Introductions first! I work as a Technologist within OEM | Embedded & Edge Solutions, a global sales and engineering division that helps customers integrate the extensive Dell Technologies portfolio with their own Intellectual Property, products and services.
Movement towards the edge
In my role, I frequently get asked about current trends in the marketplace. While many of our customers continue to be focussed on traditional IT targeted appliances and solutions, I’m seeing increasing deployment of IT into the Operational Technology (OT) world with the two combining to deliver the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
If we go back five to ten years, the momentum was all about moving applications to the cloud. However, while many environments and associated applications continue to move to the cloud, the growing trend in OT environments, like factories and transport infrastructure, is now being reversed with compute infrastructure moving towards the edge.
What is driving this dynamic?
Why? Edge solutions such as pre-emptive maintenance, autonomous or automated systems, AI, command and control systems are all driving the need for lower latency for communications and data access. We’re also seeing higher performance requirements from edge applications and demand for higher edge availability with uptime maintained with or without access to the core or cloud. Meeting these requirements is a big challenge from a far-off cloud or core data centre. Bringing IT infrastructure to the edge is the obvious solution.
Connected enterprise edge
What constitutes the edge? A typical connected edge environment consists of sensors, IT Infrastructure (compute, networking, storage, data protection) and security, both physical and cyber-security. In this blog, I’ll discuss sensors and IT infrastructure and will separately focus in a follow-on blog on the important topic of security.
There is a vast range of sensors available today, offering many capabilities, such as component tracking, vibration, humidity, temperature, liquid detection, air quality and many more. From a Dell OEM perspective, in addition to sensors integrated into our own systems, we also use our partner network to source sensors for the solutions we design.
Today, many industrial machines and systems already include the full array of sensors with a growing number of manufacturers making the sensor data freely accessible. While there are still a number of manufacturers who continue to keep their sensor data private, end-customer pressure to enjoy open integration is significantly reducing this trend.
With the ever-increasing number of sensors now being deployed, customers need to aggregate the associated data in a managed way with only the relevant data being transmitted back to the core or cloud infrastructure for retention and analytics. As a result, we’re seeing Artificial Intelligence capabilities being implemented at the edge, core and cloud. Indeed, we already have a number of customers and partners working in this area, such as Software AG and Noodle AI.
Rugged IT infrastructure – our range of options
Moving onto IT infrastructure, our edge to the core and cloud portfolio, augmented by selected third-party partner solutions, provides customers with a complete and secure platform to deploy applications in any location.
For example, the Dell Edge Gateway 3000 and 5000 series offers an extremely rugged platform, extended environmental support from -30c to +70C in operation, extensive wired and wireless connectivity, industry certifications such as marine, military, aviation and transport plus various mounting capabilities and enclosures for enhanced protection up to IP69k. This means that our gateways can be mounted almost anywhere, allowing our customers to deploy software at the edge for data aggregation, edge analytics, control functions and device management. The Dell Edge Gateway also includes multiple options for connectivity, including LTE, WiFi, Zigbee and Bluetooth.
For less extreme environmental conditions or where greater performance or configuration flexibility is required, the Dell Embedded PC 3000 and 5000 series provides rugged features with 0C to 60C in operation, greater compute power with up to Intel Core i7 plus greater storage plus PCI slots for expansion.
To meet increasing requirements for a high-performance rugged desktop, we also offer the OptiPlex XE3 industrial grade PC, offering 24×7 duty cycle, integrated wireless, dust filters and secure chassis plus added support for GPUs. For rack mount deployments, the Precision 3930 1U workstation delivers a rugged GPU enabled 1U rack mount chassis, with PCoIP integration with Dell zero client endpoints.
Rounding out the rugged portfolio, we have the PowerEdge XR2 Rugged and the carrier-grade R740 and R640. The XR2 is designed for extreme operational environments, supporting 40G operational shock, up to 55c inlet temperature and dust filters. In addition to including certification for industrial, military and marine environment, this little beauty is also a VSAN-ready node, offering deployment high availability clustering and HCI deployments at the edge.
The carrier grade systems offer other rugged and edge features, including AC & DC power options, dust filters and fire-retardant components. As part of the OEM Embedded and Edge XL programme, we also offer up to 18-months’ extended platform operational life on the PowerEdge XL systems, compared to standard servers.
Distributed edge data centre solutions and trends
We’re currently working with many customers to create edge data centre solutions, offering various levels of performance and ruggedness, enabling our customers to stand up micro datacentres in almost any location.
Integration with VMware’s virtualisation and management solutions is also enabling the creation of hyper-converged edge platforms. For example, with edge licensing solutions like VMware ROBO, we can create high availability two node clusters that can be deployed with rugged racks harsh in environmental conditions or even wall-mounted in places like train or bus stations, airports, petrol garages and communications hubs.
For deployments with greater processing or storage requirements, we also provide modular datacentre solutions via own ESI team or via partners like Schneider, enabling the deployment of our standard non ruggedised datacentre infrastructure, such as the comprehensive PowerEdge server ranges, VxRail hyper converged platform, the range of Analytics Ready Solutions, maximum storage performance with the PowerMax NVMe platform, the Isilon Scale-out NAS Storage and many more.
Where to next? I believe that this relentless movement of compute, analytics and storage to the edge will continue to accelerate. In this blog, I’ve described some of the technologies and initiatives that we are providing to enable customers to innovate faster, build industry-leading solutions and scale. Watch out for my follow-on blog on security at the edge.
What are your thoughts on the Edge? I’d love to hear from you. Do share your viewpoints and questions.
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