Internet of Things (IoT) Dell Use Case: Leveraging Our Connected Platforms to Improve Customer Care and Product Development
Every day, Dell IT exchanges information with millions of Dell EMC connected devices installed in thousands of enterprise, commercial and consumer customer sites around the world.
Powered by Dell technology, this connected environment is one of the most significant deployments of an enterprise Internet of Things (IoT) platform in the world—providing us with data to improve product quality, improve service availability, help customers better maintain and leverage their investment in our products, and more.
We have honed our connected platform over two decades, giving us a unique vantage point on the current industry-wide trend of linking an increasing myriad of devices to create the Internet of Things and utilize the data it provides. Like the emerging IoT concept, Dell IT’s IoT approach is still evolving as we find new ways to analyze, and use, the data we collect and then communicate value back to our customers.
Here is a glimpse into how our connected environment has taken shape and how Dell IT is leveraging our edge to core to cloud technologies to unleash the power of IoT.
Our “Call Home” Beginnings
Dell has been using data from our connected environment for many years to analyze product performance and improve engineering. It began 20 years ago with giving our products—primarily storage systems back then—the capability to send problem alerts back to our IT remote monitoring systems to trigger possible customer service calls: a storage array component like a disk drive is about to fail and needs to be replaced. We process the alarm and dispatch a technician.
Over time, we evolved the call back capability to include other product lines including servers, desktops and laptops and more information, such as configuration details, environmental conditions like temperature, and software faults. About ten years ago, we added a two-way information exchange to the storage product lines: technicians could now access array consoles, diagnose what was going on and fix problems remotely.
From there, we expanded our bi-directional connection to collect even more real-time performance product data and send it to our Dell data lake, initially for analysis by engineering to help improve product design and quality.
Currently, we channel a wealth of harvested product usage, configuration and performance data into the data lake, where it is mined by an increasing number of business groups to analyze everything from product failure alerts and code upgrades to licensing usage and product usage data. We use an expanse of Dell solutions, including VMware, Dell EMC storage, Pivotal Cloud Foundry, and RSA security offerings, to power our ever expanding IoT environment.
Moreover, we are making that product data available directly to the customers via cloud-based management solutions that let them log into a secure portal and see their Dell product ecosystem, and evaluate data on things like capacity, product upgrades, and potential failure alerts.
Letting Customers Pay by the Drip
We are only just starting to scratch the potential business value of our IoT platform. After all, there’s a lot of data out there and the things you can use it for; some of them are known, and some aren’t known until you start looking at that data and figure out the patterns that are there.
One of our latest IoT use cases is the development of a flexible consumption model that allows customers to pay for infrastructure as they use it, rather than buying it up front. The idea is that a customer can roll a Dell EMC VMAX into their data center but only pay for the amount of storage they use as they use it.
To track the products’ consumption, we need to enable our products to calculate the amount of storage utilized and send it back to enterprise billing systems so we can analyze it and create a bill for customers.
We are just starting to provide flexible consumption capabilities on storage and software and expect to expand it across all of our product lines shortly.
Flexible consumption is not only more efficient regarding tracking IT resource usage, but it also lets customers reap the financial benefits of investing in IT resources as operating expenses rather than capital expenses.
We are continuing to work towards adding more capabilities as business requirements emerge, as well as continually upgrading our technology to be more efficient. Here are some insights that we have learned along the way that might help your organization leverage the Internet of Things to get control of your IT resources or to connect with customers to improve your products and services.
- The more data you collect, the more potential insights you can get. But if you ingest too much data, then you are putting an unnecessary load on your system. Finding the right mix of edge analytics and core analytics is essential. By moving some of your intelligence to the edge, it does not make it all the way back, and you are not clogging the pipe. We have some knowledge built in to determine if something should be sent back or not.
- Security is huge. Implement security best practices, monitor security continuously and give the end-customer full control of the connectivity/IoT transactions.
- You must use technology and infrastructure that can massively scale quickly. We use Dell family of Pivotal and VMware products.
- The IoT system requires other IT systems to work together to integrate and analyze data. Integration with other systems (financial, CRM, ERP, social, ) builds the collective data needed for AI to provide value.
- An IoT platform must be simple to monitor and manage.
- End customers are capturing most of the value of IoT in the form of efficient products that are better designed and serviced due to insights from the collected data. They are also benefitting from a product operation that is personalized to their experience and workload.
Our IoT platform lets us and our customers use the wealth of data we collect from our connected products to make things better. It also enables artificial intelligence and machine learning use cases. So whether you want to get more insight into your install environment and stay ahead of maintenance, take advantage of a consumption-based model to procure infrastructure, or create your own IoT platform to use customer feedback to improve your products, IoT is a critical tool that we are confident will only grow in importance.