Although the concept of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) is deeply embedded in tech industry and culture, most people focus on the OEM relationships between large hardware vendors and their component partners or between commercial ISVs and PC makers.
Those interactions are akin to OEM interdependencies in every other manufacturing sector. For example, specialist subcontractors contribute everything from light bulbs, wire harnesses, paint and interior appointments to the cars and trucks that roll off automaker assembly lines.
But there is another less recognized and understood OEM dynamic where system vendors provide the digital brain power for a wide variety of compute-enabled devices, so important for edge computing. They work in collaboration with partners, in a world driven by advances in cloud computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning. These solutions range from products utilizing relatively simple embedded PC components that never see the light of day to full-fledged systems and appliances that are sold under the OEM customer’s name and brand.
Dell Technologies has been proactively involved in this latter form of business since 2000, and Dell’s Kyle Dufresne, Global SVP and GM of the company’s OEM Solutions, recently blogged about reaching this milestone. Let’s consider Dell’s OEM efforts and how their evolution addresses the demands of today’s market.
The Dell OEM Evolution
What began as a supportive response to ad hoc requests from Dell’s customers has grown into a substantial multi-billion-dollar business serving the needs of clients in over 40 vertical global industries.
Though many IT vendors pursue OEM markets and partnerships, the duration of Dell’s efforts and its continuing evolution set it apart from most vendors. In addition, some fundamental points and goals have contributed to the longevity and success of the company’s program.
As Kyle Dufresne wrote, Dell’s OEM Solutions division was formed to meet “demand for hardware that didn’t yet exist” that was “specialized to meet the requirements of projects that (customers) had in the works.”
In 2000, many companies used onboard compute features for standalone products like commercial video game machines, while others expanded on network or internet connectivity, including third party automatic teller machines (ATMs). Dufresne noted that OEM customers also seek industrial-grade solutions able to withstand harsh environmental conditions and to be capable of functioning in remote, offshore locations. To that end, Dell began by “adding some extra battery life here, ruggedizing a server there, creating unique and custom-made solutions for every customer.”
Dell’s OEM Solutions division employs more than 700 professionals who help develop, customize, design, industrialize, transform and innovate solutions that meet the essential requirements of customers in verticals, including healthcare, telco, transportation, manufacturing and public infrastructure. In addition, the company is helping customers in emerging areas and use cases, such as 5G network development, testing and deployment.
Emphasizing Dell’s “do-anything-from-anywhere-world” strategy, the OEM Solutions division also offers customers a wide range of management and support services, as well as a specialized channel partner program.
OEM Use Cases
What sorts of companies work with Dell OEM Solutions to develop new and leading-edge products? Here are two recent customer examples to consider:
A Japanese multinational operating in 150 countries, Konica Minolta is finding synergies between its decades of optics and imaging experience and emerging technologies, including AI. One of its focus areas is enhancing traditional digital imaging processes, such as conventional X-rays for use in applications where physical motion can contribute to accurate diagnosis. To that end, Konica Minolta developed a recording system and software called “Kinosis,” which takes a series of X-ray images at high speed and low radiation to produce cine loop sequences that enable clinicians to see the dynamic motion of anatomical structures, such as the movement of lung tissue.
To launch Kinosis commercially, the company needed a platform that would meet the high reliability and compliance standards healthcare solutions require, and also connect seamlessly to legacy X-ray and picture archiving and communications systems (PACS). Konica Minolta’s longstanding relationship with Dell led to a natural alliance with the OEM Solutions division and resulted in Kinosis offerings that run on Dell’s Precision workstations.
Along with providing the hardware foundation for Kinosis, Dell OEM Solutions also loads Konica Minolta’s OS and BIOS software onto systems at the factory, manages software updates and provides global support services. As a result of its partnership with Dell OEM Solutions, Konica Minolta’s Kinosis solutions have allowed hospitals and clinicians to effectively and cost effectively enhance diagnosis processes and patient outcomes.
VIAVI develops and delivers virtual testing, measurement and assurance solutions for global telecommunications vendors and network operators. Among those offerings is the company’s TeraVM 5G, a core emulator that enables customers to validate next generation products and scenarios. Those are vital processes when it comes to 5G, a fifth-generation high performance technology that promises to fundamentally transform wireless services and solutions.
As Amit Malhotra, VP for programs at VIAVI Solutions noted, “5G isn’t just about smartphones, tablets or consumer devices. It will ultimately enable connections with anything that has a chip in it. That requires a huge scale-up by telcos and network operators to support limitless endpoints.”
VIAVI partnered with Dell OEM Solutions to develop TeraVM into an emulation and security performance solution that network manufacturers and operators can use to stress test radio access networks with tens of thousands of base stations and millions of end-user devices under real-world conditions. A virtualized solution that can be deployed anywhere—in labs, data centers or cloud infrastructures—TeraVM runs on Dell EMC PowerEdge R740XL servers that can emulate millions of end-user devices and other endpoints and scale up to 1 Tbit/s of simulated network traffic.
Along with providing the core platform to support TeraVM, Dell OEM Solutions also works closely with VIAVI to integrate its custom designed field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) into PowerEdge systems. As a result of its partnership with Dell, VIAVI has been able to satisfy the requirements of customers developing myriad 5G-focused solutions, including high speed wireless replacements for traditional cable services, mobile services for smart phones and the world’s first 100 percent cloud-native mobile network.
Collaboration and Adaptability
At one level, the success of Dell’s OEM strategy demonstrates how vendors can generally create new value and solutions with the help of strategic partners. At another, it highlights the specific efforts of a company that is particularly skilled in identifying and pursuing opportunities in burgeoning commercial markets.
But a clear point is how purely adaptable the Dell OEM Solutions organization is in both technological and practical terms. In part, this reflects the sheer variety of Dell’s solutions and services portfolios, and the company’s development of sustainable new offerings for hundreds of discrete global markets.
But more fundamentally, the OEM Solutions division provides a microcosm of Dell’s continuing focus on meeting the unique requirements of tens of millions of global business customers, which has never been more important as the future of business computing – indeed, the evolution of the digital transformation – is unfolding at the edge.