Dell stakes its billion-dollar claim on the IoT Market

In train yard in Copenhagen, Dell wants to be your complete IoT support

 In a repurposed train yard converted to a conference space, Dell this week staked its claim on the Internet of Things market. As well as launching its first European IoT lab in Limerick, Ireland [the company opened one in California last year] the company revealed its first product: an IoT Gateway designed to filter out information before it gets to the data center.

Predictions on quite how many IoT devices there’ll be in the next five years vary massively – it could be 50 billion, it could be 100 billion. “It’s going to be huge; us putting a size on it is pointless,” said Andy Rhodes, executive director of IoT solutions. “We’re not worried though, Dell is making a big IoT push.”

But it’s not just the number of devices to consider, there’s the data. Data growth is already at a near exponential rate, but the IoT has the potential take things even further. For example, with Uber rumoured to be working on autonomous cars it’s not a stretch to say the thousands of taxi cabs in New York or London will eventually be driverless. We’re told if each car could generate 1GB of data a second (a rough Dell estimate). That’s terabytes of information a day, and petabytes over the course of a year.

 “These devices collect so much data, and much of it is useless,” said Rhodes. “In a hotel, there’d be thousands of lightbulbs saying ‘I’m on’ every second, it’s costly moving all that data. The idea that all IoT data goes to the cloud is nonsensical, it would kill the business concept and ROI.” Dell’s first IoT product, an IoT gateway, plans to do something about this.

One product and a lab or two is nice, but how seriously are Dell taking the prospect of the IoT market? “We think that's going to be a billion-dollar business for us in the next couple of years,” says John Swainson, President of Software at Dell. “It's hard to know exactly because it's a new and emerging business, but there's a lot of demand for our customers.”

Swainson says that currently it’s the company’s OEM customers that are driving Dell’s move into the IoT space. Examples discussed at the event mainly focus around building management and manufacturing for now; we’re told how IoT devices can be rigged up so that in the event of a fire, the air con is switched off and windows closed to reduce the amount of oxygen fuelling the flames, while lights are switched on and doors unlocked – all automatically.

“I think Dell has a pretty good opportunity here in part because unlike the technology pure play guys, we can actually offer a more complete support infrastructure,” says Swainson, a former IBM executive and CEO, recruited by Michael Dell to leader the firm’s software push. “Where some of them can give you an embedded server but they can't actually service it, we can offer more of the software and a bigger package.”

Swainson outlines how Dell’s Boomi provides the data movement, Statistica the analytics, SonicWall the security and eventually there’ll be performance management included too. “The IoT just feels like a little different infrastructure environment for us, but it still needs to be managed and secured in the same way that you do in other environments.”