Why Dell Vet Jason Shepherd Left For Edge Computing Startup Zededa

'We take the practices that are well understood in the data center and extend them to thinner industrial edges,' Jason Shepherd, former CTO of IoT and edge for Dell Technologies, says of his new employer, edge virtualization startup Zededa.

After 13 years at Dell Technologies, Jason Shepherd has left his job behind as CTO of IoT and edge computing for edge virtualization startup Zededa to continue a mission he started when he and his team at Dell began working on the EdgeX Foundry open-source platform four years ago.

That mission is to bring IoT out of the "AOL stage," as he has previously called it, and make it more open and interoperable, moving the field away from the days of software and hardware lock-in so that companies can choose which products they want to use to scale deployments.

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In his new role as vice president of ecosystem for the San Jose, Calif.-based startup, Shepherd said he will build out the company's ecosystem of channel partners.

"This notion of interoperability is so important for the channel to scale," Shepherd, who started at Zededa on Nov. 18, said in a Wednesday interview with CRN. This interoperability means he will still have the opportunity to work with Dell on edge computing efforts, he added.

Founded in 2016 by engineers and executives who previously worked at Arista Networks, Pivotal Software and Juniper Networks, Zededa employs roughly 50 employees between San Jose and Pune, India, and has raised a total of $18.98 million from investors, most recently with a $15.9 million Series A round that was led by venture capital firms Energize Ventures and Lux Capital.

In addition to his channel work, Shepherd said he will be doing similar work to what he did for Dell with EdgeX, bridging Zededa's open-source work on Project EVE, or Edge Virtualization Engine, with other open-source projects hosted by The Linux Foundation's LF Edge group — including EdgeX.

Whereas EdgeX is focused on the application layer for edge computing, Project EVE operates in the infrastructure layer, providing a type-1 bare metal hypervisor that serves as the basis for Zededa's commercial offering. In other words, EdgeX would run on top of Project EVE, Shepherd said.

"As you coordinate these foundational tools, you get this open foundation you can plug commercial value in and scale it and have greater interoperability," he said.

What separates Project EVE from other type-1 hypervisors for edge computing, according to Shepherd, is its use of containers. It's a critical feature, he said, because it allows companies to continue running legacy applications in virtual machines while new applications can be spun into containers.

"When you look at the industrial world, there's a lot of legacy [systems] out there. You can't tell people to wipe out existing applications," Shepherd said.

Containerization is becoming increasingly critical to IoT applications — which was most recently reflected in Siemens' acquisition of the container-based edge computing platform from startup Pixeom. Shepherd said this is because containers can break down applications into smaller functions that run on lighter footprint devices, improving the scaling factor for IoT projects.

This means a level of openness and choice that can benefit system integrators and value-added resellers who are working on IoT and edge computing projects, according to Shepherd.

"Within the channel, you can pick and choose where you get capabilities instead of having a monolithic stack," he said.

Since Project EVE is available as open-source software, Zededa makes its money from its cloud-based controller software that allows companies to deploy applications to the edge and manage devices that are running on the Project EVE hypervisor. The startup counts companies working in oil and gas, energy and manufacturing as customers, which includes a wind turbine operator.

"It's a helicopter ride to go out and touch that box," Shepherd said of the wind turbine customer's edge gateway and why edge virtualization software is important for such companies. "We take the practices that are well understood in the data center and extend them to thinner industrial edges."