Dell – Charting an OEM Path to IoT

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  December 17, 2014

Given its popular acclaim and industry buzz, the Internet of Things (IoT) seems to be on most lists for technologies to watch out for in 2015, and there’s good reason to agree. Though IoT or variations on the subject have been around for years (in forms like “connected” homes, kitchens, cars, etc.), innovative mobile devices and robust wireless networks, among other related components, are in a better position to support IoT than ever before. That, in turn, makes commercial implementations an easier sell for customers and vendors alike.

But how can IT vendors best pursue IoT opportunities? Some are developing backend systems and analytics solutions. Others are shooting at endpoint sales. Still others target key vertical industries, then broaden the scope of their offerings. Still others develop end-to-end solutions, sometimes alone and other times through extensive efforts with partners.

This last approach generally describes what Dell is doing in regards to IoT but doesn’t provide a full sense of the company’s strategy. However, a recent analyst and press event at Dell’s new Silicon Valley IoT Research Lab in Santa Clara, Calif., went a long way to fixing that.

The Dell OEM difference

The Dell event was hosted by Joyce Mullen, VP of Dell’s OEM organization, a business that some call the company’s “secret weapon.” Why is that the case? Because while it tends to garner relatively little public attention, Dell’s OEM business has been a profitable dynamo, generating “well in excess of $1B” in annual revenues via engagements with over 1,200 business customers.

What does Dell OEM do? Basically, it facilitates the development and manufacture of customer-designed and branded products. At one end, that means providing a Dell-made white box server or PC components as the computing brain in customer-created products ranging from arcade-quality video games to medical imaging devices to NEBs-compliant servers for telecom.

At the other end of the spectrum, Dell’s and its various partners’ engineers collaborate closely with clients to develop products from the ground-up, providing the experience they need to bring their ideas to full fruition. The flexibility of Dell’s strategy and the quality of resulting products are reasons that companies in 40+ vertical industries, including telecommunications, healthcare, industrial/manufacturing, retail and aerospace/defense are satisfied Dell OEM customers.

Dell OEM and IoT

That second engagement model, close collaboration, is the driver behind Dell’s new Silicon Valley Lab, which the company hopes will spark and enable innovations in the IoT space. By working with engineers from Dell, Intel and other company partners, customers can flesh out ideas, gain insights into key technology developments and take advantage of Dell’s extensive supply chain and manufacturing experience.

Those factors should help ensure that resulting IoT solutions are technically workable and resonate with both customer needs and commercial market trends. As Mullen noted during her presentation, though there has been a great deal on interest in IoT among customers, substantial barriers to adoption still remain, including security concerns, lack of workable standards, a paucity of end user skills and mistrust of the hype surrounding the space.

By collaborating closely with developers and entrepreneurs, Dell hopes to successfully address those issues and build a sustainable demand for and customer satisfaction with IoT solutions.

Final analysis

Every new or emerging market constitutes a destination that can be reached numerous ways. With that in mind, while there is no perfect road to the Internet of Things, vendors can and should leverage their particular skills and experience during the course of their own and their customers’ journey. The continuing success of Dell’s OEM organization makes it a natural fit for IoT development, and the company’s new Silicon Valley Lab is likely to help drive interest in IoT among the company’s partners and customers.

But the strategy that Joyce Mullen and other executives discussed in Santa Clara should also deliver additional benefits to Dell. By working closely with developers and entrepreneurs, the company should be able to stay at or near the leading edge of the IoT market without exposing itself to serious, let alone substantial risk. By working collaboratively with its partners and customers, Dell should be able to pursue a course that will aid the development of a healthy, sustainable market to the betterment of all.

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