Dell Technologies Inc. kicked off its Dell Technologies World conference in Las Vegas today with a number of additions to its APEX product portfolio. Yet it was artificial intelligence that captured much of the interest in a news conference following the opening keynotes.
In a meeting with members of the media this morning, founder and Chief Executive Michael Dell (pictured), addressed the topic which has been dominating enterprise tech discussion since the launch of OpenAI LP’s ChatGPT in late November and adoption of the tool by more than 100 million users in record time.
Dell noted that AI isn’t new and that his company has been involved in AI research for years, though he acknowledged that the surge of interest in AI would have a significant impact.
“We’ve had, over the last several years, roughly 1,000 AI and machine learning projects inside the company,” Dell said. “This is a massive unlock of the power of data. It’s going to accelerate the economy. We think this is a huge wave.”
Dell Vice Chairman and co-Chief Operating Officer Jeff Clarke, who also met with the media today, expressed a belief that enterprise use of generative AI wouldn’t necessarily require mass adoption of large language models on the scale of ChatGPT. A need for local models and inferencing at the edge will require smaller use of AI at scale.
“We think of the world as much more domain-specific and process-specific AI,” Clarke said. “Companies aren’t going to deploy (all of) ChatGPT in their factory to make the factory better.”
Biggest APEX expansion
Clarke’s comments reflected a view of the firm’s evolving role that was echoed by Michael Dell and others. The company is architecting its portfolio to serve as a key facilitator for technologies important to the enterprise, wherever that journey may lead.
The offerings for APEX unveiled on the conference’s opening day included enhanced compute hardware, simplified hybrid cloud storage and a new PC-as-a-service solution.
“Today was the biggest expansion ever in the APEX portfolio, but it’s going to keep growing,” Dell said. “We see ourselves uniquely positioned as a collaborator, at the center of the system to pull all of that together.”
The APEX news included the introduction of block storage for Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services Inc. as Dell continued to extend its hybrid and multicloud service offerings. Noticeably missing from the latest enhancements was a similar partnership with Google Cloud. Dell’s co-Chief Operating Officer Chuck Whitten did not provide much detail when asked about Google’s absence.
“You’ve got to start somewhere,” Whitten said. “We’ve positioned ourselves to be a natural partner in the ecosystem.”
Substantial telco business
An important constituency in that ecosystem is the telecommunications world. Dell made a series of announcements for the telco market as part of Mobile World Congress in February. It is an industry very much at the forefront of the company’s strategy for the edge.
“We have a rather substantial business in telco,” Dell noted during his appearance before the media. “We are seeing almost every carrier embrace the virtualization and containerization of different parts of their network. All of the work we’re doing at the edge is very much enabled by 5G.”
In his discussion of the firm’s edge strategy, Dell made the point that base stations were emerging as small datacenters within the telco ecosystem. This represented a potentially significant market for compute infrastructure players based on the current install base.
“You can leverage the efficiencies to run multiple workloads on those systems,” Aaron Chaisson, vice president of edge and telecom solutions marketing, in an interview with SiliconANGLE. “Dell intends to be a key player in helping partner with communication service providers to deliver enterprise services to their customers.”
The company’s moves this week positioned it to help enterprises bridge computing needs for both on-premises and cloud. Yet Dell made it clear it plans to pursue new opportunities in key strategic areas such as edge and AI. Whether this results in new customers as well remains to be seen, but Dell had a ready answer when asked by the media about how his company would pursue new business.
“With 98% of the Fortune 500, it’s not like we’re going to 198%,” Dell said.
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