Dell Partners Call Edge Lab ‘Huge Differentiator,’ Praise NativeEdge Launch
‘The idea of working with Dell on a specialized solution is very appealing, not just for sales purposes, but to ensure we are assembling the best possible solution for our customers who already heavily rely on edge technologies,’ says Rick Gouin, chief technology officer at Dell Technologies platinum partner Winslow Technology Group.
Dell Technologies partners said the automation introduced with the Dell NativeEdge platform is giving their engineering teams a better way to orchestrate, update, and make new solutions for its edge customers.
Rick Gouin, chief technology officer at system integrator Winslow Technology Group, a Dell platinum partner headquartered in Waltham, Mass., said the firm manages edge for geographically-dispersed manufacturing customers, which can be difficult to service and support.
“Dell NativeEdge addresses a very real challenge that is particularly prevalent across our manufacturing customer base,” he told CRN. “The typical model is to support them out of a centralized IT group. When deploying new infrastructure or applications, they will rely on either a partner like Winslow Technology Group, or their own central IT staff to travel to these locations and complete the necessary work. This can drive the cost up, while also increasing complexity and making it more difficult to have consistent outcomes.”
He said Dell NativeEdge takes this on with zero-touch deployment that incorporates centralized management and onboarding.
“Native Edge promises to improve consistency, drive deployment costs down, and deliver a quicker time to value which will allow customers like ours to more quickly implement game-changing technologies like generative AI,” he said.
At VirtuIT Systems, a Dell platinum partner based in Nanuet, N.Y., CEO Gary McConnell told CRN that the automation introduced will make his engineering teams more effective and return time to their day.
However, he is particularly excited with Dell’s announcement around its test lab. He said the lab will give the company’s teams a chance to test and adapt concepts before they reach customers.
“This provides so much more confidence when our engineers go into a production environment having already walked the walk in a lab environment,” he told CRN. “We have monthly sessions where our engineers have an all-hands meeting to test out lab environments and bounce ideas off of each other and it becomes so valuable when it comes time to put their understanding to the test.”
Gouin called the test lab a “huge differentiator” for highly technical solution providers who invest in the skills and personnel to build validated solutions with Dell.
“It also builds credibility for solution providers who regularly work with whatever solution they are developing. It says, ‘We do this sort of work so often, we’ve built and validated a blueprint to make this repeatable and successful.’ That’s a powerful statement and a massive competitive advantage for the partner and for Dell.”
He said most importantly, it is about delivering business-ready technology to their customers.
“We see a huge value in the test lab,” Gouin said. “The idea of working with Dell on a specialized solution is very appealing, not just for sales purposes, but to ensure we are assembling the best possible solution for our customers who already heavily rely on edge technologies.”
Introduced this week, Dell NativeEdge is a software platform that simplifies application orchestration and infrastructure management across thousands of edge device, by automating routine and repetitive tasks such as updating applications, and onboarding devices. Additionally, Dell developed the Dell Edge Partner Certification Program, which channel partners as well as ISVs can use to validate edge deployments.
Gil Shneorson, senior vice president of edge solutions with Dell Technologies, said the announcement is focused on partnerships because the edge is an ecosystem. He said edge as a category is set to grow at 17-percent compound annual growth rate.
“It’s a good place to put your investment,” he told CRN. “Because this is an ecosystem play, we chose to focus our announcement on people we’ve been working with in the edge design program. Partners have been testing NativeEdge for a while and basing their future plans on working with us.”
Cheryl Cook, senior vice president of global partner marketing, said the company’s forward-looking partners are already in the midst of these deployments.
“I think they will find this a highly valuable tool and platform with which they can just integrate into their toolkit to help them really go address more opportunities,” she told CRN.
CRN spoke with Gil Shneorson and Cook prior to the launch of the product. Here is a transcript edited for length and clarity.
What are some of the top-line values with this new NativeEdge system?
Shneorson: Any partnership is supposed to add value to all the players not just one. And so that’s how we look at NativeEdge. We designed this to be an ecosystem play. We designed it to be able to add value to our partners in multiple ways.
First, maybe have a conversation they didn’t have before. Second, simplify their own operations, in case that they are implementing for joint customers. In case they’re managing solutions for customers. The simplification reduces cost for whoever is managing.
From day one this is designed to help our partners and from day one we’ve been pulling them in as design partners because they always have specific needs. They have their own point of view.
Can we talk about the lab, where partners can come and certify designs. Do you have to sign up for that? How does that work?
Cook: I think this is a great expression of our recognition that many of these emerging strategic growth areas are partner centric sales motions. Our customers are overwhelmed with the complexity. And a lot of what Dell’s engineering team has done is really brought a software platform that can offer consistency, high security.
