By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc. December 6, 2017
Vendors explore market opportunities in widely diverse ways, ranging from the “bet early and seriously” approach Amazon took in crafting, subsidizing and launching its Web Services platform to the “start late, run fast and typically fall on your face” efforts of HPE and others whose attempts to catch up to AWS in public cloud failed miserably.
But a strategy often overlooked by vendors as preeningly self-obsessed as Birds of Paradise is to 1) avoid public displays of braggadocio, 2) pragmatically choose opportunities according to their potential commercial returns, and 3) organically develop and expand efforts as those markets evolve.
Dell EMC isn’t the only vendor offering a variety of original equipment manufacturing (OEM) services and solutions. However, the steady gains that the company’s OEM group has enjoyed, particularly in the past half-decade, are worthy of respect. So, too, is how those efforts resulted both in Dell EMC profiting today and being well positioned to new evolving markets, like Internet of Things (IoT) solutions.
A recent analyst briefing led by SVP Joyce Mullen, who leads Dell EMC’s OEM/IoT group, along with its Channel organization, provided insights into the company’s strategy, customers and solutions, including its new PowerEdge XR2 rugged servers.
Dell OEM’s organic evolution
Following its launch in 1999, Dell EMC OEM followed a path like many other vendors in the space, capitalizing on the increasing addition of digital “brains” in business equipment, from video arcade games to automatic teller machines (ATMs) to digital signage and retail kiosks. The company’s OEM organization enjoyed some not-so-secret Dell weapons, including its global supply chain and ties with innovative Asia-based manufacturers.
When Michael Dell returned to the company’s CEO position in January 2007, one of his first orders of business was to invest in revitalizing Dell’s product design and development efforts, including opening a new design facility in Shanghai. That strengthened the company’s abilities to act as a one-stop shop for commercial customers that wanted to develop novel solutions but needed help in bringing those ideas to market.
Those were just the sorts of engagements Dell EMC OEM aimed to facilitate. In addition, other company strategies also impacted the OEM group. For example, its development of ruggedized, hardened laptops and tablets resulted in enhanced durability features, such as resistance to drops and vibration, extreme heat and cold, and moisture and dust intrusion. In turn, those design breakthroughs complemented OEM projects, including systems deployed in manufacturing facilities and heavy equipment.
Dell EMC OEM and the Internet of Things
Those efforts also influenced Dell EMC’s early efforts in IoT. In 2014, Mullen opened the company’s first IoT Lab facility in Santa Clara, CA, where customers could explore, test and deploy IoT solutions. That was quite early in market terms since most customers and their target markets were just becoming aware of IoT’s potential benefits.
Dell EMC OEM was central to those efforts for three reasons. First, the group had a solid history of helping customers develop workable, dependable commercial solutions. Second, it was deeply focused on pairing those solutions with the company’s other technology assets and services. Finally, the group’s efforts mirrored Dell EMC’s central focus on creating the backend digital brains that industry- and market-wise partners needed to animate distributed “things”, including endpoint sensors and other devices.
In October 2015, Dell EMC introduced its first IoT-specific solution – the Edge Gateway 5000, an intelligent, purpose-built device designed to support network-connected endpoints, perform initial data-related processes, manage and secure that data and then feed meaningful information back to data centers or cloud providers for further analysis and action.
Since then, the company has continued to expand its portfolio of Edge Gateway and embedded PC solutions for a range of IoT applications and use cases. But those efforts also reflected a growing interest in and need for robust solutions designed to deliver digital intelligence at the extreme edges of the workplace.
Dell’s PowerEdge XR2
The new PowerEdge XR2 offers interesting insights into how Dell EMC intends to further explore edge computing opportunities.
A replacement for the well-regarded PowerEdge R420xr server also highlights the lessons the company has learned in years of developing hardened, ruggedized solutions. In essence, the XR2 is a full-fledged 1U 2-socket PowerEdge server whose features will appeal to customers that need compact systems capable of thriving in extreme conditions.
Like what? How about resistance to shock and vibration, and capable of operating in temperatures from -15 degrees C° (5F°) up to 45 degrees C° (113F°), and can tolerate 55 degrees C° (131F°) for up to eight hours. An optional filtered bezel for improved dust protection means the XR2 can go pretty much anywhere users need to be. As a result, the XR2 is certified for use in applications and environments that would cripple or kill conventional systems.
In addition, the XR2’s lightness (28 lbs.), modest rack depth (20.67 in.) and power efficiency makes it an ideal solution for mobile deployment. Since the system is built for compliance with MIL-STD-810G and MIL-S-901D specifications, that includes military use cases, such as C3 and C5ISTAR applications, in-vehicle command and control, and weapons management and guidance.
An isolated hard drive cage accommodates up to eight hot-swappable drives, and the system also supports up to two hot-swappable power supplies. Plus, along with the usual PowerEdge security features, the XR2 offers a common access card reader for additional authentication. If the card is removed, all the data is automatically encrypted, and the server is rendered useless.
Applications where the PowerEdge XR2 shines include aerospace, defense, healthcare, industrial automation, marine, oil and gas exploration, telecommunications and transportation. Along with specialists in those areas, the XR2 could also enhance the efforts of disaster workers and first responders, police forces and security professionals.
It’s entirely too easy to regard new IT solutions without caring about or giving much regard to what came before them. That’s especially true in an industry that loves bright, shiny objects as much as IT does. However, by studying both its lights and shadows, it is possible to determine how the past influences the present and shapes the future.
The new PowerEdge XR2 server certainly highlights Dell EMC’s role as an enterprise server maker and systems vendor capable of leveraging new generation components and technologies into ever better and more able computing solutions. But the XR2 also underscores the pragmatic evolution of the company’s OEM organization and strategy.
During her presentation to analysts, SVP Joyce Mullen and her OEM team members noted numerous high points and achievements for the group, including achieving the #1 WW position as an OEM provider in February, and key wins with high profile customers, including Emerson Electric, Phillips China, IMS Evolve and ELM Energy Resources.
Mullen also noted that Dell EMC OEM considers one of its core roles to be “helping Future-Makers” – companies aiming to destroy the status quo by innovating with speed and quickly scaling their success. Computing at the edge of the network is central to the transformation being pursued by many of those companies but, as Mullen noted, “The edge means different things to different customers.”
The launch of the new rugged XR2 server demonstrates that wherever the edge resides and whatever the customer requires, Dell EMC and its OEM organization will be there to provide guidance, support and innovative solutions.
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