Wednesday, 11 October 2017 08:46

Dell bets on three-tier architecture for IoT

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The pendulum is swinging away from the cloud for IoT, Dell Technologies believes, and so the company is promoting a three-tier architecture.

With the cost of sensors approaching $0, we soon will be "awash with rich data", Dell Technologies chairman and chief executive Michael Dell. Artificial intelligence and machine learning "will be the jet engines of human progress, and data will be the fuel".

He described a virtuous circle, starting with the way software makes products smart and allows services to be moved online. Those products and services produce data, which can be analysed by other software to identify ways in which the products and services can be improved. The new versions produce more data, and the cycle repeats.

Computing technology started with a centralised model (mainframes), but that gave way to a distributed model with the rise of client/server architectures, which were in turn largely replaced by a new centralised model in the form of cloud infrastructure.

Dell said that while some people suggest cloud is the final iteration, "we're not done innovating".

Cloud is fine for many consumer IoT applications, but some applications need to be able to respond more quickly than that allows. One example is that an autonomous vehicle needs to be able to identify hazards locally – by the time the data has been uploaded and the response received, a collision may have already occurred.

What's needed, he suggested, is a combination of edge processing (eg, for data triage and machine-to-machine messaging) with what Dell Technologies has dubbed a "distributed core" to handle events in real time and cloud systems to provide the bigger picture.

Michael Dell

Dell Technologies is placing a US$1 billion bet on this architecture over the next three years.

Its new IoT division will be led by VMware chief technology officer Ray O’Farrell, Dell said.

Dell believes the company is well-placed to take a leadership position in IoT: "We have the biggest ecosystem in the tech industry, we're number one in everything", and as a private company Dell Technologies can take a long-term perspective and focus 100% on customers.

IoT "will fundamentally change" what those customers do, said O'Farrell. Dell Technologies companies — Dell, Dell EMC, Pivotal, RSA, SecureWorks, Virtustream and VMware — have the building blocks along with others from the broader Dell Technologies ecosystem, and "we intend to make IoT real".

Existing components include edge gateways,PowerEdge C-Series servers, VMware Pulse IoT Control Centre, Isilon and Elastic Cloud Storage, Pivotal Cloud Foundry (PCF)and Pivotal Container Service, Virtustream’s managed PCF service, Virtustream Storage Cloud, and Dell Boomi.

New IoT services initiatives announced by Dell Technologies will help customers identify and prioritise high-value business use cases for IoT data, and then develop the overall IoT architecture and roadmap for implementation. Customers can also visit the new Dell Technologies IoT Labs, the nearest being in Singapore.

The company is providing flexible consumption models through Dell Financial Services, reflecting the way IoT tends to bring recurrent, rather than upfront, income.

AeroFarms co-founder and chief executive David Rosenberg backed the Dell Technologies approach to IoT.

"We are as much a capabilities company as we are farmers, utilising science and technology to achieve our vision of totally-controlled agriculture," he said.

"We have worked closely with Dell Technologies to develop the tools to wirelessly track and monitor our product throughout the growing process from seed to package. Dell Technologies understands our IoT infrastructure and integration needs, and we see the opportunity to collaborate on additional solutions as we build our indoor vertical farms in major cities around the world."

A video of the launch event is available here.

Disclosure: the writer attended Dell's IoT Day in New York as a guest of the company.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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