Dell Looks at the Future, and Frankly, It Can Be Scary

NEWS ANALYSIS: From Michael Dell’s viewpoint—and he is hardly an outlier here—we are facing an ever-growing tsunami of data, and the related problems and opportunities are massive. He argues that Dell, at its current massive scale, is the only company that can stretch from the edge, embrace the cloud and encompass the core.

Bionic.sight

CHICAGO—This week I’m in lovely (and frickin’ cold) Chicago at Dell’s annual analyst event, and Michael Dell is on stage talking about things like “bionic vision.” Recalling the old TV show, “The $6 Million Man,” this technology is coming out of England for folks who have catastrophic vision loss. This is kind of a primer on what is going on with regard to applied data analytics.  

From Dell’s viewpoint—and he is hardly an outlier here—we are facing an ever-growing tsunami of data, and the related problems and opportunities are massive. He argues that Dell, at its current massive scale, is the only company that can stretch from the edge, embrace the cloud and encompass the core (which bridges on-premises and the multicloud world) to prepare firms for that future.  

Weaving in the different elements of Dell Technologies (Boomi, Virtustream, EMC, Pivotal, VMware), he has a strong argument that Dell is the closest to a true end-to-end holistic supplier of complete data center solutions for this future.  

Preceding Dell’s talk, and this was unusual, was a showcase of the young companies Dell is funding demonstrating that Dell is not only focused on those companies’ near-term future but on assuring they are well-positioned, regardless of what the future brings. 

The Power of Data: John Roese Presentation

John Roese is the CTO and EVP, Cross Product Operation, Dell EMC/Dell Technologies (that is indeed his full title). One of the scariest things he starts with is that data analysis growth is running at 100x, and we are supposed to reach 1Q (quintillion) of data by 2025. He pointed out that much of the initial focus on big data was ill-informed; it was focused on the collection of data but lacked the focus on analyzing it. So, instead of solving problems, it mostly just created a new one: Where to put this ever-growing steaming pile of data?  

The focus of Roese’s talk was fixing this problem—not by eliminating the data, but turning it from a liability into an asset. We do this by pivoting to a focus-on-machine intelligence—in other words, the analysis of the data and the application of the result—in real time. He argued that by doing this, up to 6 billion hours of existing manual labor will be absorbed into the growing intelligent infrastructure. 

Roese is clearly on the machines-replace-people track and in line with recent studies I’ve seen that indicate people are more comfortable in autonomous cars when there is no steering wheel. Also, that fully autonomous factories will likely outperform blended human/machine factories as they evolve into what will basically be manufacturing plant-sized printers. In that scenario, raw materials go in one side and finished goods near magically appear on the other. 

One of the big changes he mentions is the coming wave of 5G devices. Roese correctly stated that the current 4G network is bottlenecking badly, particularly at the network edges. But, once this bottleneck is eliminated, the amount of data—and the rate in which it is captured and analyzed—will be massively increased. He then weaves in each of the Dell Technologies companies and divisions to showcase how the company is uniquely capable of encompassing and solving this problem at scale.  

Roese closed by talking about how these tools will change the future. The most interesting was from Toyota called e-Palette. This is a fascinating concept, because it rethinks what cars will be in a smart city/autonomous car-evolved future. It reminds me a bit of some of the concepts in the 1997 movie “The Fifth Element,” in that rather than going to the service, the service would roll to you. In the movie, this was mostly mobile food trucks, but he imagines mobile doctors, oral hygienists, masseuses and rolling gyms that would come to you rather than you rolling to them. (Granted getting some of these to work at scale would likely require robots and telematics, so the professional could remain in their office but work on you remotely).     

Wrapping Up

We are already up to our necks in data and apparently about to be buried by it. Dell’s folks make a compelling argument for why they should be on the short list of companies that want to fix this problem.

This did make me wonder if we are spending enough time talking about the world of 2030, as we have a massive amount of technology being deployed over the next decade that impacts everything from how we interact with hardware (HoloLens, Echo, autonomous cars, AIs, etc.) to how we’ll interact with each other (Facebook Portal, AR, VR, Echo Show, etc.), and even how we’ll perceive the world (Michael Dell’s bionic eye reference, see image at upper left). If the change is as dramatic as it appears it will be, we likely should be spending a ton more time getting ready for it (particularly the “AI took my job” part).  

In the end, though, this was a fascinating, if not frightening, morning that had me rethinking the future and realizing we aren’t anticipating it well at all. Dell may be ready, but I’m pretty sure the rest of us aren’t yet. And that could become a huge problem next decade. 

Rob Enderle is a principal at Enderle Group. He is an award-winning analyst and a longtime contributor to QuinStreet publications and Pund-IT.