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With “Project Frontier” Dell wants to own the Edge value chain

Dell aims to push up the OT and edge value chain...

Dell plans to launch a new “edge operations software platform” in 2023 under what it is calling Project Frontier.

Dell has an existing edge computing portfolio but with Project Frontier it is looking for a more coordinated edge footprint that spans hardware, software and management/application orchestration, pushing it much further up the burgeoning Operational Technology (OT) value chain and more substantially into the realm of edge SaaS.

Sitting in on a Dell roundtable this week, The Stack understood that the project will include an open architecture that lets partners consolidate existing and emerging edge use cases and a centralised management plane for edge applications, with “zero-touch” deployment, and secure device onboarding.

Dell will offer the infrastructure management component of Project Frontier as an on-prem deployment in a customer’s own data centre, or as a cloud-based SaaS. As Dell Tech’s SVP of Edge Gil Shneorson put it: “We’re going to allow our customers – whether it’s a homegrown application, an ISV [infrastructure service provider] application from one of our ecosystem partners, a hyperscaler runtime, others – to describe in a industry standard blueprint and then orchestrate fairly sophisticated workloads across all of those properties so their applications can run seamlessly, automatically, and lifecycle them together with the edge endpoints.”

Dell's XR4000 is is intended for edge uses across retail, manufacturing, telecom, marine and government applications. It's 350mm deep and can expand as needed with up to 4 server sleds in a single 2U chassis

Dell Technologies founder Michael Dell said during the October 12 roundtable: “All that is backed up by our global support deployment network to help customers in advanced manufacturing and retail and transportation logistics and all these industries where we're seeing the edge really take off in a big way.”

He added: “We're already building out reference architectures for I would say the 10 to 25 most common edge use cases around vision analytics and sensors and manufacturing and you know, have lots of partnerships there… partners and system integrators add a lot of value on top of those reference architectures.”

Dell COO Jeff Clarke added in response to questions about how this ties up with Dell’s existing telco offering: “I do think there is a future where private 5G deployment and our edge work intersects… commonality of that horizontal plane, commonality of app, orchestration, commonality of deployment tools and capabilities, commonality of how you secure all of those edge points, is going to be essential to help customers through that. So they don't have, if you will, two stacks to work through. We will absolutely pursue that.”

Dell's Latitude 7230 Rugged Extreme Tablet

As part of that plan Dell also announced the launch of its PowerEdge XR4000  to run analytics or other edge workloads in remote or challenging operational locations. It’s a rugged, shoebox-sized server that’s 60% shorter than conventional data centre servers and designed to survive heat waves or falls. It can be mounted in any number of ways. Dell this week also rolled out its Latitude 7230 Rugged Extreme Tablet, which is capable of withstanding temperatures of -20F to 145+ and rated for maximum protection against dust, dirt, and water.

Both will be available at the end of this calendar year.

The Dell Project Frontier announcement came as Dell ramps up its APEX managed infrastructure offering – available either at a flat subscription rate or as pay-per-use and with integrations with Dell spinoff VMware –  with Michael Dell admitting that “if I had to do it over again, we wish we would've started APEX a few years earlier; we're running as fast as we can to add the capabilities and features that customers want.”

He added: “Customers are looking for ways to dedicate more of their spend and more of their energy to the things that actually drive differentiation for them. Whether it is preconfigured appliances or APEX cloud services or other consumption-type models, all of that is helping them, you know, along that same path."

Dell reported record second quarter revenue of $26.4 billion for its fiscal 2023 Q2 results. Net income was $506 million. ARR for its APEX offering was over $1 billion, with Q2 orders growth up 78% year-over-year.

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