Dell Eyes AI, Security With Latest Mobile and Desktop Business PCs

The company’s latest commercial PCs are aimed at modern workloads like AI, machine learning and VR, while enhanced security software aims at quantum computing.

Dell workstation

Dell is building out its portfolio of mobile and desktop commercial PCs with an eye toward more easily running such complex modern workloads as artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual and augmented reality, and analytics, and is also expanding its lineup of software to secure both the systems and the data that come from them.

The announcements April 24 come less than a week before the company’s major annual user conference, Dell EMC World, kicks off in Las Vegas, and as the company sees some momentum in a stagnant global PC market. Analysts with both IDC and Gartner put Dell as the world’s third largest PC maker, behind HP and Lenovo, but also said that in the first three months of the year, Dell was the fastest-growing OEM, with about a 6.5 percent increase in shipments.

Dell officials are looking to press that advantage, with new and enhanced systems that include not only business notebooks and desktops, but also two-in-ones, all-in-ones and workstations (including a two-in-one Precision workstation).

They’re also taking a long-term view: With the introduction of a dual data encryption solution in the Dell Encryption offering, company executives raised the specter of quantum computing.

Quantum computing holds the promise of systems that are multiple times faster than current supercomputers. At the heart of quantum computing are qubits. Current systems use bits that hold values of 0 or 1. But qubits—or quantum bits—can be 0 and 1 at the same time, which opens up the possibility of systems rapidly running through millions of calculations simultaneously and running workloads that are far too complex for today’s systems.

“Quantum computing, while still in the theoretical stages, is progressing rapidly,” Brett Hanson, vice president of client software and general manager of data security at Dell, said during a conference call with journalists. “Experts believe that with quantum computing, a 256-encryption encipher that we all use today will be vulnerable to a brute-force attack. To that end, a practical step that we can take to protect data will be important, not just today but five years down the road, is dual encryption, where we’re encrypting the file level and the sector, thus even making a quantum computing brute-force attack impossible.”

Hanson said the needs of a company’s users and IT teams at times can be at odds. The new systems and security offerings are aimed at addressing both those needs.

“End users are expecting to be more mobile, be more collaborative,” he said. “They’re looking to be more productive. The end users are seeking to use technology to enable them to work more efficiently. But for the IT [staff] and CIO, they’re finding this need to balance this evolving workforce while maintaining the cost and operational excellence they have today with their end-user computing, and underneath it all is, ‘How do I continue meet security expectations?’”

Dell Latitude Laptops

On the systems side, Dell is expanding its lineup in multiple directions. In the Latitude laptop space, the latest 14-inch 5491 and 15-inch 5591 are powered by Intel’s 8th generation Core i5 and i7 vPro processors and Nvidia GPUs. The systems also come with up to 32GB of memory, optional Thunderbolt connectivity and a variety of storage options, including hard drives and solid-state drives (SSDs).

Latitudes also offer a range of security options, including smart card readers, Intel’s Authenticate multifactor authentication and facial recognition technology support through Microsoft’s Windows 10 OS. The laptops are 30 percent smaller and 20 percent lighter than devices from several years ago, and offer up to 20 hours of runtime.

Precision Workstations

The enhanced Precision workstation portfolio includes the 15-inch 5530 two-in-one (pictured), which has a 360-degree hinge that enables the system to be used as a traditional notebook or as a tablet. The system comes with Intel Core i5 or i7 processors and Nvidia’s Quadro P2000 GPU, memory speeds of 2,666MHz, up to 32GB of memory and up to 4TB of SSD storage, all in a workstation that weights 3.9 pounds.

Dell also is offering the 15-inch Precision 353 mobile workstation that can run on Intel Core or Xeon chips and Nvidia’s Quadro P600 GPUs.

Other mobile workstations include the Precision 7730 and 7530, which include the latest Intel Core and Xeon processors, AMD’s Radeon WX and Nvidia Quadro GPUs, and memory up to 128GB. The 7530 provides up to 6TB of PCIe SSD storage, while the 7730 is aimed at such new use cases as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, and can bring those capabilities to the network edge.

Dell officials said most businesses think of the data center when the subject of AI workloads comes up, but users and developers can now run these workloads locally on their workstations.

OptiPlex Desktop PCs

The company also is putting effort, time and money into its OptiPlex lineup of desktop PCs, despite years of talk in the industry of the waning interest in desktops.

“Many of us have read the stories … about the demise of the desktop, the desktop being dead,” Tom Toble, vice president and general manager of Dell’s OptiPlex and Wyse units, said during the conference call. “But if you’re actually paying attention to the numbers, this year IDC is projecting that desktops will account for 50 percent of all commercial clients sold globally.”

Dell is rolling out new all-in-one systems that include Core vPro chips, up to 32GB of DDR4 memory and optional Optane memory from Intel. There also is a pop-up webcam for improved collaboration, Windows Hello sign-on support and video calls.

The lineup includes the 27-inch 7760 AIO, 23.8-inch 7460 and 21.5-inch 5260. The company also is releasing new OptiPlex tower, small form factor and micro desktops. Toble noted that micro desktops are an emerging trend in the industry, rising to be about 20 percent of the desktop mix in the global market.

Most of the new and enhanced systems will be available in late May.

On the security front, Dell is looking to harden the systems while protecting data, whether it’s on Dell PCs, on systems from other vendors or in the cloud, Hanson said. The PCs must be viewed as trusted devices, while agnostic solutions are needed to protect the data regardless of its location. The rise of clouds and the growing mobility are changing how data is used and managed.

“Data is going to flow, it’s going to move,” he said. “It’s the new world paradigm that we live in.”

Dell is adding support for an organization’s existing data classification structures in its Data Guardian software. Such structures provide enforcement and controls that reach beyond a company’s network, and the software now can seamlessly fit in with those existing structures.

With Dell Encryption, the software protects data at rest. Now the solution supports the National Security Agency’s Commercial Solutions for Classified program, which mandates that two layers of encryption is used to address the threats that will be created by quantum computing. Dell Encryption now supports that by enabling users to use both file-based and full-disk encryption in a dual-encryption solution. They can also just use one or another if they want.