2.5 – Embracing Edge Possibilities and Why They Matter

The Edge is less about a physical location and more about function and where your users are. To fully explore all possibilities the Edge offers, it requires a transformation of some kind, sooner rather than later.
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In this episode:

  • What exactly is Edge, or The Edge? (Hint, it’s not the guitarist) (2:22)
  • What the Edge is NOT (3:19)
  • Understanding the layers of the Edge ecosystem (Data, IT, Data Center, Real Estate/Utility) (3:54)
  • “Vehicle” as an analogy for “Edge” (5:29)
  • Autonomous vehicles, retail stores and other examples of industries taking advantage of Edge strategies (7:10)
  • Why is Edge such a big deal now? (8:45)
  • Do technical or behavioral constraints play a bigger role when developing and executing on Edge strategies? (12:07)
  • How connected devices at “your” Edge could help you lose weight (15:45)
  • Connected cat collars at the Edge? (16:45)
  • Ty’s advice for successfully building an Edge strategy (17:47)
  • Beyond the “Edge” with Dave and Ty (19:23)

Just as each person has a unique fingerprint, each customer has a unique set of needs that determine how they can and should run their business, specifically at “their” Edge.

Join guest host Kelly Lynch as she chats with Ty Schmitt and Dave Graham, two Edge-focused experts at Dell Technologies, about the evolution of Edge over time and why it’s more important today than it was 10 years ago, even. From conversations around Dave’s “personal health Edge” that helped him lose nearly 50 pounds this year to discussions with Ty “beyond the Edge,” laughs and learning go hand-in-hand this week.

Guest List

  • Kelly Lynch is the producer of the The Next Horizon podcast as part of the Technology Thought Leadership team at Dell Technologies.
  • Ty Schmitt is a Vice President and Fellow in Dell’s Server Infrastructure CTO organization. He leads edge strategy with focus on server and ecosystem solutioning and innovation.
  • Dave Graham is Director of Emerging Technologies Messaging within the Technology Thought Leadership team and owns Edge messaging for Dell Technologies.

“The Edge is not a single thing or place or piece of technology; it’s a distributed ecosystem”

— Ty Schmitt, Fellow, Dell Technologies

Kelly Lynch: Welcome back to The Next Horizon, a Dell Technologies podcast. I’m Kelly Lynch stepping in for John Hyde this week, while he’s on a much deserved vacation with his family. This week, I get to chat with a couple of fascinating guys from inside the company to talk all things Edge, what it might look like in the future and how they’re stepping away from technology in their own lives to reset and reconnect with loved ones. Before we jump in, I did want to acknowledge that I recorded the podcast from my office in my older apartment complex, which is still outfitted with copper wiring for my wireless internet. So there are a couple of spots throughout where you can hear some lagging, but I mean, I figure perfection is boring, right? Anyway, here we go. I’m joined today by Dave Graham and Ty Schmitt two gentlemen who both happen to be heavily involved in the Edge space here at Dell Technologies. So Ty, do you want to kick us off by just introducing yourself, and telling me what you do?

Ty Schmitt: Hi, my name is Ty Schmitt. I am a 27 year veteran at Dell and my title, I’m a Dell fellow, which is a senior technologist and I report into our server infrastructure CTO. And my background predominantly is power, cooling, and data center technology.

Dave Graham: I am the lesser of the two evils on this phone. So my name is Dave Graham. I’m the director of emerging technologies messaging. So covering a compendium of technologies that are out there. I am a less than 27 year veteran of this industry, mainly around 13, 14 years. Specializing in data center technologies.

Kelly Lynch: Still pretty respectable 13 years. I mean, considering I’ve only been here for two, that’s pretty good. To kick things off, today we’re talking about Edge. I personally have heard Edge spoken about in a number of different ways. Some people refer to it as a technology. Some people refer to it as a place, but I don’t necessarily think that either of those are true. So Dave, to you first, if you could, in the simplest of terms, help me understand what is Edge or the Edge. Am I even saying it correctly?

Dave Graham: Well, it depends on where you capitalize it, right? That’s it, this capitalization is the semantic definition of Edge. It’s the Edge, not the guitarist, but technology compendium, if you will. Really, when it comes down to how I define Edge, it’s really around functions, things that you would do whether it be networking, computing, storage, any kind of function along those lines, right. It’s less about a physical location. It’s more about something that exists outside of the norm. It’s something that exists outside of a data center, right? What we would, or could typically call that kind of closed in space, a place like SUPERNAP or internet or any of these other places. So that’s really how we’re looking at the Edge. It’s driven by functions. And it’s where your consumers, or your users are.

