I am a huge NASCAR fan, following races since I was a teenager. It’s a sport where champions are defined by tenth of a second; the smallest detail in a race car makes the difference between winning and losing. NASCAR has the longest season of any sport in the United States, and the competition is fast-paced and relentless. Hendrick Motorsports holds a record 11 car owner championships in NASCAR’s premier division and has four of the most successful teams, including car number 5 driven by Kasey Kahne, car 24 driven by Chase Elliott, car 48 driven by Jimmie Johnson, and car 88 driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr – they are a team to be reckoned with.
“The biggest challenge that we have is keeping a competitive advantage against 39 other teams that we race against on a weekly basis.”— Matthew Cochran, Manager of Information Technologies at Hendrick Motorsports
Windows 10 provides speed, versatility and enhanced security for its versatile teams
Hendrick has already upgraded all of its 600 employees to Windows 10 Enterprise, giving them a common mobile platform and the ability to work across devices. Not only does Windows 10 keep their devices and data more secure than any other operating system, the experience works seamlessly on whatever size screen they are using – whether it’s Surface Pro 3, a Panasonic Toughbook or a Windows 10 mobile device. The IT team has also embraced the new approach of Windows as a service to keep all employees up to date.
By moving to Windows 10, the IT team says it’s seen a 64% reduction in installation and patch time. Outside the office, staff use their devices in a non-traditional environment—the racetrack. Hendrick race engineers have to keep pace with activities on the track and in a highly mobile work environment.
“The racetrack’s probably one of the harshest environments that IT can operate in. We utilize a combination of Windows 10 devices in the garage, on race car haulers, and all the way to the pit boxes. Windows 10 works seamlessly across all those devices from small; 8” devices to large monitor laptops, and that’s what so important to us and such a huge benefit to Hendrick.”— Matthew Cochran, Manager of Information Technologies at Hendrick Motorsports
Using data and machine learning to push the limits and take action
With strict regulations governing stock cars, engineers have a limited number of ways they can legally change a car to make it go faster. We worked with Hendrick to develop a customized proprietary universal Windows 10 app powered by the Microsoft Cloud to collect data and distill it quickly enough to inform decisions during a race. Prior to using the solution, much of this data was collected manually and could take many hours and multiple engineers to parcel this data into a manageable format. Now with the power of the Azure cloud and Windows 10, the team can digitally transform their process into real-time data to free up engineers for more mission-critical tasks.
“Before, we had all this aggregated data that we really couldn’t do much with, and now with Azure we can parse it down to really get something useful. The true power of using Azure is that you can make a more informed decision, and nine times out of ten, that’s going to translate into greater performance.”— Tom Gray, #24 Team Engineer at Hendrick Motorsports
Hendrick selected the Microsoft Azure cloud to analyze large amounts of structured and unstructured data. Cortana Intelligence Suite, a feature of Azure Machine Learning, allows Hendrick to automate data flow. Teams can collect data from the car and timing and scoring feeds from NASCAR, push it up to the cloud for analysis, and then pull back information that’s valuable. With our cloud-based services, Hendrick does not have to invest in costly server infrastructure and instead can pay by the minute for only the computing power the team needs. For instance, on race day, the team can bring a cluster of virtual machines online, and then take it offline as soon as the event is over.
“We have high-performance computing power with Azure that we can scale up only when we need it compared to building a $200,000 infrastructure and keeping it running 24 hours a day, there’s really no question.”— David Hood, Engineer and Data Scientist at Hendricks Motorsports
Adopting high octane productivity tools
Hendrick also wanted to standardize on communication, collaboration, and productivity applications companywide, so it deployed Microsoft Office 365 alongside Windows 10. Since the Hendrick racing team supports four different cars, it’s essential that data gets shared among all team members. Employees were quick to start using OneNote to share notes and Skype for Business Online for videoconferencing and messaging teammates during practices and races, when engineers, coaches, and other staff are out on the track in a noisy environment.
“We use OneNote to share information from the racetrack back to our home campus. We have a lot of data throughput and a lot of iteration going on, and it’s paramount for us to be able to share that information among the four teams,” says Hood. “It’s a more collaborative effort now, and as an organization as a whole we’re much stronger because of that.”
The combination of Windows 10, Microsoft Azure, and Office 365—all accessible through a single sign-in on a wide variety of devices—is what makes their experience so powerful. From the IT side, moving to the cloud has reduced an IT maintenance and support burden, and staff is able to spend time more effectively.
Racing toward success
Hendrick Motorsports is keeping its eye on the prize: and by delivering a seamless experience that allows its teams to be inventive, consistent, and collaborative in their decision making is giving them a competitive edge.
“A season is a marathon of 39 races. When you’re successful, it’s the challenges you win that you remember, not necessarily the champagne at the end,” says Doug Duchardt, General Manager at Hendrick Motorsports. “We’re using Windows 10, Microsoft Cloud and Office 365 to work together and get better every day—just as we do across all our race teams.”
I couldn’t agree more!
Updated September 26, 2016 11:42 am