Although the Internet of Things (IoT) might not necessarily be new, there is still a lot of discovery going on and questions being answered in order to make it a reality for industrial operations. The IoT is not new to Dell either, but as it celebrates the one-year anniversary of the formation of its IoT division, the company reflected today on what it has learned over the past 12 months.
“We’ve spent a lot of time with customers understanding how they work,” said Joyce Mullen, vice president and general manager of Dell OEM Solutions and IoT. “We’re really learning many, many things. What is the art of the possible? It’s certainly intriguing, and gives us the opportunity to solve some of the world’s most vexing problems.”
But it’s important to move beyond the more esoteric discussions to really help customers figure out how to implement solutions. “We need to transform from the art of the possible, which is really interesting, to what problems our customers are trying to solve and how they’re trying to solve them,” Mullen said.
Dell launched its IoT Solutions Partner Program in April with that in mind—teaming with GE, Microsoft, OSIsoft, PTC, SAP, Software AG and 25 other companies to develop use-case blueprints to help customers accelerate IoT projects. The partnership has now reached 50 partners in 50 days. Today, Dell announced the addition of VMware to the program at the executive tier; and also KMC Controls, Eurotech, Nokia and V5 Systems as new associate partners. In addition, Exara, FogHorn and DGLogik were promoted from the registered to the associate tier by demonstrating value to Dell IoT customers.
Though Dell has many years of experience helping organizations harness, manage and analyze sensor and machine data, since launching its IoT division, Dell has introduced its first purpose-built IoT solution, the Edge Gateway 5000 Series. Dell has also opened IoT labs in Santa Clara, Calif.; Limerick, Ireland; and Singapore.
What hasn’t changed so much over the past year are the challenges and risks that customers face in IoT, said Andy Rhodes, executive director of commercial IoT solutions for Dell. “The challenges that we speak to our customers every day about are staying more or less constant,” he said. “But we do see more customers breaking through these challenges.”
Security is key among them, both in terms of how to secure the things you’re connecting to and how to keep the data center secure. “It affects both the OT and IT teams,” Rhodes said. “Customers are going to continue to ensure vendors provide them a complete solution.”
That partnership between information (IT) and operations (OT) is a challenge in itself. For many of Dell’s customers, Mullen noted, the people in the two departments don’t even know each other—they don’t speak the same language and they don’t understand each other’s environments.
The customers that are the most successful as they head into IoT deployment, Rhodes said, are those that have brought the two discrete organizations of IT and OT together. “Or the operations side of the house is looking more and more at buying this as a service instead of building out the solutions themselves,” he added.
At this point, outsourcing is still difficult in itself, however, Rhodes said. What IoT could really use more help with—particularly with the challenging complexity involved—are more system integrators who know how to tackle the plethora of niche providers and products.
“There are a huge amount of customers who, as they go to outsource these projects, cannot find the right system integrators that understand the right side of that equation,” Rhodes said, noting that integrators typically have only IT expertise or only OT domain expertise. “Those two things put together is where there’s still a lack of capacity in the marketplace. It’s driving concern for customers because they still feel like they need to do it themselves.”
Part of the aim of Dell’s IoT partner program is to help hook customers up with the right system integrators to provide an integrated system. Dell describes its partnership program as a bridge from the ingredients to the vertical solutions—to combine Dell hardware and software with ingredients such as vertical expertise, protocol translation, analytics, data cleansing, data visualization and real-time messaging together with system integrators to deliver, integrate and deploy.
“A lot more has to happen with the system integrators,” Rhodes said. “Who’s going to deploy that last mile? Who has the business or domain intelligence to actually make sense of the data?”
Connect What Matters
Also announced today were the winners of the Connect What Matters IoT contest that Dell hosted along with Intel to encourage businesses to submit interesting, practical, data-driven ideas. The platinum winner is V5 Systems, which provides portable, solar-powered security and Industrial IoT solutions.
The technology from V5 Systems can be deployed without being tied to power or data cables for applications from law enforcement to agriculture to other outdoor uses. The portable units contain analytics, multiple sensors (including video, acoustic and chemical detection), power, computing, and Wi-Fi and cellular communications. V5 evolved its intelligent security platform to support more use cases and technologies by working with Dell OEM Services to provide intelligent gateways for use at the edge of networks.
“Working with Dell has allowed us the opportunity to expand our product offering and our product vision with the Industrial IoT as our primary focus,” said Mazin Bedwan, co-founder and president of V5 Systems. “We have integrated the Dell IoT gateway into our technology offering, taking edge computing and Industrial IoT to the outdoors, where it belongs.”