Ty Schmitt: Yeah, reality is it’s in essence been around for a long time. And I like to kind of talk about what the Edge isn’t. It’s not a single thing or a place or device, it’s based on customer usage models. I like to call it an ecosystem, a distributed ecosystem. It’s very dependent on the constraints based on a given customer’s usage models. And the way I visually like to view Edge is a little bit abstract, but it’s the same system layer build that exists today, but it has to be addressed in a different way. And so it’s data, data first and foremost, this is all about data. It’s about capturing data, moving data, storing data, doing something with that data. It’s all about data, but that data needs, it needs applications and workloads to do something meaningful with it.

Ty Schmitt: And so that data is wrapped in those workloads and those workloads need, they need IT to us to do something with those workloads. So that’s an IT layer. And again, those discrete components within those layers are dependent on customers and their usage models and what they’re trying to achieve. The IT layer is wrapped in a data center layer. The Edge is really driving new, different usage models and locations that change a bit about how that layer is approached, but fundamentally it’s required. And then the whole thing is wrapped in a real estate utility conductivity regulation layer. That again is not only dependent on the customer, but it’s also dependent on the location, the jurisdictions, the local regulations, and that whole layered system is forcing customers to address Edge differently than they have traditionally looked at their own data center, their own IT solutions.

Ty Schmitt: It’s forcing more of those layers to be addressed at the same time. And so, again, I don’t have a single desk definition. I’ve seen lots of definitions. They all kind of come back around to the same thing, which is, it’s not a thing, it’s not a single thing or a single place or a single piece of technology. It’s an ecosystem that really depends on the constraints provided or required, I should say, by a customer based on their usage models. The analogy I like to use is I compare Edge to vehicle. You look at the Webster dictionary definition for a vehicle. It’s a means of transporting something, things or people, the business constraints, the terrain, the cost requirements, those dictate what kind of vehicle it is. So, just like we, if I was to walk up to somebody and say, “Hey, what’s your definition for the vehicle?” They would look at me funny. They’re like, “What do you mean the vehicle?”

Ty Schmitt: If I walked up and said, “Hey, do you know what the definition for a vehicle is?” They’d probably get it right, “Hey, it’s we got to transport something.” Well, the Edge is very analogous to that. The Edge is meant to transport data, store data, how in which it does, it is heavily governed by what it costs to do certain things, to allow that to happen. The difference between an Edge and the Edge is how it’s going to be used, what are the constraints that have to be solved for it? And so I think there’s some analogy there to how we term vehicle, or define vehicle instead of a vehicle for things with people, it’s a vehicle for data.

Kelly Lynch: I like that, that puts it into a lot easier to understand perspective for me because I mean, it’s clear that there’s a bunch of different definitions that kind of all wrap up into one. And it’s as with a lot of things, it depends. Are there, and Ty, I know you’ve worked with a lot of customers and Dave you too, but are there specific industries right now, or types of customers that should be paying closer attention to building out an Edge strategy? Is it more relevant for certain types of industries or is this something that every customer, every industry business should sort of have at the forefront of their mind right now?

Dave Graham: So, like Ty alluded to before, actually explicitly said, Edge has been around for a long time. So in essence, what we’re trying to do is reinvent the way that we acquire data, right? So we take all of those processes, like Ty said, it’s about data. It’s about data. It’s about data, right? That’s kind of the drum that gets beat on all the time. So every vertical or every industry uses data and they use it in different ways. So I think what you’re finding in this day and age is things like telemedicine is starting to actualize or use data a lot differently, right? There’s new ways to acquire it. They’re having to look at the use of better sensors or remote sensors in ways that they never had to before. Instead of going to a doctor’s office now, I’m doing this stuff at home.

Dave Graham: I got an Apple watch or I’ve got a Smart Ring or any number of these things sitting in the house. So there’s a perfect example of doing things a little bit differently, acquiring data in new ways, the emergence of connected vehicles right now, we’ll use Tesla as an example. The amount of data that’s generated off of a Tesla is exponential compared to what it was a decade ago. And all these things now are used for crash simulation for obviously for training and inference based on pressure avoidance highway mapping, so on and so forth. So, you’re, again, seeing a different use case for all those acquired bits of data and how they’re transforming, consumed and generated even. So I think there’s a lot… Those are just two examples and pretty sure Ty, you got a lot more than [inaudible 00:08:43].

Ty Schmitt: Well, no, those are great, so the way I view this is so the comment of the Edge has been around for a long time. Well then the natural follow-up response to that is, “Well, why is it such a big deal now? Why is it in focus now?” And the reality, the way I like to look at this is 5G is really a forcing function for Edge evolution. And what I mean by that is a 5G is in essence, it’s basically going to allow more data to be moved faster. I view us on a mechanical person’s, I view 5G as a plumbing system, basically, it’s a new plumbing system, with much bigger pipes that allow for more data to flow at one time, as well as move faster. And that is going to, and is already driving customers to innovate, to create technologies, to take advantage of that.

