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Dell looks holistically to building an IoT Eco-system


At the Dell Technologies World 2018 IoT interview session, Ray O’Farrell- GM Dell Technologies IoT Division and CTO, VMware; Jason Shepherd- CTO, Dell Technologies IoT Division, Chris Wolff- Head of OEM and IoT GTM shared their thoughts on how IoT will impact every industry and how they are collaborating with a multitude of various organisations in order to make sure it presents itself as a useful tool for businesses to use and ultimately grow from.

Ray shared his thoughts on the Dell approach as the interview began – “Broadly speaking, we created the Dell IoT Division because we recognise that the world of IoT is emerging, we think it’s going to be highly impactful for the industries in the future, we think it’s going to affect everything from cities to how we interact and live in our houses every single day. That inherently is a new digital transformation or an extension of digital transformation we have all gone through. Dell technologies, VMware and the companies which are part of the technology (group) have been instrumental in driving and supporting our customers through digital transformation.”

He explained that once getting into the nitty-gritty of IoT and look closely at the edge, it becomes apparent that in order for the technology to be truly useful, there is a need to connect various pieces of infrastructure.

“Infrastructure that occurs at the Edge, in things themselves, in your vehicle, in factories, in hospitals, then being able to take the data that’s been produced from that, and run that through infrastructure which is focused on analysis, artificial intelligence, may be right there at the edge, may be in a data center close by, maybe in a public cloud. And then based on the outcome, being able to take action and feedback into whatever industry or agriculture or city challenges that you have, and therefore being able to produce a much more efficient organisation or much more efficient production line,” he added.

“We’ve got assets that we can bring to bear. Both in the development of hardware, development of new types of software, the development of how do we deal with the platform as a service and new type of technology for developers. We have experience with building eco-systems, certified partners and working with a broad open eco-system,” he shared, affirming the varied contributions that Dell has and can continue to make to the industry.

Jason Shepherd, on the other hand, was at the start of how Dell began their journey into IoT. “I’ve actually been on IoT at Dell, for about 4 years. Started about 4 years ago ‘Hey what are we going to do about this new buzzword IoT. It’s really kind of starting to emerge a number of years ago’.  That’s when we started looking at this trend towards a shift back towards the edge.”

Although the general idea that people had at the time was to move everything to the cloud, and have smart sensors that pump all the data to the cloud, But there was a movement to the edge at the time as more gadgets were being produced to that end.

“Four years ago that really wasn’t the predominant thinking, but now everyone’s talking about edge computing. Its widely understood that this is a model that’s really important not only due to the , as opposed to having to pay every time you needed to access the data, is the shift that needed to happen.

“As we enter into an era where there’s more and more analytics being applied to data, the total life-cycle cost of your data can get very expensive when you send it all to the cloud. And so distributed architecture is important for a variety of reasons.”

Adding to the comments on the eco-system that Ray shared earlier, Jason says the eco-system today but it is really fragmented.

“The running number that we had a few years ago was that there were 150 IoT platforms. Now the running number is 450 IoT platforms. How do you secure all that? How do you manage all that.” he said posing a really pertinent question.

The answer that Dell believes will make the difference for a Vendor-neutral open eco-system to accommodate the solutions to manage, secure, scale-out or de-couple from the applications is to provide the flexibility to them as an infrastructure provider.

“As part of the (solution), one of the things that we have really been investing in is a project called ‘Edge X Foundry’.”

He explains Edge X Foundry by comparing it to Cloud Foundry where with Cloud Foundry you are able to extract the software from the hardware and able to run the software anywhere that you want and be transported across different clouds. The key being platform independence.

“What we saw with the edge a couple years ago was we saw that everything was coupled to individual back-end applications, you got a bunch of consumer devices that are coupled to one experience with one mobile app and you have 10 different apps with use cases within your house, and you have the same problems with the business.”

“So Edge Foundry started with an incubation project within Dell in 2015.” He asked then, what was the right architecture to distributed computing model. “How do we get closer to the edge?”

That’s how they came to the concept of working with many different partners and customers and extend cloud native principles of cloud foundry to de-couple architectures to distribute compute across different nodes.

This then changes the playing field for how security is managed and devices are managed he said. They put it out to the open source community last year for feedback and now there are almost 80 companies backing it.

“What we want to do there as a community is driving a de-facto standard around how regardless of protocol that you have or hardware that you use, have more of an open eco-system that operate around a common API. It’s above the OS layer but you can think of it as how do I create a marketplace for interoperable components like an android.”

This eco-system will then make it easy to plug into their assets and he believed that it will only work if its run in an open concept and big markets are built on interoperability.

Chris Wolff, who looks after building partnerships with IoT and OEM says they are “teaming with our most celebrated Futuremakers, like IMS Evolve in the case of Energy Management, to ensure these are IOT kits that IT professionals can use to manage new sets of PLC-connected devices, using methods and infrastructure you have in place today. We’ll be adding professional and managed services to a wider set of connected devices.”

“We’ve talked here a lot about the technologies and our planning but this internet of things motion is as much as much about heart and minds of people as it is about getting the diverse technology to speak to one another,” she shared aptly.

In order to get the technology to work properly, the people too need to get behind the use of it by being able to collaborate with different parts of their own teams. The sales teams need to talk to the IT, the higher management needs to discuss with their vendors and so on.

There’s also concern about the digital future where people are concerned if they don’t understand what is going on will they be out of a job someday.

“Creating teams and focusing on letting people know that Dell cares about your future and going to find ways to help them get a leg up an understand how to implement and absorb this innovation is a big part of what we do,” she explained.

Technology will greatly impact and change a large part of our everyday lives. It, therefore, is a little comforting to know that there are some who are predominantly involved in that area such as Dell, do consider the little guy and how he/she fits into the system as we go hurtling head-long into the future of the Internet. With the right people in the right places, perhaps technology can be used for the good of all after all. We certainly hope so.