Six emerging trends Dell Research sees changing the future of IT

When Dell CEO Michael Dell announced the creation of Dell Research at Dell World in Austin, Tex. in December, its mandate was to look at disruptive technology four-to-five years away from the market. And since then, the new Dell division has been busy looking for the next big thing.

According to Jai Menon, vice-president, head of Dell Research and Dell’s Chief Research Officer, the new Dell division’s broad goal is to deliver long-range organic innovation for Dell. The group sets its goals independently, and in addition to its own organic research is also partnering with university researchers in their research.

“All of this is informed by the Dell Technology Outlook, which is looking at these trends, trying to understand what we think are the important ones, and understand what implications they might have for Dell’s customers,” said Menon, in an interview with CDN.


According to Menon, Dell Research sees six key trends driving the future of IT, and these trends are shaping the work of Dell Research as they work to ensure Dell, and its customers, are ready for the changes these trends will bring to the industry.

  1. The software-based data centre

As servers get more powerful, many things that required special hardware can now be done with software running on standard servers. It’s what comes beyond the software-defined data centre, said Menon.

“If you blew the roof off a data centre and looked at it from the top, today you’d see at least three kinds of boxes – storage, servers and networking,” said Menon. “In the software-based data centre of the future, you’ll see one kind of box – the server box – and storage will be nothing but software running on servers.”

And it will be managed like any other piece of software. If you need more networking power because Brazil just scored a goal in the World Cup and Twitter is flooded with messages, because its software you just scale it out to run on more servers. And when the flood recedes, you scale it back.

“It will mean much more agile data centres,” said Menon.

  1. Flash storage will be the new disc, and disc the new tape

A shift will take place in the storage market, said Menon, with a hierarchical change in function thanks to the introduction of flash storage. With flash becoming increasingly affordable and commoditized, it will take the place of disc-based storage in the market today. With disc storage vendors unable to compete on cost and performance, rather than compete on performance, disc storage vendors will instead work to compete on density, using new technology that should allow for 30TB of storage on a single disc drive within the next 18 months.

“They’re going after a price and capacity point that had been the domain of tape,” said Menon.

Menon also expects the emergence of new forms of memory within the next two to three years that will be significantly faster than flash, having a dramatic impact on the data centre.

  1. Cloud security will be solved

A top reason why many hesitate when considering going to the cloud is security – they don’t want others seeing their proprietary data. Menon said a powerful new form of encryption — homomorphic encryption – will eliminate this barrier. Not overnight, but within the next four years.

Take the example, he said, of using a cloud-based service provider to do your taxes. You need to send them salary information and other personal financial data so they can calculate your taxes, but you don’t want them to actually see the data or have it exposed in the cloud. By using homomorphic encryption, the service provider can do the calculations they need to do and send you back the results without ever seeing the actual figures. The data is sent, utilized, and returned all while remaining encrypted.

“The challenge is addition and multiplication are very slow, but over the last four years there as been a 9x improvement in speed, so in another four years it should be fast enough to have practical applications,” said Menon. “This could solve cloud security.”

  1. Embedded learning

In the future, said Menon, business processes will have learning from data embedded as part of their business processes.

  1. Predictive security

Security is going to shift from reactive security, akin to changing the locks after the house is burgled, to proactive security, akin to changing the locks after the neighbour’s house is burgled. The next evolution will be predictive security, said Menon, changing the locks because we predict a stronger lock is needed, and not waiting for someone to get burgled.

  1. The sentient world

What many in the industry are calling the Internet of Things – Dell is examining the market drivers, inhibitors and implications for businesses.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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