Dell outlines IoT strategy, plans to spend $1 billion on R&D over three years

Dell Technologies says the Internet of Things (IoT) is forcing computing into a more decentralized model with more power at the edge.

Everything you need to know about IoT

Dell Technologies launched a new Internet of Things division to integrate products and services across the company, as well as new tools to speed up implementations, and it plans to invest $1 billion in research and development over the next three years.

The new division within Dell Technologies will be run by VMware CTO Ray O'Farrell. His first mission will be to develop IoT products and services throughout the company and develop new technologies.

Dell Technologies, which includes units such as Dell EMC, Pivotal, VMwarem and RSA, touches on many aspects of IoT. In addition, IoT end points and gateways are expected to become more powerful to reduce latency and bring more intelligence to the edge.

For technology vendors, IoT represents a big opportunity by itself as well as in context of broader business shifts. IoT, along with big data analytics, is the centerpiece of most digital transformation efforts. IoT is also an emerging theme for 2018 and a budget priority.

For Dell, IoT represents a move toward distributed computing after the cloud largely centralized IT delivery. Dell is arguing that the need to boost intelligence and the edge and cutting latency is creating a need for more innovative approaches. The other argument for an edge-friendly architecture is that shipping data to the cloud on a streaming basis gets expensive.

In many respects, Dell's IoT strategy is a spin on what is old is new again with its decentralized approach. However, the pendulum between centralized and decentralized computing will swing equally in IoT deployments.

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CEO Michael Dell said artificial intelligence and IoT will create one "interdependent ecosystem from the edge to the core to the cloud." Gartner estimates that IoT will save consumers and businesses more than $1 trillion a year in maintenance, services and consumables by 2022.

To be a key player in that IoT ecosystem, Dell Technologies outlined the efforts:

  • Use key technologies such as Edge Gateways, VMware's Pulse IoT control Center and Dell EMC PowerEdge C-Series servers to combine with tools such as Dell EMC Isilon storage and Pivotal Cloud Foundry to create new efforts and product combinations.
  • Launch Project Nautilus, software that ingests and queries data streams from IoT gateways in real-time. Manuvir Das, senior vice president ECS at Dell EMC, said Nautilus code will be contributed to the open source community. The aim is to take EMC Isilon and make it more storage defined. A handful of customers are beta testing Nautilus.
  • Project Fire, a hyper converged platform that will simplify management, compute and storage for IoT applications.
  • RSA's Project Iris, which will look to extend security to IoT end points.
  • Investments in technologies that boost analytics at the edge.
  • Project Worldwide Herd for analyzing geographically dispersed data.
  • Dell Technologies will highlight these technologies and IoT practices at its IoT Labs, which will have workshops and advisory services. Dell Technologies will also offer IoT blueprints for implementations.

On the venture capital side, Dell Technologies Capital will invest in startups breaking new IoT ground. Current investments include Edico Genome, FogHorn Systems, Graphcore, and Zingbox.

Operating at one unit

The challenge for Dell Technologies' IoT unit will be collaborating internally and offering customers pragmatic ways to deploy. Dell executives maintained that IoT is at an inflection point where companies can drive economic value. In other words, IoT is moving from a science project to a technology that has to be adopted.

Matt Baker, senior vice president of strategy and planning at Dell EMC, said Dell Technologies hatched its gateway business as a pragmatic way to get into the space. Now industries such as agriculture are as much about analyzing data as actual farming.

Baker explained that Dell Technologies approach as strategically aligned businesses will make the IoT unit a success. The company has also put in place cross-business deliverables and processes to form cohesive IoT stacks. "Everyone has a business to run here, but there's a place to make big bets as a team," said Baker. "Michael Dell is passionate about this topic."

In addition, Baker noted that edge computing--where IoT is headed to some degree--is a strong suit for Dell Technologies, which is also betting on an ecosystem approach.

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