Dell believes its configure-to-order embedded PCs will do well in a market dominated by smaller manufacturers doing custom orders, and whose machines lack the software, manageability and support options Dell can offer.
Dell is a relatively new player in the Internet of Things (IoT) space, only organizing a line of business to manage it and bringing forth its first product, a gateway, last June. The company has been moving aggressively in the area since that time, however. They have now made their first foray into the embedded PC space, heretofore the domain of smaller speciality manufacturers. Dell believes the two embedded PCs announced can penetrate the space quickly, because of being able to offer more software and manageability options and better service and support than existing players.
“Dell has done embedded solutions before, but what is new here is Dell doing embedded PCs, which are edge computing, rugged devices,” said Aaron Shaw, Senior Product Manager at Dell.
Shaw said Dell sees a strong opportunity here as the IoT increases demand for embedded PCs.
“A lot of the players in the market today are smaller and more regional and the market is really custom solutions,” Shaw said. “They will build pretty much anything that you want, how you want it. Dell’s approach is different. We are releasing two configure-to-order products with some options that fit the requirements of a great many use cases.”
The offerings are the Dell Embedded Box PC 3000 and 5000 Series. Both have a rugged fanless design, the ruggedness facilitating extended deployments in sometimes harsh environments, and the absence of a fan removing a common point of failure in embedded use cases. They run on Intel processors, have extensive wired and wireless input/output [I/O] options, and can be used either ‘headless’ or with keyboard, mouse and monitor.
“With the IoT, there are a lot of things going on out on the edge, and these rugged devices will do what they need to do there,” Shaw said. “Our customers have been asking for products like this.”
The 3000 Series, powered by Intel Atom processors, is the lighter of the two, and fits into many embedded applications like retail kiosks, digital signage and automated vending devices that were around long before the IoT term was coined.
“The 3000 is more of a general purpose embedded PC, although it has quite a bit of I/O to drive two different simultaneous video outlets,” Shaw said. “You have a choice of three interfaces with this.
The 5000 Series, which has Intel Core processors, is optimized for performance and I/O scalability. It has two PCI/PCIe card slots for adaptability. It provides high-bandwidth designed for industrial PC and IoT use cases like multi-HD video streaming apps and high frequency sensor data sources.
“The 5000 is a larger heavier unit with some expansion capabilities,” Shaw said. “You can pick two of interfaces, and there are two different riser board options.
“These are just our first two embedded products,” Shaw pointed out. “There are others on the roadmap.”
Shaw said that Dell will have several advantages over the incumbents in the space. These begin with the different production philosophy, and the time and cost advantages of having configure-to-order products over custom production.
“The customer can one from one to thousands of PCs and get them in short order, so they don’t have to stock inventory,” he said. “As well, custom ODM makers often provide just boxes. Ours are fully configured systems. They have the Dell BIOS, with security and manageability built in, and a lot of I/O. Security and manageability software is something people don’t offer in the embedded space at all, or offer it at only a very basic level. We offer Dell Data Protection encryption capabilities. They often have limited service and support, often just basic hardware warranties. We have full Dell ProSupport, and five year lifecycle support. We also offer regulatory certifications for all the countries we ship to.”
The route to market for the embedded PCs will be the same as for the edge gateways for the IoT that Dell has already introduced. While much of it will go through Dell’s OEM channel, along with ISVs and SIs, they will also be available to Dell channel partners through Arrow and Avnet.
These Dell offerings have some elements that should help them in the market, said Mark Taylor, Vice President and GM, of Arrow’s Enterprise Software Group.
“I believe they will do very with this,” he said. “The fanless piece is critical. This is something that is becoming more standard, but isn’t quite yet. Dell today is very mature in their approach to the embedded market, including having a full-fledged division focused on this. That’s being reflected in their product offering, and I think they will be very successful.”
At the outset the 3000 series appears more of a traditional embedded product, while the 5000 series is more of an IoT play, but Taylor said that can change.
“You can see the difference in processing capacity, and that will be significant at the outset,” he said. “But what will be important is how the engineers design these into different applications.”
Arrow says the transformation of IoT product like this from niche into mainstream plays has already begin, but there is a long way to go.
“They are clearly transforming from niche with the rise of the IoT,” Taylor said. “The applications that emerge where these products can fit in is coming increasingly rapidly, I would have said a year ago that they are still a niche product.”
Still, Taylor believes that if IoT development is a four stage process, we are still in the first.
“Clients are still finding out what’s possible,” he said. “I do think it will be a big channel play and will get bigger as the IoT moves into the next phase, where more partners build IoT practices and capabilities. That will come, where the IoT becomes more mainstream to all the channel. There are still a lot of engineering skills needed to design these into the right applications to make this happen.”
The Embedded Box PC 3000 Series and 5000 Series will be available in summer 2016 starting at $USD 1,099.