What does $1 billion buy you as IoT moves computing to the edge?

Enterprise firms jostle for share of burgeoning IoT space as computing moves to the edge—and Dell aims to lead with new division and strategy

What does $1 billion buy you these days? Speaking at an event on New York’s Fifth Avenue in early October—interestingly next to a building owned by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim—another billionaire, Michael Dell, chairman and CEO of Dell Technologies was typically upbeat. As well as announcing that the company is investing $1 billion in IoT R&D over the next three years, he announced a new IoT division, to be run by VMware’s CTO Ray O’Farrell.

Dell talked about how there will be an intelligent internet of things located at the edge of the internet, many with sensors and all delivering user and performance data, to create what he termed “a perfect mirror of our world, with every object streaming information.” Of course, to achieve this you need huge amounts of computing power at the edge, something which no doubt peaks the interest of a hardware vendor such as DellEMC.

“This new technology requires a real-time response, which is driving technology towards a distributed model again,” said Dell, illustrating its importance by suggesting venison would be on the menu if a deer ran out in front of a self-driving vehicle that relied solely on the centralised cloud. We sort of know this already but we get the point. It’s all about speed and ease of use.

Last year Peter Levine from VC firm Andreessen Horovitz set the current tone. He said that edge computing would overtake the cloud and that the cloud would store important data but as devices become more sophisticated, all the data curation and learning would take place at the edge. Levine of course was interested from an investment perspective, finding businesses in what he considers to be the next billion-dollar tech market.

So to see the likes of Dell Technologies, GE Digital, the newly created Hitachi Vantara business, Oracle, SAP, IBM and HPE, among others, investing in this space and acquiring businesses to stock up on key ecosystem components, is not surprising.

According to analyst IDC, “an IoT platform is a commercial software product that offers some combination of the following elements: connectivity management; device management; data ingestion, processing, and management; visualization tools; application enablement; and analytics.”

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