Smart Companies: Formula One and Acronis

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Smart Companies: Formula One and Acronis

Racing drivers and their teams obviously have no time to lose. That goes for laps and laptops: A typical Formula One race car can generate up to three terabytes of data over the course of a racing weekend – data that needs to be stored and sent back home to the team of developers who will use them to shave fractions of seconds off the car’s fastest round.

by Tim Cole

When Serguei Beloussov, a serial entrepreneur and globetrotter, founded a company he called Acronis back in 2003, race cars were far from his mind. Data, on the other hand, were something he cared for passionately. Born in the USSR, where “being in business was considered a crime punishable by jail,” he studied physics and electronics before completing his PhD in computer science and moving to Singapore. “Your data are your life,” he sums up, so protecting them is, in his eyes, a fundamental human right. At Acronis, he focused on developing on-premises and cloud software for cyber protection, including backup, disaster recovery, and secure file sync and share as well as data access. Its solution, Acronis Cyber Cloud, enables service providers to deliver cyber protection to their customers. But a backup is only as good as the time it takes to restore a compromised system. And nowhere is speed more essential than in racing. “Motorsports is driven by data,” Beloussov believes. Besides, there is glamour attached to anything and anyone involved in the world of racing. So, in 2016, Acronis signed its first deal with Torro Rosso, one of two teams owned by Dietrich Mateschitz, who gave the world the Red Bull energy drink. Since then, Acronis has become the leading cyber protection company for motorsport teams across Formula One, including Williams Racing and Racing Point, as well as the NIO333, Venturi, DS Techeetah Formula E teams, Prema Racing in F2, Roush Fenway Racing, in NASCAR, Australian Supercars, and recently has branched out into English Premier League soccer, with giants like Manchester City, Arsenal, and Liverpool relying on Acronis systems. Data is truly at the heart of modern day motorsports. Long before the starting flag is waved designers and engineers will have spent endless hours analyzing data collected in previous races and practice rounds, turning those details into a plan of action for improving the car. Teams are known to announce different upgrades prior to racing weekends – some changes are visible while others are hidden under the car shell. But until the car goes around the track and brings results, these changes remain theoretical, based purely on (and driven by) data.

Your data are your life!
Serguei Beloussov, Founder and CEO, Acronis AG


Much of this is legacy data. “We had three safes full of tapes holding hundreds of terabytes of data,” Graeme Hackland, CIO at Williams Martini Racing said in a recent interview with As the data piled up, backups began taking longer and longer to complete, he recalled. It got to the point where the team could no longer handle the amount of data that needed to be protected at the Williams’ factory. New backup jobs would fail to start because the previous backups were still running. The backup window had grown too long. Data recovery also presented a challenge, said Hackland. Thanks to Acronis, he maintained, Williams was able to reduce its backup window from days to minutes, accessing and restoring any fle, from any point of time, literally at racing speed. Even more importantly, the old backup system was unable to protect the team’s cloud workloads. “We needed a data protection partner to help us be more aggressive with our cloud and make sure we always have a spare copy of all our data,” Hackland said.

Smart Companies - Formula One and Acronis - Foundation
As a student, Serguei Beloussov earned some extra cash giving lessons in physics, so teaching has always been part of his DNA. That is how he explains why, to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Acronis, he decided to establish a foundation with the goal of building 15 schools for children in underserved communities in developing countries from Tanzania to Guatemala. The latest, the Dong Na Kham School in Southern Laos, was opened in late 2019, bringing the number to eight. Two more in Nepal and Nicaragua are scheduled to open this year. Besides building schools, the Acronis Cyber Foundation has put together an “IT Skills Programme” aimed at increasing the employability of former felons by providing them with the job skills they need to rebuild their lives. In addition, the foundation publishes educational books for children, for instance Acronis and the Quantum Computer, a children’s guide to the nature and behavior of matter and energy on the atomic and subatomic level – something most grown-ups still fail to grasp.

Not least because of compliance issues: each team’s data must be protected from cyberattacks and archived in accordance with the regulations of FIA, the governing body of formula racing. The FIA may request historical data at any time in the future to verify the team’s actions, and the team needs to hand over the data within a specified time limit. Beloussov now holds Singaporean citizenship, the country where Acronis was originally founded in 2003. Most of his 1,500 people are scattered around the world, many of them working from home, and the Swiss headquarters has only 25 present there on a daily basis with others working remotely. The number is scheduled to grow considerably, though, following the establishment of the Schaffhausen Institute of Technology (SIT), an international research-led institution engaging in basic research in the fields of artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and digital health, supported by Acronis. “Students, academics, and industry need a new model of education for the challenges in today’s hyper-connected, data-driven world. SIT bridges the gap between education, research and applications for industry,” he says. The race, it seems, isn’t just to the swiftest, but also to the smartest.

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