Dell Sees PCs as 'Hub' of IoT

The tech vendor won't sell smartphones or wearables, but will offer the infrastructure and analytics to handle the data.

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Michael Dell and other Dell executives were vocal during the three days of Dell World 2014 this week about the critical role of the PC in the company's larger initiative to grow the company's capabilities as an enterprise IT solutions and services provider.

In order to be an end-to-end solutions vendor, a company needs both ends of the equation, from the PC through the data center and into the cloud, Michael Dell said several times during the show in Austin, Texas, often in reference to Hewlett-Packard's decision to break the company in two and separate its PC business and enterprise efforts.

During a keynote at the show, the CEO pointed to the burgeoning Internet of things (IoT) as an example of the strength of Dell's end-to-end strategy, and the important positions clients play in it.

"The PC is [becoming] … the hub of the Internet of things," Michael Dell said. With 1.8 billion PCs in the world, "they're clearly embedded in how our world works."

Dell won't make all the connected devices that will make up the IoT—such as smartphones, wearables or sensors—but will provide the technology that will help businesses make sense of the massive amounts of information that will be generated by the Internet of things.

"What's the result of the Internet of things?" he said. "I'm talking about data."

As the IoT grows, more devices and systems—from home appliances, tablets and smartphones to industrial systems, urban infrastructures and cars—will have more integrated intelligence and will be connected to the Internet and each other, generating massive amounts of data that organizations will want to analyze rapidly to make better and faster business decisions.

According to Cisco Systems, there are about 25 billion connected devices worldwide, and that will double by 2020. In a report Nov. 7, IDC analysts put that number at 30 billion, and said that the IoT market—from hardware and software to security, services and connectivity—will grow from $1.3 trillion last year to $3.04 trillion in 2020.

Dell executives said the company's role is to offer the technologies that enable customers to take advantage of what the IoT can offer them—including endpoints like PCs, tablets and thin clients that help capture data, the gateways and networking to get it to compute and storage resources in the cloud data centers, and the analytics software (such as Dell's Toad and Boomi offerings) to turn the data into usable information.

"It's hard to sell an end-to-end solution if you don't have all the pieces," Jeff Clarke, vice chairman of operations and president of client solutions at Dell, told eWEEK at Dell World. "We think we have all the things needed to provide this to customers."

Longtime Dell customer Emerson Process Management is sticking with the vendor as it looks to embrace the IoT, according to Peter Zornio, chief strategy officer at Emerson. The company—which is owned by St. Louis-based Emerson—for decades has been supplying sensors to businesses in the process industry—which includes pharmaceuticals, energy, oil and gas, and chemicals—to help them manage their infrastructures. Those early sensors were expensive, recorded a few points of data—such as temperature—and were connected by a single wire.

Now, the sensors are fast, collect huge amounts of data, are wireless and are connected, Zornio said. Many also are placed in remote locations, becoming the only eyes and ears on these systems. With these sensors for their customers, Emerson is wading quickly into the IoT, and the company will continue relying on Dell, he said.

The tech vendor has made the right moves in building out its enterprise capabilities, Zornio said. Right now, Emerson is working with Dell in enhancing the security around the IoT.

"Security has to be an end-to-end thing," he said. "If you've got an end-to-end solution, you've got to look at security."

In addition, Emerson is beginning to engage with Dell around analytics and the Internet of things, Zornio said.

Another draw is that Emerson's customers are looking for turnkey data center solutions of the kind that a tech vendor like Dell can supply, he said.

"Our customers don't want to buy a bunch of pieces [to put together] themselves," Zornio said.