Next generation network security: Simplifying and protecting network infrastructure to power motorsport further

Next generation network security: Simplifying and protecting network infrastructure to power motorsport further

Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) has become a cornerstone of the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team’s strategy. Having previously dealt with complexity, high management costs and obsolescence, Cato Networks’ solution has provided a secure and comprehensive environment for real-time data transmission. Friedemann Kurz, Head of IT, Porsche Motorsport, tells us how providing seamless and dynamic operations is key to help drive the sport forward.

Friedemann Kurz, Head of IT, Porsche Motorsport

In November 2022, the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team announced its partnership with Cato Networks, declaring Cato the team’s official SASE partner. Cato Networks provides the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team with the connectivity and security they need to deliver superior on-track performance during the races. With Cato Networks, the IT team is ready for the next curve, race and whatever’s next.

The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship is a global electric car racing series. Established in 2014, the racing series is designed to promote and encourage sustainability and innovation in the automotive world and for transportation solutions altogether. Formula E is also a very technological and data driven event. The TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team is one of the competing teams.

The challenge: Transmitting large volumes of data in real-time

As a Formula E competitor, the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team relies on insights and instructions delivered in real-time from the team’s headquarters in Germany, which are based on live driving data from the race. The driving data is transmitted from more than 100 sensors in the cars and the garage during the race to the HQ in Germany. Transmitted data includes data points like the tyre temperature, battery depletion, timing data and videos of the driver. Informed by this data and vast data sets collected from each event, guidance for the driver is sent back to the racing site in real-time.

The accuracy and reliability of this process is critical for the team’s ability to perform on-track. However, the bandwidth provided to each team during the races is limited to a maximum of 50 megabits. Since the team needs to transmit live TV feeds, live intercom services and live communication across several different channels simultaneously, across the globe and with minimal latency and packet loss, 50 megabits is insufficient. When racing, every split-second matters.

In the past, the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team relied on the infrastructure provided at the track. However, as the network became more complex and moved to the cloud, these solutions were not able to answer their needs. They also did not address the security aspect of the connection.

Deploying for a ‘moving circus’

In addition to bandwidth and latency challenges, the nature of the races creates unique network set up requirements. Instead of having the infrastructure deployed and ready to use before the season starts, the team is required to travel to each new racing site before each competition, on a weekly or monthly basis, and set up the network. They only have a few hours to do so each time at this ‘moving circus’.

To make things more complicated, Formula E restricts the number of people allowed on the racetrack. Therefore, the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team needed a solution that was simple to set up and use.

The TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team chose Cato Networks’ SASE

The TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team started looking for a solution to help address their network and security challenges. They began by looking into SD-WAN solutions. However, they quickly identified the benefits of SASE (Secure Access Service Edge). Cato Networks delivers a cloud-native SASE solution that converges SD-WAN with security functions in a unified, cloud-native service. Al network and security capabilities are delivered with high performance and low latency on a global scale.

In addition, the setup is simple, requiring only a small Cato socket. SASE has become a cornerstone of the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team’s strategy. Cato’s global and optimised SASE solution connects the drivers, the garage and the HQ with a high-performing infrastructure. During the races, vital data is transmitted across Cato’s global private backbone for real-time analysis at the HQ and back to the drivers and on-site teams to boost driving performance.

A global, optimised and reliable network solution

With Cato Networks’ technology, the team’s engineers – including IT product managers, IT support team, track support engineers and the Motorsport IT department – are reliably transmitting data in real-time. The HQ team, in turn, can analyse the data and make informed decisions instantly. Cato streamlines the process while enabling the team to maximise the use of data from their cars. In the first week of usage, the team transferred more than 1.2TB of data. In the Cape Town race, 1450GB of data were transmitted.

Thanks to Cato, the team is not dependent on local latency since they can manage the connectivity with tunnelling and band optimisation. With Cato, the round-trip time from the race track to the HQ is a mere 80 to 100 milliseconds. In Cape Town, packet loss was only 0.23% over the whole event.

This high-speed, optimal connectivity is enabled thanks to the team’s ability to maximise the use of the provided 50 megabits connectivity with Cato. They can prioritise critical applications while simultaneously transmitting volumes of data back to the German HQ for analysis and implementing application-specific bandwidth policies.

In addition, Cato provides the team with visibility into all data, including the hidden data that is transferred from the cars and the garages to the HQ. The traffic is also segmented from the rest of the Porsche organisation. These two capabilities help the TI team derive even more valuable insights. Finally, Cato enables selected TLS inspection to enable privacy.

“Cato Networks will allow us to focus on the critical decisions that make a difference on-track by lessening the administrative work to set up and manage our IT network infrastructure,” said Kurz. “Using the Cato SASE Cloud, we’re able to have the reliable and secure connectivity we need to have anywhere around the world, whether at a racetrack, during travel or at the research and development centre in Weissach, the home of Porsche Motorsport.”

Secure connectivity protecting from cyberattacks

Cato Networks ensures the connection is secure and protected from cyberattacks, which the team has observed. Cato Networks adds an additional layer of security without requiring any additional security equipment to be shipped, configured, deployed or maintained.

