Dell’s 2021 Server Trends & Observations

With the start of a new year, we can say goodbye to the tumultuous and challenging 2020 – a year that brought about monumental changes in our industry through acquisitions, technology introductions, and of course, a shift to remote work force. No one could have predicted all the changes that happened last year, but now we have an opportunity to look back on how the server trends and technologies detailed by us last year impacted our industry. And as we have done for the past several years, we want to continue our tradition in Dell’s Infrastructure CTO group of highlighting some of the most interesting technology and industry trends we expect to see impacting our server incubation and product efforts this year. These trends were compiled by polling our senior technologists in the server organization, who are looking at the most impactful influences to their workstreams.

When the technologists provided their inputs, the underlying theme that emerged was the desire to life cycle data – curate, transport, analyze and preserve data – in the most effective and secure means, while producing the most efficient business outcomes from the infrastructure. Since the generation of data has continued to increase, customers are looking for ways to leverage third-party services in an integrated offering to allow them to understand how to more quickly analyze and value the right data in the most cost-effective and secure manner. This paradigm has also forced owners of the IT equipment that performs these analyses to ensure they are using the most effective technology integrations. These integrations need to be managed with the minimal amount of operational expenses across a continuum of Edge, Core and Cloud architectures. Finally, 2020 created another challenge to carry forward, which is the ability to adopt new technologies with more remote staff and remote users stressing the infrastructure in means and methods not expected this early in most digital transformation plans.

So, with that introduction, let us provide you the Top Trends for 2021 that are influencing our server technology efforts and product offerings:

  1. aaS becomes the Enterprise theme. As technology velocity continues to rise, enterprise customers deal with constrained budgets and legacy skillsets while still needing to focus on differentiated business outcomes with the most beneficial price/performance and least amount of bring up and maintenance overhead. The options for on-prem Infrastructure aaS offerings allow customers to be nimble and focus on their business value through diverse deployments while maintaining their data security and governance with trusted infrastructure.

  1. Server Growth is Building Vertically. As customers look for the most efficient outcomes from their infrastructure, the industry will continue to see more verticalization and specialization of offerings. Integrated solutions will address packaging and environmental considerations; SW ecosystem enablement and domain-specific accelerators address unique performance and feature requirements that are optimized for specific business outcomes.
  1. More Data, More Smarts. The challenges with data velocity, volume and volatility continue and require continuance of AI/ML adoption for analytics while increased focus on solving data life cycling challenges arises. The integration of data curation models, transport methods, preservation and security architectures with faster analysis will all be key to support and monetize the Internet of Behaviors.
  1. The Emergence of the Self-Driving Server. Customers will start seeing the use of telemetry, analytics, and policies to achieve higher levels of automation in their systems management infrastructure. Similar to the driver assist/autonomy levels of autonomous vehicles, AI Ops capabilities with systems management will usher in the era of moving automated tasks to automated decisions, with implementations showing up in addressing runaway system power and policy advising recommendation engines.
  1. Goodbye, SW Defined. Hello, SW Defined with HW Offload. Application architectures are evolving to create control plane and data plane separation. Control planes stays as a software layer and the data planes move to programmable hardware in the form of service processor add-in-cards which allow bare-metal and containerized applications to run with disaggregated infrastructure software (network virtualization, storage virtualization, GPU virtualization, security services), creating Intent Based Computing for customer workloads.
  1. 5G is Here! Seriously, it is this year. After several years of hype and promises, we will see the proliferation of 5G and with it will come shifts in paradigms around communication infrastructure, remote management models and connectivity that impact server form-factors and features. As businesses develop more edge infrastructure to handle the generation and influx of data, 5G will create the need for customers to reevaluate their edge connectivity and infrastructure management offerings to take advantage of 5G capabilities.
  1. Rethinking Memory and Storage to be Data Centric. The industry is moving from Compute-Centric Architectures to Data Centric Architectures and that transition is driving new server connected memory and storage models for IT. Technologies around persistent, encrypted and tiered memory inside the server along with remotely accessed SCM and NVMe oF data through new industry fabric standards are creating innovative IT architectures for optimal data security, scaling and preservation.
  1. Adopting new Server technology while Being Remote. The world has changed, and businesses have been forced to not just map a digital transformation but realize it to operate. Companies dealing with faster digital transitions of tools, processes and infrastructure need to operate with a remote work force. This transition is forcing companies to evaluate new server technologies and assess resource requirements which will emphasize the necessity to utilize server capabilities around debug, telemetry and analytics in a remote fashion to keep business continuity going forward.
  1. It’s not a CPU Competition, it’s a Recipe Bake-off. The processor landscape is changing, and it is becoming an environment of acquisitions, specializations and vendor differentiated integrations. We see Intel, AMD and Nvidia all making acquisitions to provide each with CPUs, DPUs and Accelerators in their portfolio. The real winner will be able to leverage their portfolio of silicon products and software libraries to form recipes of integrated offerings for targeted workloads to help end customers optimize business outcomes.
  1. Measure your IT Trust Index. Security around server access and data protection has never been more challenging, so customers need to be able to quantify their security confidence in order to gauge infrastructure trustworthiness and identify digital risks. Customers need to analyze product origins and features, new security technologies and segment specific digital threats in the backdrop of increasing regulatory landscape to formulate their measurement of IT trust from the Edge to Core to Cloud.

