RESEARCH NOTE: Dell Technologies World 2024 Embraces the Modern AI Era

By Will Townsend - June 3, 2024
Dell COO Jeff Clarke talks with Charlie Kawwas, president of Broadcom, at Dell Technologies World 2024

Dell Technologies World was held in Las Vegas the week of May 20, 2024. To no one’s surprise, the theme of this year’s event was AI and the introduction of Dell’s AI Factory. In this piece, I will dive deeper into that concept and provide my insights on the company’s opportunities in connectivity and edge enterprise infrastructure.

Broadcom Partnership

Dell has traditionally eschewed heavy investment in networking, opting to collaborate with partners for most of its offerings, including a version of SONiC’s network operating system. Some may find fault with that strategy, but it has served the company well in pairing merchant silicon-based Ethernet switches and I/O modules with its own server and storage infrastructure products.

From a connectivity standpoint, Dell used its signature event, which included lots of attention to its channel and IT partner ecosystem, to highlight its relationship with Broadcom—one of its most strategic networking partners—along with three portfolio enhancements:

  • Dell PowerSwitch Z9864F-ON uses the latest version of Broadcom’s Tomahawk 5 chipset, which aims to double performance over prior-generation silicon. This will feed power-hungry AI workloads that demand higher levels of throughput and lower latency.
  • Dell PowerEdge XE9680 supports Broadcom’s 400G PCIe Gen 5 Ethernet adapters to complement Dell’s newest switch with the ability to scale connectivity through the deployment and operation of massive scale-out Ethernet fabrics.
  • Enterprise SONiC Distribution by Dell includes new enhancements that are designed to accelerate AI workload performance, simplify fabric orchestration, and improve lifecycle management and outcomes through consolidated visibility and incremental functionality.

I recently evaluated Broadcom’s AI interconnect capabilities in an article co-authored with my firm’s CEO and chief analyst, Patrick Moorhead. What I find powerful is that Broadcom continues to extend the capabilities of a decades-tested platform in Ethernet. By choosing to partner with Broadcom, Dell is leveraging its partner’s continued investment in evolving Ethernet performance through the consolidation of enhanced chipset components. Practically speaking, this means that Dell is also realizing benefits in terms of improved power, throughput, and latency.

Dell NativeEdge

Dell’s NativeEdge platform may be one of its best-kept secrets. Dell acquired Cloudify in early 2023 and used it as a basis to launch the NativeEdge platform later that year. Cloudify’s superpower lies in its ability to orchestrate functions across a broad and diverse infrastructure set, including virtual machine and container instances. Edge deployment and management can be a tricky endeavor given the highly distributed placement of resources at the point of data creation. Dell positions NativeEdge as the only edge operations platform that can scale to securely provision devices and manage them across multi-cloud environments.

Time will tell if Dell’s assertions about its NativeEdge platform hold up. However, on the surface what the company is offering is powerful. As AI continues to gain momentum in the press and through widespread enterprise adoption, it faces many challenges in implementation. These hurdles include the need to centralize operations, secure devices, and optimize AI workload performance at the network edge as more model training and inference moves there with the introduction of new AI PCs and other AI-infused edge devices.

Final Thoughts

Dell Technologies World 2024 went far to demonstrate the company’s opportunities to capitalize on the modern AI era. I began my career at Dell in the early 1990s, and it has come a long way in its 40-year journey from its humble beginnings in Michael Dell’s dorm room at my alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin. My mentor, former colleague, and a current Dell executive best summarized things when we met at the event. He simply stated that the IT industry needed water, and AI is becoming that fertile element. It’s undeniable that generative AI is becoming this decade’s most disruptive technological breakthrough, and I believe that it is poised to enable new levels of productivity and enterprise transformation.

Will Townsend
+ posts

Will Townsend manages the networking and security practices for Moor Insights & Strategy focused on carrier infrastructure providers, carrier services, enterprise networking and security. He brings over 30 years of technology industry experience in a variety of product, marketing, channel, business development and sales roles to his advisory position.