Network set up in five hours

Cato Networks also simplifies the deployment and administration of the infrastructure. This is especially important when the team travels across different sites and does not know the level or nature of the technological infrastructure that will wait for them at each location. Now, it takes a mere five hours to set up a site.

We asked Friedemann Kurz, Head of IT, Porsche Motorsport, further questions to find out more about the project.

What factors influenced the decision to choose Cato Networks for this project? 

Several key factors influenced our decision to work with Cato Networks. The security and reliability of data being transmitted worldwide is incredibly important to the team, especially considering the insights gained on the race circuit are critical to help us drive the sport forward.   

In environments where data is generated or transmitted to the cloud, cybersecurity is paramount. Cato’s Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) Cloud platform addresses this need seamlessly. The platform’s ability to provide reliable and secure data transmission globally aligns perfectly with the demands of our dynamic operations. 

Also, Cato delivers a well-managed global and private backbone that helps us minimise delays and packet loss caused by inefficient Internet routing. 

Prior to working with Cato, we faced challenges such as complexity, high management costs and obsolescence. Cato, with its SASE approach, stood out as a solution that not only addresses these challenges but also ensures a more efficient and secure network, particularly in scenarios where employees work across different locations and branches. Ultimately, the decision was driven by Cato’s capability to meet our specific cybersecurity and networking needs, offering a comprehensive solution for the team’s data transmission requirements. 

How does Cato Networks align with your values and how will this help the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team’s progression on and off the track?

In the fast-paced world of motorsport, embracing new technologies helps us gain a competitive advantage, and SASE exemplifies the next generation of network security. TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team recognises the importance of such technology and initially a hybrid model during last year’s season, and it quickly became a cornerstone of our connectivity strategy in the current season. 

The transition to Cato connectivity has been instrumental in optimising our network infrastructure. Previously, we had a mix of local connections and Internet Protocol Security (IPsec), but now, with everything sent through the Cato cloud, the results have exceeded our expectations. The seamless integration allows us to connect our local crews, transmit live telemetry during testing and ensure minimal delay in data transfer between the track and our R&D facility. 

One of the key advantages of Cato is its role in enabling real-time collaboration during testing. Live telemetry, software releases and video feeds are crucial components of our testing phase. Cato ensures that data generated on the track reaches our engineers promptly, whether they are at the racetrack or working remotely. This capability is essential for quick issue resolution, whether it be fixing a bug or addressing a feature that isn’t functioning correctly in the car. 

During races, where regulations limit real-time telemetry, Cato remains an important asset. The network facilitates the transmission of video and audio, adhering to race regulations. After each race, as the car returns to the garage, Cato continues to play a crucial role in the offloading and synchronisation of data back to our R&D facility in a secure manner. 

Cato aligns with our values of innovation, efficiency and reliability. Its integration has not only optimised our network infrastructure but has also played a pivotal role in ensuring the seamless flow of data, collaboration and problem-solving within the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team. Cato undoubtedly contributes significantly to our team’s overall progression both on and off the track. 

How has cloud-native networking and security infrastructure become crucial in helping TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team make more informed decisions in real-time?

Cloud-native networking and security infrastructure has been a game-changer for the team, allowing us to make quick decisions informed by real-time data which can significantly enhance our on-track performance. 

Cato has streamlined our IT network infrastructure management by reducing administrative work and enabling us to focus on critical decisions that impact our performance on the track. Using Cato SASE Cloud ensures we have reliable and secure connectivity wherever we are in the world – be it at a racetrack, during travel, or at our test and development centre in Weissach, the home of Porsche Motorsport. 

The shift to a cloud-native approach has empowered us with greater control over our network and security services. Previously, many of our processes were centrally maintained at the Porsche Motorsport base. This meant that for any unexpected configurations, like setting up rules for the router, we often required on-site support from central IT. With Cato, everything is now in our hands at the track. If we need a new firewall rule, we have the autonomy to implement it ourselves, without the need for external support. This level of control translates to increased efficiency and agility in our decision-making processes. 

Furthermore, the shift to cloud-native networking has allowed us to do more with the same resources. Previously, in a mid-size company, managing network security could require two full-time personnel. However, we now have optimised our operations, enabling us to achieve the same or even better results with the existing team. This efficiency is crucial in a dynamic and fast-paced environment like motorsports, where quick decision-making and adaptability are key. 

In essence, cloud-native networking and security infrastructure, powered by Cato Networks, have revolutionised our approach, giving us the control, flexibility and efficiency needed to make more informed decisions in real-time. This shift has undoubtedly contributed to our enhanced on-track performance and overall success. 

Why is it important to not depend on local latency when travelling globally and how does Cato Networks assist with set up procedures?

Latency times can significantly vary across different locations, and this variability can have a direct impact on our performance. You can’t depend on local latency for a team that travels as much as we do. Working with Cato, we can minimise latency while optimising our setup procedures globally. 

