Dell EMC positions itself as a player in 5G

As operators modernize their networks for 5G, Dell EMC wants to provide their compute needs. (Getty Images)

Dell EMC is a 70,000-employee company that’s part of the Dell Technologies family of companies. It’s well-known for its data center products such as servers and storage devices. In addition, Dell EMC also sells solutions from its sister companies including VMware.

Although Dell EMC is a major seller of servers worldwide with a large business selling to enterprises, the company has been giving more attention to the service provider vertical in the past couple of years. And now, with the big carriers deploying 5G, Dell EMC sees an opportunity to increase its market share in that vertical.

“The 5G infrastructure will be software-defined and look like an orchestrated cloud,” said John Roese, CTO of Dell EMC, in an interview with FierceWireless. “The underlying substrate will be primarily compute as opposed to bespoke hardware.”

By “bespoke hardware,” he clarified that traditionally, service provider networks relied on custom designed and proprietary hardware and software from vendors. But for 5G, operators are using more generic hardware and more open software, creating what he called a “reusable platform.” Roese said operators aren’t so interested in specific products anymore. They’re interested in flexible platforms based on standardized hardware and orchestration systems.

For instance, Dell EMC is a leading contributor of the OpenSwitch open source project. And if a customer uses Dell EMC servers and wants to run OpenSwitch software, Dell EMC provides support for it.

Some operators have been modernizing their core networks with generic hardware and open software for a few years. AT&T is a good example. The operator is on the final leg of having 75% of its core network virtualized by 2020. It’s using the open source ONAP software to virtualize critical network functions.

Roese said Dell EMC’s opportunity is not just in the core network but also in the radio access network (RAN) in terms of compute needs. “We’re definitely not going to build radios,” he joked. But in terms of compute and storage, he said, “5G is the opportunity for us to take a lead.” 

Dell EMC’s second vision

In addition to grabbing market share with carriers as they upgrade their networks for 5G, Dell EMC has a vision for helping operators and enterprises organize their various cloud workloads. “If you want to monetize 5G it’s not just connectivity, you have to integrate with cloud architectures,” said Roese.

Currently, there is a lot of cross-pollination happening between enterprises, telcos, and public cloud providers. Workloads can be run in multiple places, and it can get pretty confusing and expensive if these workloads aren’t constantly optimized to run in the best place.

Dell EMC has a vision of offering a cloud “operational hub” to be the authority over all of an organization’s cloud workloads. And for this operational hub, Dell EMC’s sister company VMware would play a key role.

In terms of virtual machine infrastructure, VMware has the biggest market share among enterprises. “Our philosophy is: If you’re trying to build for the enterprise, start with what they’re already using, which is VMware,” said Roese.

VMware is already working to combine its huge business in the enterprise private data center with the public cloud. It’s worked especially closely with Amazon Web Services (AWS). In November 2018, AWS announced an offering to bring native AWS services to on-premises facilities that use VMware. And conversely, VMware has extended its on-premises environments to the AWS Cloud.

Between VMware’s footprint in the enterprise private data center and AWS’ footprint in the public cloud, the companies are already well positioned to offer some kind of cloud “operational hub.” And Dell EMC has a vision/desire to become that hub.