As we focus on the new year, new technologies and new initiatives, we welcome the opportunity to go deeper with each of these trends with our customers and their specific views and challenges. Reach out to your account team for an engagement and follow us on Twitter to stay up to date.


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    On the Edge of Technology

    Introductions first! I work as a Technologist within OEM | Embedded & Edge Solutions, a global sales and engineering division that helps customers integrate the extensive Dell Technologies portfolio with their own Intellectual Property, products and services.

    Movement towards the edge

    In my role, I frequently get asked about current trends in the marketplace. While many of our customers continue to be focussed on traditional IT targeted appliances and solutions, I’m seeing increasing deployment of IT into the Operational Technology (OT) world with the two combining to deliver the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

    If we go back five to ten years, the momentum was all about moving applications to the cloud. However, while many environments and associated applications continue to move to the cloud, the growing trend in OT environments, like factories and transport infrastructure, is now being reversed with compute infrastructure moving towards the edge.

    What is driving this dynamic?

    Why? Edge solutions such as pre-emptive maintenance, autonomous or automated systems, AI, command and control systems are all driving the need for lower latency for communications and data access. We’re also seeing higher performance requirements from edge applications and demand for higher edge availability with uptime maintained with or without access to the core or cloud. Meeting these requirements is a big challenge from a far-off cloud or core data centre. Bringing IT infrastructure to the edge is the obvious solution.

    Connected enterprise edge

    What constitutes the edge? A typical connected edge environment consists of sensors, IT Infrastructure (compute, networking, storage, data protection) and security, both physical and cyber-security. In this blog, I’ll discuss sensors and IT infrastructure and will separately focus in a follow-on blog on the important topic of security.


    There is a vast range of sensors available today, offering many capabilities, such as component tracking, vibration, humidity, temperature, liquid detection, air quality and many more. From a Dell OEM perspective, in addition to sensors integrated into our own systems, we also use our partner network to source sensors for the solutions we design.

    Today, many industrial machines and systems already include the full array of sensors with a growing number of manufacturers making the sensor data freely accessible. While there are still a number of manufacturers who continue to keep their sensor data private, end-customer pressure to enjoy open integration is significantly reducing this trend.

    With the ever-increasing number of sensors now being deployed, customers need to aggregate the associated data in a managed way with only the relevant data being transmitted back to the core or cloud infrastructure for retention and analytics. As a result, we’re seeing Artificial Intelligence capabilities being implemented at the edge, core and cloud. Indeed, we already have a number of customers and partners working in this area, such as Software AG and Noodle AI.