One of the standout features of the Cato SASE Cloud is its managed global and private backbone. This robust infrastructure effectively reduces delays and packet losses that may arise from inefficient Internet routing.  

Our applications perform better because our network is better with Cato. During the previous season at the Diriyah track, jitter was consistently maintained at zero to one millisecond, and the session’s packet loss was approximately 2%. Subsequently, the overall quality has further improved. Presently, the average packet loss has been reduced to below 1%, a significant enhancement compared to the previous norm of 5% loss rates prior to adopting Cato. The result is a streamlined and consistent connectivity experience for our racing team, regardless of their location. Whether we’re in India, Brazil, Germany, or any other part of the world. 

The managed global backbone not only minimises latency but also maximises data volume through integrated bandwidth optimisation. This ensures our team can operate efficiently and make real-time decisions without being hindered by connectivity issues.  

Since we’ve been using the Cato SASE Cloud, the impact of local conditions and distances between nodes has been optimised to a great extent, providing a seamless experience wherever we go. 

Cato also operates precisely where it matters most for us – where data is generated, network traffic flows and cybercriminals target – in the cloud. This approach aligns with the essence of SASE, bringing security inspection and policy information directly to the data. By doing so, it eliminates the need to route data to a centralised data centre, a process that typically increases latency. The result is a more secure and responsive network environment for our racing team. 

How is the development of Digital Transformation impacting operations, and what are the anticipated changes in terms of cybersecurity? 

The shift towards technologies like SASE is helping TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team’s Digital Transformation. Like many other organisations, the move away from traditional IT security solutions is fuelled by their complexity, exorbitant costs and outdated characteristics. 

SASE streamlines network and security functions on a unified global cloud platform, providing a simpler and more efficient approach compared to dealing with multiple products. This transformation has enabled instant remote access while ensuring compliance with Porsche policies. The anticipated changes in cybersecurity involve a transition to more agile, integrated and cloud-centric solutions to meet the evolving demands of digital operations. 

What are the benefits of Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) over the other available options? 

It’s quite simple: SASE converges network and security functions onto a global cloud platform. This shift eliminates the complexities associated with dealing with multiple manufacturers and products. 

At Porsche Motorsport, recent times have marked a significant embrace of the cloud, and SASE has played a massive part in optimising operations. The centralisation of network and security components on the Cato platform ensures smooth integration of all elements to work together. This eliminates the need for managing disparate solutions, streamlining our approach to network and security management. 

One notable advantage is the enhanced accessibility of our applications on a private network, regardless of their location. With Cato, we no longer rely heavily on multiple IPsec tunnels or the unpredictable nature of the public Internet. This ensures a consistent and secure connection, irrespective of where our team members are located or where the applications reside. 

Moreover, the implementation of a NetApp GFC caching mechanism at the racetrack further optimises our data management. This mechanism allows us to be more selective in the data we send across the wire, reducing the need for constant synchronisation with every other location. This not only enhances efficiency but also minimises the impact on bandwidth. 

Additionally, the backup mechanisms integrated into the cloud environment add an extra layer of reliability. With data backups maintained in the cloud, we mitigate the risks associated with local failures or disruptions, ensuring the integrity and availability of critical information.   

What are the key advantages of enhancing security with an additional layer that doesn’t necessitate the use of extra equipment? 

The key advantages to having an additional security layer is that we have a dedicated team of security experts managing the underlying SASE infrastructure, keeping protective measures up-to-date and monitoring data traffic for potential threats. This approach not only challenges attackers but also relieves the IT department and reduces costs for security components. Less overheads, less equipment to maintain.  

Can you explain how Cato Networks has simplified the administration of your infrastructure? 

Before adopting Cato, our operations involved the use of approved, dedicated routers, switches and redundant equipment, leading to complexities in setup and high shipping costs. Now, we utilise just one compact Socket, eliminating the necessity for a dedicated IT case and reducing equipment weight by approximately 40 kilograms. 

The IT team establishes the SASE access node at the race circuit, seamlessly connecting to the Cato SASE Cloud for secure and high-speed data transmission. This setup allows for immediate prioritisation of data traffic, crucial in locations with limited bandwidth. For example, even with large data volumes transmitted over the same connection, voice calls can maintain clarity and distinction. 

As Cato has been designed to deliver most current and future security capabilities through a single cloud service, the team is able to oversee all security and networking functionalities through a single pane of glass. This approach extends to configuring, troubleshooting and analysing every aspect of the network.

What are your expectations for the partnership with Cato Networks in the future? 

Looking ahead, we are highly optimistic, particularly with the integration of the Cato XDR dashboard. The ability to trace events end-to-end provides unparalleled visibility. Already, we’ve experienced its effectiveness in accurately identifying and classifying events, such as low-impact Internet security scans. Additionally, Cato has proven its capability by detecting unauthorised attempts to download applications from unofficial sources, even identifying a malicious bot in one instance. The insights provided by the XDR dashboard are truly impressive, allowing us to cross-check and validate events effectively. I’m looking forward to working with the team to continue to enhance security measures, reaffirming the significance of Cato in shaping the future of our cybersecurity strategy. 

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