it jumped to a dedicated MPLS connection at race tracks (which

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