Dell is making a move into the emerging embedded box PCs space as it looks to expand its reach in the growing Internet of things and increase its capabilities in selling systems that are optimized to meet specific customer workload needs.
The company this week launched its first purpose-built industrial PCs, the Embedded Box PC 3000 and 5000 series. The systems, which are fanless and ruggedized, come with the latest technologies and can be used in a broad range of areas, from retail kiosks, automated vending machines and vehicles to industrial environments, manufacturing spaces and the Internet of things (IoT).
Dell has been growing its capabilities in building systems that can be configured to address particular workloads, as evidenced by its Data Center Solutions (DCS) and Datacenter Scalable Solutions (DSS) infrastructure offerings and its Open Networking switches, which offer flexibility similar to that of white-box networking gear, but come with Dell's services and support.
The embedded system effort follows in this vein. It's a fast-growing space—Dell noted numbers from Technavio that indicated the embedded systems market will grow from more than $11 billion in 2014 to $23.1 billion in 2019—that is plagued by problems of long lead times, low system reliability, security and management issues, and limited support, company officials said.
Dell wants to address the concerns around sophistication, scale and support, according to Andy Rhodes, executive director of commercial IoT solutions at Dell.
"Along with our new embedded products that can be ordered in quantities from one to thousands, Dell will bring our established business heritage to this new market: global scale, end-to-end IT and OT [operational technology] security portfolio, flexible payment solutions, strong customization and award-winning service and support," Rhodes said in a statement.
Those capabilities are important, according to Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
"What stands behind Dell's new industrial PC solutions is every bit as crucial as what's included in the box," King wrote in a research note. "Namely, the company's global availability, security and manageability options, as well as Dell Support and Deployment services. Why is that important? Because it is a notably different approach than that pursued by many other industrial embedded systems vendors."
Dell's ProSupport offers up to five years of hardware support for the entire IoT product lifecycle, while Dell Financial Services can make it easier for customers to buy the equipment they need, he noted.
The 3000 Series is powered by Intel's low-power Atom systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) and are aimed at space constrained uses. The 5000 Series runs on Intel's Core processors, includes two PCI/PCIe card slots for greater adaptability and is optimized for performance and I/O scalability. The high bandwidth can be beneficial in industrial PC and IoT uses cases, including multi-high-definition video streaming apps and high frequency sensor data sources, officials said.
The systems—which will be available this summer starting at $1,099 for the 3000 Series and $1,699 for the 5000 Series—will run Microsoft's Windows 7 Pro, Windows 7 Embedded, Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 IoT Enterprise LTSB operating systems, as well as Ubuntu Linux Desktop.
Being fanless systems is important for a number of reasons, according to Dell officials. Fans are the components in embedded systems that fail most often, and also significantly reduce the noise coming from the PCs, which is good for close areas that need quiet. These systems can be "headless" or be used with keyboards, mice and monitors, and come with wired or wireless I/O options.
As far as ruggedness, the embedded PCs can run in temperatures that range from 0 to 50 Celsius.