Ty Schmitt: So, there’s a bit of a push pull, or a cat and mouse kind of thing, where the infrastructure needs to be built up to some extent that that’s a forcing function for customers to say, “Okay, well now if I can move more data faster, cheaper, how can I use that to take advantage or to improve my service that I provide to my customer? Or to improve my application or improve how fast I can respond?” In looking at different verticals, or usage models that can take advantage of that, it’s a growing massive growing list, right? So whether you’re a retailer and you are, I mean, we’ve all been to stores and you have the automated checkout now, which with COVID it’s an even more important thing, right? You go in and you scan your items, you put them in a bag and leave. Well, that is a huge problem.

Ty Schmitt: It’s very easy to bypass, and scan components that are not true of what you’re actually scanning, right? So the stores look at, “Okay, well, what can we do to, to not only improve our customer experience to maybe also gather market data and also improve our security at our store?” Well, if I have the means of capturing more cameras, more sensors, more data during checkout, or during the entire shopping experience, I can use that data not only for security reasons, but I can also use it to enhance my services that I’m providing at the store, as well as use that information for marketing purposes. That’s a lot of data potentially, and how I need to capture and do something with that data may require me to have something onsite or on Prem or close to my retail stores. That is a version of Edge.

Kelly Lynch: From both of you, it sounds to me under this umbrella of the Edge, I mean, there are a number of different technologies that have to come into play to make this a reality for customers or for different businesses. So you’ve both touched on security, data management, 5G, and they’re all kind of wrapped up into this, and they’re all required in order to realize the full potential, if you will, of the Edge. So I’m curious your thoughts on what might be, or what you’ve noticed when talking to customers, or just in observation, what’s kind of the biggest hurdle or the most important thing for customers or businesses to think about as they start to develop or build out their Edge strategies?

Ty Schmitt: Looking at the Edge, it’s really the first and foremost thing involves some form of transformation. It’s what the data center environment has existed in the past. It’s just, there are different constraints now involved in doing this at the Edge, at their Edge. And so it involves data, data management, data security, and data movement, system management, operational management, all forms of security from data all the way up through the physical layers, storage, servers, compute, networking, it involves everything. Fundamentally, but some of the biggest challenges I’ve heard customers have is they seem to be a bit paralyzed at the start. And I view this through a lens of also looking at customers as a system. And many times, in most cases, customers are, they have their own layers or silos for how money is spent, how decisions are made, and these align with historical functions or tenants i.e., there’s a layer or a group that owns data center or real estate.

Ty Schmitt: There’s a different layer that owns IT decision making. And what the Edge is forcing is a thickening, I guess, or a coming together of, or breaking down of these walls so that decisions can be made spanning layers to solve a problem. And that’s difficult. It’s complex. It involves people, it involves politics and inherently it’s hard to get the data and model using that data, what is the most optimized methodology for how I want to tackle my problem?

Kelly Lynch: So, I would love to know I’m sitting here in my little tiny condo with copper wired internet. That’s why my internet sucks, but what kinds of examples, what is something that I, as an individual, single woman living alone with my cat, how can I see benefit from companies taking advantage of and building out and executing on their Edge strategies? Just a simple little thing that I might be able to see in my day to day life.

Ty Schmitt: Well, first, you got to upgrade your internet. No, I think… Listen, I’ve got three daughters, one of the benefits of being in a pandemic is I’ve been able to really capture back time lost with them as they were growing up. And as I was traveling all over the world, and one of the things we do is we watch a lot of Netflix and Hulu and Apple TV and whatnot, and already beginning to see this where you have higher definition, faster speed the ability to stream multiple high definition things at one time, while working on a Zoom meeting, while having other connected devices in your space, this is data. There’s massive amounts of data that are flowing in, and the performance of that, and what you as a consumer are willing to pay to get that experience plays into this evolution of the industrial build out for Edge. And what that means for you as an individual, kind of depends on how much you’re willing to pay for certain services and experience.

Kelly Lynch: Not much, not much.

Ty Schmitt: Well, and some of this quite frankly it’s called a ticket to the ball game, right? From a competitive standpoint, there’s the bar is continuously rising on what we expect as consumers to get for what we’re paying.

