Dell launches Internet of Things initiative with new division, IoT gateway product

Dell is looking to define itself as being able to work with the operational technology (OT) necessary for the Internet of Things as well as IT, with the new gateway product customized for the purpose to do both.

Dell Wyse Thin Client Desktop 3000 Series (Model 3290), codename Egeus, in vertical position.

A Dell Wyse Thin Client Desktop 3000 Series, adapted as an Internet of Things gateway.

Dell has brought new focus to its efforts around the Internet of Things with a pair of announcements. The company has formed a division focused on bringing together end-to-end IoT solutions that span hardware, software and services. The second announcement is its first product, a purpose-built IoT gateway designed to help begin realizing the value of IoT immediately.

Dell has obvious expertise in the IT element of the IoT, but much less in the operational technology (OT), which in the IoT is the hardware and software focused around sensors, and the monitoring and control of physical devices and processes.

“We have been engaged with customers involved in the IoT around infrastructure,” said David Chang, Director of Product Marketing at Dell. “Most of the traffic from sensors goes to the cloud, and this has very high overhead. We have always had endpoints that bridged that gap, but what drives this market is gathering analytics and data at the edge of the network.”

Chang said that Dell’s interest in the IoT has been focused around specific commercial applications like industrial, health care, and automotive, although they are seeing a lot of initial demand specifically for building and industrial automation.

“We have been talking about these for a while now, and we thought it would be great if there was a gateway that was specialized in brokering these protocols we have to deal with at the edge of the network for the IoT,” he said.

The new Dell IoT gateway features an Intel processor with two cores to drive a wide range of IoT applications including building and industrial automation. It has no moving parts, to help it last for years, and it mounts on walls, desks, or other easily accessible areas of the building. The gateways are intended to be the foundation for an IoT edge solution that saves bandwidth and money by relaying only meaningful data back to the cloud.

“This gateway is our first foray into the IoT edge,” Chang said. “We won’t be building sensors, and we aren’t in the thermostat business. We start in the gateway because IT needs OT. It’s like OT in that you hang it on the wall and forget it, but it’s also like an IT asset in that you can work with it like a PC.” It supports multiple operating systems including Wind River Linux, Ubuntu and Microsoft Windows IoT.

Chang said Dell wants the gateway to help define its position in the IoT.

“We want to remind the market that there is an opportunity for OT and IT to merge in this place, with a gateway purpose-built so it looks like an OT device but still manages like an IT asset,” he said.

Dell is also beefing up its OT skillset by partnering with OT organizations like KMC Controls, to develop these kinds of solutions that are specialized enough for OT yet seamlessly manageable in an IT environment.

The new IoT division will ultimately play a key role in bringing these solutions to market, but right out of the gate, exactly what it will do is still being defined.

“We know we want to grow the business,” Chang said. “We will have more details about how we do that as we go along. We are working through a lot of that internally.”

What channels this will work through is also being defined as they go along, although it seems ultimately likely to follow the classic Dell model of having both direct and channel components.

“A lot of the early-on sales motion will be driven by the OEM group, which is uniquely positioned to help customers here,” Chang said. “There will be an ecosystem around the gateway device, to the OS, to the software stack and management suite. Today, that’s fairly fragmented so there will be multiple ways to get to market. We are talking to systems integrators, to VARs, and to customers who are mature enough to have their own resources internally to do the stitching themselves.”

The Dell IoT Gateway is now available in the U.S. and Canada, with additional countries to have availability soon. Dell gateways start at $USD 479.

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