So the certification capabilities for our partners opens up the lab so they can come collaborate with us and certify that their software is interoperable with their own IP. They can fine tune so the solutions they’re going to bring to the market can leverage the capabilities of the platform. It helps accelerate time to market. Its really everybody playing to their strengths.
They can come in and leverage what we’ve already developed and brought in this platform, and highly customize it to the use case that their customer has, which tends to go pretty specific, pretty vertical, pretty fast.
Its very, very targeted on the deployment.
I think you are just going to see more of this type of work and our aim at Dell is to extend and open up and make available, their ability to leverage, integrate, certify and really accelerate their time to market.
There is still a lot of talk about cloud chaos, with systems built ad hoc and as developments demanded. This really seems like it’s addressing that same sort of issue at the edge?
Shneorson: It is different because unlike data center clouds, it’s got very unique constraints. First of all, it’s distributed compute, so by the nature of it, it’s in locations that are not controlled always. Then you don’t have skilled staff to manage it, not to deploy not even troubleshoot. So if something goes wrong, ‘You can’t say go inside and give me the log.’ There nobody there to do all those things. Networking may be challenging, intermittent or air gapped for security. That can cause a challenge.
We have great solutions, but they’re very expensive. What do you do if you have 20,000 gas stations? Do you really want to put a three-node, enterprise cluster, in each and every one of them? No, you need probably a $2,000 machine. But you still want to sync service levels and simplification and so when we when we had designed NativeEdge we’ve taken into account all of those constraints.
But to your question, why is it so complex? It is because of all of those specific unique constraints, that people are buying solution by solution by solution. It’s too hard to do otherwise. And they end up with many edge stacks all of which need to be secured and managed and maintained. And so this is a vicious cycle that you just keep adding more and more complexity. If you go to retail store at the back of the store there’s a small data center, it’s really complex.
And so if there is something that has been designed for that, that can help you run multiple workloads on the same infrastructure, that can help you expand over time, and can start small so you don’t have to make a commitment. You can start with two stores one device, see if that it works for you experiment and then expand. Its not only simplifies it also optimizes your investments.
What do you mean when you talk about this providing a cloud model to edge solutions?
Shneorson: Think about this, a partner is working with a customer to develop an application that’s unique to them. In a cloud model, there’s a DevOps operation and you promote an application and that stays in production in the cloud. Why? Because it’s all there.
In edge today, they do that, and then they stop. And then they give it to other people who have to find ways to go and put it in 1,000 locations; sometimes with a network, sometimes physical, sometimes they drive people with a USB drive. Sometimes they ship things around. So it’s broken.
You don’t have the cloud deployment model on the edge today and that’s exactly what we’re going to solve.
This is also why it is an opportunity for partners. Because while it is an end to end problem. Someone needs to understand that it is an end to end problems. Somebody needs to point out where the gaps are. And somebody needs to be able to show customers that before and after.
That does require expertise. And some of our partners are great at that.
So is part of this lab and certification process around getting partners up to speed and solutions developed faster and more accurately for customers?
Shneorson: I think that partner community is smart enough to see when changes happens. When we came up with VxRail, there were a lot of people just installing vSAN, and that was their business. But as soon as it’s automated, I mean you stop and you think ‘If this is where I make my money is this really value add?’
Life finds a way to add more value when things are automated. That’s just the way it is. But what if you can deliver the same solution in days versus months? That has value to an end user? And what if it costs you less to deliver it right?
How does AI fit into to edge discussions you are having?
Shneorson: It’s very popular today to talk about AI, and that’s been the driving force between a lot of those things for many years. It wasn’t generative AI, but it was definitely artificial intelligence that allows us to do machine vision inspection of production quality, or congestion in streets across major cities, or retail store analytics, where you just look at where people are queuing. Is anybody out there looking for something? Is a door fridge open? Is there a water spill that somebody might slip on?
All of those things are today driven by AI workloads. So if you can get faster to the AI workload and solve a problem, it’s a good thing even if along the way there is more automation.
Cheryl, what are some of the advantages to partners within all of this?
Cook: The standardization and repeatability and the fact that they can leverage this common platform across multiple deployments, multiple customers, multiple use cases. It gives them leverage and scale of their expertise and their practitioners. So each of these can begin looking like a snowflake in a very custom deployment.
And what Gil and the team have done is really brought a little order to the chaos, with a standard consistent framework with which to address all those common orchestration deployment challenges that are going to live in each of these.
And frankly, that’s going to give our partners return on their investment in their teams, their practitioners. It will scale their resources, their talent. And again, time is the precious commodity, enabling them to deploy faster. Faster time to revenue also to engage in more customer engagements.