This week I attended the Dell Technologies Summit in Austin, Texas; an Analyst/Media event. It's no secret that Dell at large is focused more on IT than OT (and Dell is large, with revenues of over $91 billion Dell’s top-line revenue is almost exactly that of Siemens). Dell has acquired VMware and has transitioned from public to private and then back to public ownership, all the while continuing to grow in several major IT markets.
The event theme was "the next data decade", and Dell (like many others) anticipates an explosion of digital data and expects that edge systems will be required to collect, store, and analyze much of this data tsunami. In its IT domain, Dell is trying to radically simplify the deployment of edge data centers and computing and is creating products and business models that will make this type of on-premise tech far easier to deploy and manage.
At the same time, Dell is a very important OEM to the industrial automation and IIoT markets, and partners with many industrial automation suppliers – and at a very intimate level with some of these.
Containerized Industrial Automation and the Coming Convergence
What caught my attention at this event was the vision of "autonomous IT infrastructure" combined with Dell's push to drive their data center technologies to the edge. Dell anticipates that the best way it can sustain its success is by simplifying edge computing and enabling it to grow ever more cloud-like in terms of ease of deployment, scalability, and management. That is how Dell expects to sustain its growth over the long term.
This message is vitally important for the industrial automation space. Why? Because during this "data decade", industrial automation applications will eventually adopt these same cloud software development and deployment technologies (these being software containers, container orchestration, and CI/CD development tools and models). Personally, I'm convinced that when automation suppliers are able to deliver these software technologies in a form simple enough for their manufacturing customers to use, they will be on to something big. What makes Dell important to automation suppliers and manufacturers is that Dell is moving in this same direction – they believe that simplification of cloud technologies and their ubiquitous deployment is the key to Dell's success. Dell is moving in a direction that will support those industrial automation suppliers who realize that this "change is gonna come". In the future, ARC will be writing in more specifics about how these technologies can add value to industrial automation.
Dell Announcements at the Event
Dell announced a new PowerOne autonomous infrastructure line combining compute, storage, networking and virtualization, pointing to the high level of automation Dell had embedded into the product to reduce time and labor for deployment and support. Dell also announced a new set of consumption-based and *aaS offerings for its infrastructure portfolio. Finally, Michael Dell announced the next phase of Dell’s Corporate Social Responsibility initiative, defining a set of ambitious “stretch” goals for the year 2030 in the areas of sustainability, inclusion, data privacy, ethics, and outreach.
Autonomy Vision is Widely Shared
Right after the Dell event ended, I attended part of a web meeting with a different ARC client, and coincidentally (perhaps) they discussed their vision for autonomy, albeit their focus was on autonomy for manufacturing operations rather than IT. But the concept of greater autonomy is powerful whether applied to IT infrastructure, operations, or software development (for both IT and OT). For example, the ability to abstract “immutable” application and IT infrastructures underly the value of software containerization. This abstraction also provides opportunities for far higher levels of automation, because all state changes are part of a fully automated deployment process, rather than a set of manual operations. In both IT and OT, autonomy is becoming an important goal. The common goal (and language) may hasten their convergence.