    Rugged IT infrastructure – our range of options

    Moving onto IT infrastructure, our edge to the core and cloud portfolio, augmented by selected third-party partner solutions, provides customers with a complete and secure platform to deploy applications in any location.

    For example, the Dell Edge Gateway 3000 and 5000 series offers an extremely rugged platform, extended environmental support from -30c to +70C in operation, extensive wired and wireless connectivity, industry certifications such as marine, military, aviation and transport plus various mounting capabilities and enclosures for enhanced protection up to IP69k. This means that our gateways can be mounted almost anywhere, allowing our customers to deploy software at the edge for data aggregation, edge analytics, control functions and device management. The Dell Edge Gateway also includes multiple options for connectivity, including LTE, WiFi, Zigbee and Bluetooth.

    For less extreme environmental conditions or where greater performance or configuration flexibility is required, the Dell Embedded PC 3000 and 5000 series provides rugged features with 0C to 60C in operation, greater compute power with up to Intel Core i7 plus greater storage plus PCI slots for expansion.

    To meet increasing requirements for a high-performance rugged desktop, we also offer the OptiPlex XE3 industrial grade PC, offering 24×7 duty cycle, integrated wireless, dust filters and secure chassis plus added support for GPUs. For rack mount deployments, the Precision 3930 1U workstation delivers a rugged GPU enabled 1U rack mount chassis, with PCoIP integration with Dell zero client endpoints.

    Rounding out the rugged portfolio, we have the PowerEdge XR2 Rugged and the carrier-grade R740 and R640. The XR2 is designed for extreme operational environments, supporting 40G operational shock, up to 55c inlet temperature and dust filters. In addition to including certification for industrial, military and marine environment, this little beauty is also a VSAN-ready node, offering deployment high availability clustering and HCI deployments at the edge.

    The carrier grade systems offer other rugged and edge features, including AC & DC power options, dust filters and fire-retardant components. As part of the OEM Embedded and Edge XL programme, we also offer up to 18-months’ extended platform operational life on the PowerEdge XL systems, compared to standard servers.

    Distributed edge data centre solutions and trends

    We’re currently working with many customers to create edge data centre solutions, offering various levels of performance and ruggedness, enabling our customers to stand up micro datacentres in almost any location.

    Integration with VMware’s virtualisation and management solutions is also enabling the creation of hyper-converged edge platforms. For example, with edge licensing solutions like VMware ROBO, we can create high availability two node clusters that can be deployed with rugged racks harsh in environmental conditions or even wall-mounted in places like train or bus stations, airports, petrol garages and communications hubs.

    For deployments with greater processing or storage requirements, we also provide modular datacentre solutions via own ESI team or via partners like Schneider, enabling the deployment of our standard non ruggedised datacentre infrastructure, such as the comprehensive PowerEdge server ranges, VxRail hyper converged platform, the range of Analytics Ready Solutions, maximum storage performance with the PowerMax NVMe platform, the Isilon Scale-out NAS Storage and many more.

    The future

    Where to next? I believe that this relentless movement of compute, analytics and storage to the edge will continue to accelerate. In this blog, I’ve described some of the technologies and initiatives that we are providing to enable customers to innovate faster, build industry-leading solutions and scale. Watch out for my follow-on blog on security at the edge.

    What are your thoughts on the Edge? I’d love to hear from you. Do share your viewpoints and questions.

    Learn more about Dell Technologies OEM | Embedded & Edge Solutions

    Join our LinkedIn OEM | Embedded & Edge Solutions Showcase page here.

    Keep in touch. Follow us on Twitter at@delltechoem.


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    You came up with the idea of targeting high-net worth clientele for your investment firm five years ago and floated it with the COO when you were back at corporate. They believed in you and sent you to a wealthy suburb in Silicon Valley, armed with money, resources, and a team to do just that.

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