Dave Graham: Yeah, I think, similar to what Ty said, I have two daughters too. So, there you go. And I’m certainly enjoying my time, they’re literally 15 feet that direction here right now, while I’m doing this. You’re literally holding it in the palm of your hand, these connected devices with the appropriate amount of security, always got to put security in front of that. They give you a massive amount of insights into what you’re doing, how you’re functioning, right? We talk about the COVID 20 or whatever that you end up gaining. Well, I actually went the opposite direction, I lost 50 pounds. So it’s like…

Dave Graham: But a lot of that was made possible by all these connected devices coming together and giving me insight into what’s going on. So, I was able to utilize that within my little health Edge, if you will, right? But being able to push these kinds of things out are made possible by the way that we’re investing in these types of things here at the Edge, it’s how we live. It’s how we consume this data, how we’re generating and transforming it, and really kind of pulling it all together. So, Kelly, the world is your oyster when it comes to the Edge, you can get a connected cat collar at some point, right? You track him around, right?

Kelly Lynch: Yep.

Dave Graham: But all that to be said there’s endless possibilities and that’s probably the most terrifying and the most exciting part about what we’re facing at this point, so.

Kelly Lynch: Love it. I can’t wait to see the affordable things in like five years that I’m able to bring into my home. But I guess in the most brief way possible, you talked about how 10 to 15 years ago, we wouldn’t be able to see even half the stuff that we’re seeing today in terms of wearables, in terms of high definition, watching Netflix with your girls, any of that stuff, wasn’t around 10 to 15 years ago. So what’s an example of something that you imagine we might be able to experience or see as a result of this evolving Edge in the next 10 to 15 years, because this is The Next Horizon. Got to talk about it.

Ty Schmitt: That’s a great question. My belief is most of what we are talking about doesn’t exist today and it needs to be innovated and that’s awesome. Yeah, listen, my advice, my advice for customers is take a step back, look at how you can break down your own silos, bring folks together, the discreet layers of your system. The Edge is a system that is forcing… It’s an ecosystem that is forcing multiple layers of the solution set to be attacked at the same time. That same approach needs to happen from a people standpoint within a company. And the combination of both of those from a behavioral standpoint will lead to goodness. And we’ve seen that happen time and time again.

Kelly Lynch: Dave, any thoughts?

Dave Graham: I’ll contain, curb my enthusiasm, so to speak pun intended, right? 10 years ago, we couldn’t land rockets, and we’re seeing that. Right now I get giddy and excited by watching day-to-day construction videos, at Gigafactory down in Austin and then Berlin, right. And the building of Starship. I mean, again, the art of the impossible is happening every single day. So I’m looking at data marketplaces, right? I’m looking at the ability for who I am and what I generate to become a commodity, just a tantalizing taste of that, for sure. But I think that’s what’s coming. I think that’s what’s going to really make it real for the Edge.

Kelly Lynch: After all this talk of technology. And I promise to let you go after this, but obviously technology is not going anywhere. It’s only evolving. And I’m very excited about the tantalizing taste that Dave touched on a moment ago. Love some good alliterations by the way, regardless of the fact that we’re all staying home a lot more, what is one thing that you do that is disconnected from technology that enriches your life in a different way?

Dave Graham: I built a desk.

Kelly Lynch: Yeah! Carpentry for the win!

Dave Graham: It fits the analog to my digital life, right? It’s basically how I have to look at it. I need to put my hands on something that wasn’t a keyboard for once, needed to have something that was representative of the environment around me. So, I built a bar slash breakfast, whatever standing desk type thing, and slapped it up on a wall, lost my security deposit in the process, but hey, I’m happy, so here you go.

Kelly Lynch: And what about you Ty? What have you done?

Ty Schmitt: This is going to maybe, I don’t know, it’s pretty nerdy, but I love it and I don’t care. I actually I play Dungeons and Dragons with my kids.

Kelly Lynch: That’s awesome!

Ty Schmitt: Yeah. Yeah. Get out the old dice and the old papers, and just connect with your kids in a really fun way. And it’s been, actually, it’s been a lot of fun for me. It’s a complete separation from anything real, and it’s with my kiddos. And so I really enjoy it.

Kelly Lynch: I love that they want to play with you too.

Ty Schmitt: I’ll take it as long as they, I don’t know if they think I’m cool or just completely a goof, but as long as they’ll take me, I’ll do it.

Kelly Lynch: That is so cool. Gentlemen, this has been awesome. So thank you. And I look forward to hopefully having more conversations with both of you in the future about other stuff, maybe DOD, maybe carpentry, I don’t know, but thanks for being here.

Dave Graham: You got it.

Ty Schmitt: No problem. Enjoyed it. Thank you.

Kelly Lynch: For those of you who enjoyed this podcast, you can find it at www.delltechnologies.com/nexthorizon, along with future podcasts and other great content focused on emerging technologies. Thank you so much for listening and be sure to subscribe, until next time, and for me, I’m not quite sure when that will be hosting-wise, but hopefully soon, I’m Kelly Lynch and this is The Next Horizon.