Inside Advanced Scale Challenges|Wednesday, October 18, 2017
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Dell Technologies’ Umbrella Cloud-to-Edge IoT/AI Strategy 

Dell’s $67 billion acquisition of EMC two years ago still stands as the largest tech deal ever. But as big as Dell EMC is, there’s an even larger Dell entity at play: Dell Technologies, a grouping of acquisitions that includes Dell, EMC, VMware, Virtustream and Secureworks, among others. Michael Dell has touted the technology breadth of the umbrella organization, but it’s never been completely clear what direction the Dell behemoth is taking, what’s the strategy driving the technology agglomeration, what it all means.

This week at a high-production event in New York, the company filled in the picture: Dell Technologies is pointed strategically at IoT and AI, at supporting an emerging enterprise computing strategy that joins the centralized capabilities of the cloud with low latency IoT/AI computing at the edge, an encompassing ecosystem that the company said will enable big data analytics, AI and machine learning to happen in faster timeframes, including real-time, as the workload requires, to drive increasingly intelligent systems.

The tech giant, which went private in 2013, announced among other things that it would invest $1 billion in IoT R&D over the next three years along with the formation of a new IoT division to orchestrate development of products and services for delivering predictive solutions joining AI and IoT within an infrastructure that helps companies navigate "the complex and often fragmented IoT landscape.”

Michael Dell this week in New York

In his remarks at the event, Dell said the IT industry has gone through several pendulum swings over the past several decades between centralized (mainframe, cloud) and distributed (client-server) styles of computing. “For the last 15 years the IT industry has seen the rise of cloud computing, a highly centralized model for delivering IT services. But in an age where every type of device, from phones to cars to oil rigs to robots to heart monitors are alive and intelligent, there is a requirement for a ‘distributed core’ focused on real time processing of information. These devices simply cannot wait for a response from centralized cloud infrastructure that may be ‘seconds’ away.”

The Dell strategy is comprised of three parts: cloud, edge and core, the latter being “connective tissue” technologies, such as gateways, that join the cloud and the edge into an integrated whole.

The company said its vision is to support “a growing need for one company to pull together complete IoT solutions that can be deployed within their organizations…, (a) comprehensive approach to IoT is based on leading technology and services and a carefully curated partner ecosystem.”

Of course, Dell isn’t the only company to embrace a cloud-to-the-edge vision in which processing takes on a “whither thou goest” relationship with data. “Intelligent networks” vendor Mellanox and semiconductor maker GlobalFoundries are among major companies championing the idea, as noted by industry analyst Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst, Moor Insights & Strategy.

“HPE, Cisco and now Dell Technologies are all espousing a distributed approach to IoT where critical compute isn't in the core datacenter, but on the edge,” Moorhead told EnterpriseTech. “This makes sense with 75 billion new IoT end point devices (installed) by 2025, when considering latency, security, and efficiency, the edge is the right place. This doesn’t mean the big public cloud or enterprise datacenter doesn’t play, it means it plays with less latency-sensitive workloads, like big data, batch analytics and HPC.

Dell’s distinction, Moorhead said, is that the distributed approach is offered by a single entity:

“The biggest difference I see in the strategy is that under the Dell Technologies family of companies the company can actually deliver a complete bundle at the infrastructure and management, and development layers,” he said. “Dell Technologies showed how they will deliver end to end solutions across Vmware, Dell EMC, Dell, Pivotal, Boomi, and RSA.” (Moorhead also noted that “ It’s unclear how Virtustream and Secureworks play in the IoT framework.)

The company’s new IoT Division will be led by VMware CTO Ray O’Farrell, and is charged with orchestrating the development of IoT products and services, combining internally developed technologies with offerings from the Dell Technologies ecosystem. The new division’s goal, O’Farrell said, is to “deliver the right solution – in combination with our vast partner ecosystem – to meet customer needs and help them deploy integrated IoT systems with greater ease.”

The company’s IoT infrastructure currently is comprised of Dell Edge Gateways, which can be secured and managed by VMware Pulse IoT Control Center, along with Dell EMC PowerEdge C-Series servers, which have been optimized for batch training and machine learning as a part of the distributed core. Dell EMC Isilon and Elastic Cloud Storage provide file and object storage for massive amounts of machine data generated by sensors at the edge and enable analytics through HDFS.

In addition, Pivotal Cloud Foundry (PCF) and Pivotal Container Service (PKS) are a platform for developing cloud-based analytics applications. Virtustream’s PCF Service provides a managed Pivotal Cloud Foundry Service, for deployment and operation of cloud architected workloads in Virtustream Enterprise Cloud, while Virtustream Storage Cloud is available for off-premises cloud object storage. Finally, Dell Boomi rapidly connects relevant data for cloud-based analytics and deep learning.

The company also announced a series of initiatives, including Project Nautilus software for real-time ingestion and querying of data streams from IoT gateways; Project Fire hyperconverged platform for management, local compute, storage and IoT applications such as real-time analytics; Project Fire “consistent infrastructure software” designed to enable faster roll-out of IoT use cases; and RSA Project IRIS, under development, security analytics for monitoring cybersecurity threats out to the edge.

Ray O'Farrell, VMware CTO and head of Dell Technologies IoT Division

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