Dell unleashed its executive heavyweights yesterday at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC), with the appearance of Michael Dell, founder, chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of Dell Technologies and John Roese, the company’s chief technology officer (CTO) at a day-long partner and customer event.
The two were the headline act of the Toronto stop of the 46-city Dell Technologies Forum that included product demos, panels and keynotes from an assortment of senior company officials and industry experts.
In his keynote, Roese focused on five themes – Generation artificial intelligence (GenAI), multi-cloud trends, edge computing, the future of work and the need for improved security initiatives – prior to introducing Dell to the stage for a Q&A session that probed each vertical.
Not surprisingly, his first question to Dell revolved around GenAI and the impact it is having everywhere.
“Underlying all of this is you have this enormous amount of data expanding and growing very fast, and the cost of compute and types of compute technology continue to improve,” said Dell. “When you put all that together, big things are happening. These (AI) tools are very powerful and are going to get dramatically more powerful.”
He conceded that while there are “risks and challenges that have to be worked through, I tend to be more optimistic about these things. You usually don’t start companies if you’re not optimistic. There are opportunities for productivity and efficiency and cost savings. And those are all interesting, but I think the bigger opportunity long term will be to re-imagine and to really understand how we can do things in very different ways.”
Roese, the former CTO of Nortel Networks, who resigned from the company in late 2008 just prior to its epic demise, said that GenAI would not be possible without the many hardware and software advances that preceded it.
There is, he said, also a new edge model forming, one that combines data with AI initiatives, and he asked Dell: “How important is to the market that we get this right?”
Dell replied, “If you step back and think about this, what is the cloud or data centre anyway? It’s a place where you took data out of the physical world and did something to it, hopefully, to make it more valuable or enhance it or create some outcome that was a good thing.”
The edge, he said, is the “entire physical world. It’s everywhere, where something interesting or important is happening in healthcare, or manufacturing, or retail, or transportation, or buildings, or energy, or mining. Whatever it is you’re doing, you’re going to have machines that generate data, and you’re going to be able to improve that as you use that data in real time to create better outcomes.
“Certainly, when it comes to AI, the inferencing of all that data that is generated will be done at the edge. And as we get to the next-generation telco networks – Wi-Fi 7, 5G and 6G – you’re going to have new classes of applications and that capability will not replace the old things, but enable new capabilities that were not there before.”
An example of that, said Roese, is smart agriculture, which cannot happen without edge computing, because “agriculture by definition tends to be in places that do not have a lot of bandwidth.
“And certainly, if you believe you can take all that telemetry and backhaul it to some distant place and get real time response to control a combine or something else, you’re crazy. But it’s also doesn’t make any sense to put all the intelligence on the combine and raise its price so it’s not affordable to farmers. How do you solve that? Well, you move connectivity and compute closer to where that event is occurring.”
As far as the need for proper security measures is concerned, he added that as digital value is created, so too is digital risk and “wherever there is value and risk there are bad actors, and that makes our lives miserable. We have a comprehensive history with security, and we are now leaning hard into Zero Trust.”
Dell replied that the security standard is a “fundamental piece of what we do, and the reason is that as we connect everything and create systems at the edge. We’re talking about our water supply, our food supply, our transportation, our communications etc., and, wow, the attack surface gets a thousand times bigger. Unfortunately, cybercrime is the most lucrative crime area to go into and I’m not recommending anybody do that, (but) there are bad folks out there who are using the same tools that are used for good by 99 per cent of the world to do bad.”
The message Roese, said, is that “you do not have to do Zero Trust tomorrow. The message is you are currently on a trajectory that does not end well – it’s just random reaction to security. Wouldn’t it be nice if your North Star shifted over to ‘I want to get to a Zero Trust environment?’ Then you can start making tactical decisions and put in the right technology, adopt the right practices, and every incremental step on that journey is important in that it improves your security posture.
“And if you ever get to the end, which some people will, you’ll have probably the most robust security environment in the world; if you get halfway there, you’ll have half of that, which is better than what you have today. It’s a journey, but we’d have no moral authority to say that if we couldn’t prove it was possible.”