Dell and the OEM Roots of Edge Computing

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  July 21, 2021

The original equipment manufacturer (OEM) model is deeply ingrained in the tech and consumer electronic industries, as well as in other markets where commercial products depend on industry standard components. But while IT vendors are widely recognized as traditional OEMs, many also fill vital roles for another class of OEMs—companies that base their own solutions on vendors’ core PC, server, storage, networking and other technology innovations.

Dell Technologies has been especially successful in this regard, resulting in some $6B in annual orders for OEM solutions based on Dell products. This is clearly a welcome addition to its bottom line, but OEMs also play key roles in the company’s strategic initiatives, including edge computing and Dell APEX-as-a-Service offerings. Let’s consider these points more closely.

The IoT and edge computing connection

Dell’s OEM organization initially worked with partners who were designing and building digitally based or enhanced products, like ATM devices, video arcade games and industrial equipment. In the early 2010s, Dell OEM focused increasingly on emerging Internet of Things (IoT) solutions and, in 2015, opened a “Smart Buildings” IoT lab in the company’s research facility in Santa Clara, California.

That was a natural move since it leveraged Dell’s general purpose and infrastructure solutions as the foundation for IoT. In these scenarios, OEM partners with special knowledge and skills could use Dell’s offerings to support and enhance endpoint devices at the network edge, including digital sensors, cameras, monitoring devices, point of sale (POS) systems and other data collection and processing solutions.

Early on, Dell recognized that IoT and edge computing were evolving in parallel and helped speed that process with new commercial offerings, including the Edge Gateways for IoT. Those rugged offerings are designed to withstand the intense vibration, heat, dust and moisture that are commonplace on factory floors and in many remote locations, making them powerful tools for Dell OEM partners focused on IoT and edge workloads.

The evolution of Dell OEM

While Dell provided off the shelf components that partners embedded in their products and often rebranded as their own, over time, the company has developed a growing portfolio of solutions and services that aimed to enhance its value for OEMs. On the hardware side, partners can access and leverage the entire range of Dell servers, data storage, hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) and networking products. Those include specialized solutions designed specifically for edge computing applications, such as its compact PowerEdge XE2420 Short-Depth Servers and industrial grade industrial grade PowerEdge XR11 and XR12 Rugged Servers.

Dell has also created service and support offerings designed to meet the discrete needs of OEM partners. Those include development and engineering services, solutions tailor-made for specific applications, use cases and vertical markets, YourID customization services, informational webinars and product/strategy consultations with Dell OEM experts.

The company often provides OEMs co-marketing and sales support, including selling partners’ turnkey engineered solutions through its sales channels. Partners’ solutions can also be supported by Dell Technologies service offerings and through Dell Finance purchasing and payment options.

Finally, at the recent Dell Technologies World conference, company executives stressed the value that the company APEX as-a-Service offerings and strategy offer OEM partners. As the company evolves its APEX portfolio, partners will find a growing number of opportunities and roles to fill in many of those aaS and cloud-enabled scenarios, just as they have in other Dell solutions.

As Kyle Dufrense, SVP and GM of Dell OEM noted earlier this year, IDC is forecasting that by 2024, more than 75 percent of infrastructure at the edge and over 50 percent of all data center infrastructure assets will be consumed as a service. Dell APEX will guarantee that OEM partners have access to these vital business opportunities.

Final analysis

The evolution of Dell’s work with OEMs has moved steadily, reflecting both the development of those relationships and how the company and its partners adapt to changes in technology and global markets. That includes computing at the edge of corporate networks and making the most of the data and business value that reside there.

Dell’s strategy has moved from selling OEMs simple, off-the-shelf components to providing access to its commercial solutions portfolios, as well as sophisticated engineering, consulting, and marketing support that helped partners expand their own offerings and success. As businesses increasingly deploy as-a-Service and cloud-enabled solutions across their IT infrastructures from on-premises data centers to the far edges of their networks, Dell APEX will help ensure that its OEM partners can participate in those markets.

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