Inside the deal: How the Porsche Formula E team uses Cato Networks to improve on-track performance

BlackBook Motorsport speaks with executives at Porsche Motorsport and Cato Networks about how having the right off-track infrastructure can lead to a competitive advantage.

As one of the last remaining major manufacturers in Formula E, Porsche is able to attract more partners than most.

At the end of last year, the team announced Cato Networks as its secure access service edge (SASE) partner. However, unlike more conventional sponsorship deals that are predominantly focused on branding and publicity, this partnership is as much about giving Porsche the tools to deliver on track.

In order to perform, the team needs to act on data being transferred between the cars and the garage, which also gets sent back to the team's headquarters in Weissach, Germany. Cato Networks helps to simplify the transfer of the information through cloud data centres while also providing a layer of much-needed security. With a more streamlined process, the Porsche team is able to make quicker, more informed decisions.

Cato Networks was founded in 2015 by Shlomo Kramer and Gur Shatz, a pair of Israeli entrepreneurs. The company grew its annual recurring revenue (ARR) from US$1 million to US$100 million in just five years, becoming one of the first companies to operate a SASE platform.

“We formed a space in the market, which essentially takes networking and cybersecurity and the various typical point solutions that encompass that market and consolidated it down into a single vendor solution,” explains Mark Bayne, vice president of sales engineering at Cato Networks.

“So, essentially, what tends to happen in IT is you get a growing number of point products, which creates complexity. What then happens is you tend to get a period of time where a provider will come along and try and then simplify it whilst maintaining the same level of capability.

“What Cato [Networks] has done is essentially taken networking and cybersecurity and moved it so it's served from the cloud. The benefit it brings to organisations is it allows them to have a more simplified solution.

“Also, it's provided as a service so they don't have to worry about the major overheads most organisations have managing those types of solutions.”

Choosing the right partner

That kind of innovation is important in a series like Formula E, which continues to balance global ambition with its sustainable ethos. For Porsche, though, there are other things to consider when weighing up potential partnerships.

“Firstly, there needs to be a natural fit between the partner and us [at] Porsche Motorsport,” explains Carlo Wiggers, director of team management and business relations at Porsche Motorsport.

“This fit can be based on shared values, similar vision or other commonalities. Furthermore, it is very important to offghly customised sponsoring rights in order to provide the partner with the most suitable package for their needs and goals.

“Additionally, it is important for us that both sides commit themselves in the long run – we believe in the power and potential of long-term relationships as well as success.”

It is interesting that Wiggers discusses the importance of long-term relationships at a time when Porsche is currently on the fence regarding its own commitment to the all-electric series. According to The Race, the manufacturer is currently only committed until the end of the 2024 season.

This is not a new development, however, as there have been constant rumours about Porsche’s commitment to Formula E over the past few years. While the German marque remains in the series, though, the partnership with Cato Networks ensures the team has the right infrastructure at the track.

And in terms of having shared values and a similar vision, Bayne highlights that sustainability is at the heart of the partnership between Porsche and Cato Networks.

“We see Porsche as having a very specific focus on sustainability,” he says. “They have highlighted how important that is for them, to be able to show that they're moving in that direction, while still maintaining the performance elements of the racing vehicle.

“For Cato, when we first established the solution, we were providing a service that allows organisations to remove a lot of physical appliances that are in various business locations and move the processing to the cloud which, actually, from our perspective, is able to give a reduced carbon footprint for our customers.”

Tracking performance

As with most major motorsport series, there is heaps of unseen data being transferred between the cars and the garages in Formula E, with teams of analysts often back at the headquarters picking through the information as well.

With all that in mind, a cloud-native networking and security infrastructure has become crucial in helping Porsche make more informed decisions in real-time.

“Cato Networks’ SASE solution helps us to stay focused as it reduces the administrative effort for our network infrastructure and enables us to manage our network even if it’s offline or we are on the way to the next test or race,” explains Wiggers.

“Furthermore, we have the most secure connection wherever we are – between all the racetracks, cloud applications and Porsche Motorsport in Weissach.”

Florian Bruener, IT manager for the Porsche Formula E team, adds: “From the racetrack to HQ, [our data has] a round trip time of around 80 to 100 milliseconds. We have maximum bandwidth around 50-megabit upload and download which is the same for all teams.

“We all need to live with all our applications in these bandwidths and try to get the best out of it. For the network security we have our own stuff with us, and Cato is helping us to get a layer more in front of the network.”

Cato Networks has received prominent branding on the 2023 Porsche entry, with slots on the rear wing, the roll hoop and the sides of the cockpit

The importance of having a data partner in the modern world of motorsport is reiterated by Porsche Motorsport’s head of IT, Friedemann Kurz. He says it is particularly important when the team does not know what level of technological infrastructure to expect when it visits different countries and it can take them up to five hours to set up on site.

“Every enterprise that has any similarity with what we are doing, acting worldwide, having various branches around the world can definitely benefit on all the solutions that Cato is providing,” Kurz says.

“Technologically we are not a hundred per cent sure on what’s awaiting us in the different countries. So especially the latency of course by the pure physics, it’s changing a lot between countries.

“With the solutions we applied with Cato, we are less dependent on latency and can manage it better through tunnelling and band optimisation. For us, it’s not a big difference whether we are in India or somewhere else in the world.

“We are very well prepared and confident, as soon as the engineers arrive the services are ready to run.”

Future planning

Enabling Porsche to prioritise traffic allows the team to analyse and make decisions quicker, something that will help them perform better on track moving forwards.

“We’re going to be able to help them improve their own performance as well,” states Bayne. “Also, the fact that the teams all have limited resources for team members, the more time they have to spend on setting up infrastructure, the less time they have to be working on other areas.”

Bruener adds: “We have to get the most performance out of the car, so we use QoS (Quality of Service), and all the other services we try, to get the perfect [results].

“The most reliable real-time data we have is timing data we get from the track and the video streams where we can see where the driver is and what they're doing on track. These are the most important sources for our team.”

For Wiggers, all-electric racing is “the most competitive and challenging environment”, and Bayne goes as far as saying that Formula E “seems to be more technology and data-driven than even Formula One”.

While that might be up for debate, Cato Networks has a clear idea of what it hopes to achieve through the partnership with Porsche.

“If we've added value to [the Porsche] Formula E team, and are able to help them enhance their performance, however they decide to measure it, then that's going to be our success,” concludes Bayne.

“And of course, from our perspective, being associated with that and being able to show how our innovative approach has been able to help a team such as Porsche, that for us will be the success. That in itself is going to get significant awareness and add value for both companies.”


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