Dell Technologies IoT – Re-envisioning Computer Vision

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  September 5, 2018

The Internet of Things (IoT) gets more than its fair share of media and other attention but has also tended to deliver considerably less substance to date than some vocal evangelists have promised. Why is that the case?

Two reasons spring immediately to mind. First, enterprise IoT is often unfairly saddled with the baggage of scores of so-called Smart Home consumer devices that have come and mostly gone. In fact, compelling and commercially sustainable IoT market opportunities mostly reside in vertical industry use cases.

More importantly, effective IoT solutions are far more complicated and require greater knowledge and expertise than any single vendor possesses. As a result, developing effective IoT offerings requires great technologies and integration skills, plus the ability to develop and manage relationships with partners with special expertise.

One vendor that has been able to avoid the former issue and successfully tackle the latter is Dell Technologies. At VMworld 2018 last week, the company’s Edge and IoT Solutions Division launched a new IoT Solution for Surveillance that makes great use of contributions from Dell and its partners. Also announced were new IoT Connected Bundles, pre-engineered and integrated Dell/partner solutions that customers can use to support industry-specific IoT use cases and applications.

Let’s take a closer look at these new Dell offerings.

Dell Technologies IoT – A natural evolution

Like some other vendors competing in the IoT space, Dell focuses primarily on solutions leveraging edge computing, server, storage and networking technologies as the core infrastructure supporting information-gathering sensors, embedded PCs and other devices. However, since the company is one of the few end-to-end Tier 1 systems vendors still extant (Lenovo is the other), its IoT-related holdings tend to be deeper.

That’s partly related to Dell’s work in areas, like Latitude Rugged laptops and tablets whose developments have informed the company’s Edge Gateway and embedded PC lines. In addition, Dell’s 2016 acquisition of EMC significantly broadened its portfolio with storage solutions adaptable to IoT, including the new solutions and bundles. In fact, the company’s ability to evolve so deep a portfolio of IoT-ready solutions so quickly is attributable in significant part to the synergies it captured from the EMC deal.

Just as importantly, the partnerships nurtured through Dell EMC’s OEM organization also directly complement its IoT efforts and strategy. Like other vendors, Dell EMC’s OEM group works with numerous players, large and small, that use the company’s products as the digital brains inside their own branded products.

But after Joyce Mullen (now president of Dell EMC’s Global Channel, OEM and IoT Solutions) became SVP of the OEM organization in 2012, she significantly broadened interactions with partners and customers, enabling them to gain full advantage from the company’s supply chain, support network and engineered solutions, including customization capabilities.

Partners small and large

As a result, Dell EMC’s OEM efforts grew rapidly into $1B+ annual business. Given the roles and influence that industry-focused partners play in creating IoT solutions, Mullen’s OEM organization was a natural place for those efforts to reside. Over time, many of the companies that initially partnered with Dell for OEM solutions are now either developing or exploring IoT engagements.

That seems like a natural enough evolution, but other Dell partners are also heavily engaged with its IoT products and strategies, including the new surveillance solution. For example, the new IoT Solution for Surveillance takes full advantage of Intel’s groundbreaking work in computer vision and analytics. In addition, Dell’s deep relationship with VMware is apparent with the key roles the latter company offerings play in the new solution, including its Pulse IoT Center for securing, managing and monitoring surveillance infrastructures at scale.

Integrated and bundled innovation

So what exactly is Dell Technologies’ IoT Solution for Surveillance? Along with being the company’s first commercial foray into computer vision, the solution is designed to simplify and transform the way that companies deploy and manage video surveillance to improve safety and speed decision-making in environments like school campuses, hospitals, cities, stadiums and airports.

The solution incorporates video components from partners, like BCDVideo (which was quoted in the press release) into hyper-converged, software-defined Dell EMC infrastructures. The solution supports automated, fault-tolerant scaling from 300TB to 50PB+ on Dell EMC Elastic Cloud Storage for private, on-premise, off-premise and hybrid deployments. High availability and zero data loss features are delivered via VMware vSAN RAID 5/6 across flash and disk. Additionally, customers can utilize VMware ESXi Enterprise Plus high availability and disaster recovery services.

And three global Dell EMC Surveillance Labs (located in Durham, NC, Limerick, Ireland and Bangalore, India) allow the company to validate all physical security applications with their full portfolio of products. These proven lab validations with key partners accompany extensive documentation to simplify deployment and reduce risk of video loss for customers.

What about the new IoT Connected Bundles? Those offerings are being developed through Dell’s IoT Solutions Partner Program. Like the IoT Solution for Surveillance, they all utilize Dell’s Edge Gateway, embedded PC or system hardware as the foundation for turnkey offerings, thus simplifying acquisition, deployment and management processes. Dell’s IoT partners provide endpoint sensors and licensed software, leavened with their industry knowledge and expertise.

The eight initial offerings include,

  • ELM: compliance-aaS for HVAC, refrigeration and power systems
  • V5 Systems: self-contained and powered surveillance for safety and security in outdoor spaces
  • IMS Evolve: energy savings for grocery retailers while improving food quality and safety
  • Modius: advanced Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM)
  • Pelco: video surveillance tailored for the requirements of K-12 education
  • Pixel Velocity: efficient remote monitoring of field assets in oil and gas operations
  • ActionPoint: predictive maintenance in midmarket manufacturing
  • Software AG: digital manufacturing intelligence suite for larger-scale operations

Dell noted that additional curated IoT Partner Program bundles will become available over time.

It’s also important to note that Dell EMC’s channel partners will carry much of the weight and garner many of the benefits these offerings provide. The new IoT Connected Bundles will be sold fully through the Dell EMC channel, meaning that partners will be able to promote and directly deliver validated, market-proven solutions as turnkey offerings. Since significant technological and market evolutions continue to impact the channel, it seems likely that many will welcome the new opportunities that Dell’s IoT efforts represent.

Final analysis

Market evolution is a continual theme in the Internet of Things. Arising initially as the common dream of a few vendors hoping to inspire and develop new consumer markets, IoT instead has largely evolved to meet industrial and business needs. Those include the ability to be deployed, managed and maintained at enterprise scale.

Achieving those points is clearly in the wheelhouse of Tier 1 systems vendors, but industrial IoT is also an area where egocentric players are quickly overwhelmed. Workable solutions simply require too much industry-specific expertise and experience for any single vendor to be effective. As a result, success depends in large part on a vendor’s ability to develop and nurture myriad partnerships.

That’s a key point to remember when considering Dell’s new IoT Solution for Surveillance and IoT Partner Bundles. Both efforts fully leverage the company’s massive portfolio of systems and endpoint technologies. But they are also substantially enhanced by the company’s longstanding relationships with developer, OEM and channel partners.

As a result, though these new Dell Technologies solutions are certainly worthy of consideration and praise, they represent the initial feint in an IoT strategy and portfolio which is likely to grow substantially and successfully over time.

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