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Sooraj Shah

Contributing Editor

Sooraj Shah is Contributing Editor of New Statesman Tech with a focus on C-level IT leader interviews. He is also a freelance technology journalist.

Ducati redesigns IT architecture to make an impact on MotoGP circuit

Ducati’s goal is to design and manufacturer top-of-the-range motorcycles which help to give its racers an edge in the MotoGP season, consisting of nine Grand Prix held in 16 different countries.

To do this, there’s a growing reliance on data; data can help to decide how a motorcycle should be constructed, how the driver should modify the way they’re racing, and how the motorcycle’s parts are working before and after a race.

The Ducati team had been using a standard configuration based on HP and IBM servers for computational nodes and EMC for its storage system. But this was no longer fit-for-purpose, according to Ducati Motor Holding chief technology officer Konstantin Kostenarov.

“We needed to optimise the speed of our set-up for our R&D department to access the data and the NetApp technology was the best for this,” he tells NS Tech.

As CTO, Kostenarov manages the infrastructure and IT architecture for Ducati, meaning he has a team of system engineers and architecture engineers that report to him, and he is the focal point when it comes to technology.

Kostenarov explains that the traditional set-up also left Ducati with several other problems.

“[What we had] required too much space in our data centre, and energy consumption was too high. We also have the physical servers for our SAP ERP systems, and so we needed to redesign everything in order to optimise space, energy consumption and increase agility,” Kostenarov says.

Ducati had benchmarked hyper-converged infrastructure from HPE, Dell EMC, NetApp and one other vendor, but decided that NetApp’s Hybrid Cloud Infrastructure (HCI) was the best choice for its needs. As well as NetApp HCI, Ducati is using NetApp’s High-Performance Computing Cluster to conduct telemetry processing directly inside the box, on the track and in real-time. For its storage needs it is using NetApp All Flash FAS (AFF), which is helping the company to manage around 200 applications and consolidate a wide range of workloads. In addition, the motorcycle manufacturer is using NetApp for its disaster recovery requirements.

The combination of all of these products has enabled Ducati to build what it calls a data fabric, which means it can tap into the data generated by over 60 physical sensors installed on its MotoGP motorcycles.

“We need to collect the data from the motorcycle when the bike is inside the box and then use this information. In the past we had to calculate the computational power needed inside the box and improve the infrastructure by modifying it but if we are able to connect directly to the computational power of a cloud provider then we’re able to be more flexible,” Kostenarov explains.

While Formula 1 cars are able to be connected during practices, MotoGP bikes can’t be – meaning that the 8GB of data collected during practice sessions is critical prior to a race. At every stop, data is downloaded through a cable connected to the ECU’s setup software, and the Ducati team can then decide whether to make any adjustments on the bike to help the driver. This new setup can be deployed in minutes and uploaded onto the bike, with the hope of Ducati’s racers gaining an advantage when the race actually begins.

The use of NetApp’s technology has also led to improvements on the manufacturing side; Ducati has cut down the time required to develop prototypes and launch new motorcycles by 30 per cent.

Challenges and next steps

According to Kostenarov one of the biggest challenges with implementing NetApp HCI was in balancing the needs of the racing team, with Ducati’s other teams. In addition, the ability to just plug in HCI and turn it on to make it work on engineers’ laptops was another challenge.

The next step for the company is to further consolidate its back office systems with NetApp HCI and NetApp AFF.