Managing IT at or beyond the edge of traditional corporate networks has been an important subject for years, especially among businesses that employ remote/branch offices (ROBOs) and mobile workers. But edge computing as a separate entity has gained relevance and momentum during the past half decade due to the evolution of complementary technologies, including Internet of Things (IoT) offerings and increasingly powerful wireless services.
It is both logical and natural that vendors move ahead to support the edge computing needs of corporate customers. In fact, the new edge-focused solutions and services announced recently by Dell Technologies and key partners offer interesting examples of what businesses can expect and should be looking for. Let’s consider Dell’s solutions in more detail.
Computing at the edge
Why has edge computing become such a hot topic? For both practical and strategic reasons. First and foremost, in many industries, like manufacturing, retail and healthcare, a significant share of new information is being generated or captured in facilities well away from central offices and data centers. Additionally, the sheer volume and variety of remote data are growing exponentially.
In order to gain the full value of that information and to avoid being swamped, companies need effective means of managing, analyzing and utilizing it. Enterprises understand those points and are moving ahead in planning and deploying edge solutions. Research conducted by IDC estimates that edge technologies will comprise half of new corporate IT infrastructure by 2023. Gartner predicts more than 50% of enterprise-generated data will be created and processed outside the data center or the cloud by 2022.
In short, vendors able to effectively address the challenges of edge computing stand to benefit enormously, as will their customers.
It is also worth considering how recent history has contributed to the rise of interest in edge computing. The Covid-19 pandemic has massively impacted thousands of businesses and millions of workers. To aid customers whose employees were suddenly working from home or other remote locations, IT vendors delivered innovative solutions and services that securely enhanced worker productivity and helped businesses stay on track. The overall success of those efforts has led many organizations to rethink the way they do business, including utilizing what were until relatively recently unfamiliar technologies for fully enabling and better utilizing IT in edge-of-network environments.
Dell’s new edge solutions
The new edge computing offerings Dell announced include:
- Dell EMC VxRail satellite nodes are compact versions of the company’s signature hyperconverged computing infrastructure (HCI) appliances that extend VxRail’s operational model and efficiencies to edge sites. VxRail satellite single-node deployments do not require vSAN clusters and are designed to help automate day-to-day operations, such as lifecycle management and monitoring from a centralized location without the need for local technical and specialized resources.
- Dell Technologies Validated Design for Manufacturing Edge with Litmus is designed to help businesses connect, manage and orchestrate disparate industrial edge devices, data and applications across environments from factory floors to enterprise clouds—with no programming required. For example, in manufacturing environments, the new offering (with the aid of Litmus Industrial IoT edge platform) can help customers proactively repair equipment before it fails, improve production quality and save costs with real-time data analytics and centralized device management.
- Dell EMC Edge Gateway is a 5G capable, fanless solution powered by 9th Gen Intel Core processors. The new Edge Gateway can work in industrial environments and withstand temperature ranges from minus 4F to 140F, helping companies securely connect and gain insights from multiple edge devices across disparate OT and IT environments. Designed to provide valuable insights, the new offering can run localized data processing and analytics, thus reducing data collection and processing pain points. Dell EMC Edge Gateway solutions are available direct to customers and through OEM engagements.
- Dell EMC Streaming Data Platform (SDP) utilizes GPU optimization to ingest streaming video in lower latency and frame rate environments and support real-time analytics on Dell EMC VxRail and PowerEdge servers. Dell EMC SDP can run lightweight workloads on a single core using a new edge bundle, so customers can start small and scale video analytics based on their practical or IT needs.
- Latitude 5430 Rugged and Latitude 7330 Rugged Extreme laptops are the latest generation of Dell’s well-regarded line of ruggedized laptops which are designed to withstand harsh environments and use cases, and maintain the highest levels of performance and connectivity. According to Dell, the Latitude 5430 Rugged is the industry’s lightest, most-powerful 14-inch semi-rugged laptop. Its 5G capabilities means the Latitude 5430 Rugged is ready to work from anywhere. The Latitude 7330 Rugged Extreme is the industry’s smallest 13-inch fully-rugged laptop. Designed to deliver full performance in the most extreme environments, the Latitude 7330 Rugged Extreme’s 5G-capabilities means that users can work from virtually anywhere.
- Dell Technologies Bare Metal Orchestrator In a separate but edge-related announcement, Dell unveiled its Bare Metal Orchestrator, a software solution designed to allow service providers, including telcos to automate the deployment and management of hundreds of thousands of servers across geographic locations to support ORAN and 5G deployments. The new offering is the first solution from its Project Metalweaver initiative, which integrates Dell infrastructure solutions with VMware’s Telco Cloud Platform and Red Hat OpenShift. Bare Metal Orchestrator offers CSPs the tools to discover and inventory servers, bring them online and deploy software, regardless of where they reside in the network.
These announcements were made in concert with the Dell Technologies Summit 2021, an annual confab with IT industry analysts and media designed to highlight the company’s current state and upcoming plans. The value and importance of edge computing were vital points of discussion during the main tent presentation by Chairman and CEO Michael Dell and his senior leadership, as well as in a separate breakout session for analysts on the company’s edge offerings.
So where does this place Dell in terms of market and competitive positioning?
First, it’s important to note that the company is hardly alone in focusing on edge solutions. Robust mobile computing, highly flexible networking, sophisticated hybrid cloud, next gen 5G wireless and seamless virtualization have all been evolving separately but are closely aligning to provide the reliable platforms necessary for stable, secure edge deployments. Numerous vendors, including Dell and its direct competitors are in the edge computing hunt.
That said, the company seems particularly well-positioned to profit from existing and emerging edge opportunities.
First, Dell is just one of two vendors that can offer truly end-to-end offerings for the edge. That’s an important point of distinction given the complex services and support many edge environments are likely to require.
Second, the company is the only Tier 1 vendor with long term investments in rugged edge and endpoint solutions. Dell’s first Edge Gateway solutions appeared in 2015, and its Latitude Rugged series was launched in 2008.
Finally, Dell is making investments in key software assets, like the new Streaming Data Platform and Bare Metal Orchestrator required to differentiate it in special or industry-specific edge use cases.
In addition, other mature company efforts are likely to contribute significantly to its edge initiatives. First and foremost is Dell’s OEM program which is responsible for driving over $5B in annual orders. One of the biggest challenges of edge for systems vendors is the sheer complexity of creating solutions for multiple, differentiated industries and applications.
The experience and expertise OEMs bring to the fore, along with the development, design, manufacturing and marketing support Dell provides them, are likely to result in notable market synergies. The same can be said for the company’s thousands of global channel partners who were prominently mentioned in the edge announcements.
Finally, the company appears to be gaining full value from alliances with key strategic partners. First among these is VMware which despite is imminent spinoff as a separate company, has a unique and differentiated commercial agreement with Dell designed to drive long-term innovation, preserve go-to-market synergies and provide flexibility for a balanced partner ecosystem.
VMware’s role in new solutions, including the VxRail satellite nodes, Streaming Data Platform and Bare Metal Orchestrator are clear. Dell’s efforts with other strategic partners, including Litmus, Red Hat, T-Mobile, Mavenir and Wind River are more tightly industry-centric but should also provide significant value over time.
Overall, the new edge computing solutions and services announced during Dell Technologies Summit 2021 highlight a company deeply focused on what will likely be a generational market opportunity in edge computing. By bringing to bear its own formidable resources and skills, in close alignment with strategic partners, Dell is well-positioned to provide edge-bound enterprises notable technological and business benefits.