In-Depth

IoT, AI and the Virtual Cloud Network at Dell Technologies World

The event covered a lot of ground -- here's my disjointed overview of the conference.

Last week (April 30-May 3) I attended Dell Technologies World 2018 at The Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, and although I didn't get to attend all the sessions or talk to all the people I had wished to (the conference was a whirlwind of activity), I did leave the conference with a heightened appreciation for where Dell Technologies (composed of Dell, EMC, Pivotal, RSA, SecureWorks, Virtustream and VMware) is headed. Here are my somewhat random notes on the conference.

The event kicked off on Monday morning with a keynote session by Michael Dell, chairman & CEO of Dell Technologies, and Karen Quintos, chief customer officer of Dell. They talked about the future of computing and how we're entering an era of limitless possibilities. They also discussed how artificial intelligence, machine learning (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT) will radically reshape the world in which we live for the better. This reshaping will require a lot of IT resources, and they spoke about how we need resources close to the source of the data in order to efficiently process the signal from the noise.

On Monday afternoon Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMware, delivered a talk titled "Innovate in Everything & Anything: Any Device, Any App, Any Cloud." During this talk, Pat told how VMware technology is currently delivering the applications that we need to use to the devices that we have. He stressed how the network needs to be virtualized in order to connect the world using VMware's new NSX-based Virtual Cloud Network. Gelsinger stressed that VMware is going to revolutionize the corporate network by taking its software-defined networking technology across every public and private cloud. Due to Gelsinger's delivery style, he took what was a mundane title for a speech and made it into one of the most interesting and engaging keynotes of the event.

Whereas Monday's keynote was focused on strategic messages, Tuesday morning's keynote focused on a more tactical approach by looking at the day-to-day view of technological development. Dell announced a new entry to its VMAX line (PowerMax), an entry-level XtremIO appliance, two new big four-socket PowerEdge servers (R840 and R940xa) and a new member of its PowerEdge line (MX) aimed at the software-defined datacenter.

I was able to sit in on a roundtable discussion moderated by Jeff Clarke, vice chairman of Dell Products and Operations. During the roundtable, various leaders from the industry dove into how IoT, AI and augmented reality consume IT resources and how they will impact the datacenter of the future. IoT hadn't really interested me in the past, but this session really got me thinking about it. Specifically, I'm interested to know how much data it is going to be produced and how we can use the data to make the world a better place.

Wednesday's keynote was by Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, and this speech really rounded out the keynotes as a whole for the week. Isaacson is the author of "The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution"(Simon & Schuster, 2014), which I recently read. In the book, Isaacson discusses the people who re-invented the world through the creation of computers and the Internet. I enjoyed the book, but I really enjoyed Isaacson's speech about it even more. I like the trend that I'm seeing at these events where the sponsors bring in an outside voice to tangentially validate the ways in which technology is actually changing the world; doing so brings it all into perspective.

I had a chance to attend a few sessions and overall, they were very good -- I would rate the sessions as a whole as a B+/A-. I really enjoyed the deep-dive session on Isilon because the presenter was well-versed in the subject, and judging from the amount of phones I saw out taking pictures of the slides, the information was especially pertinent to the audience.

For me, one of the highlights of any event is wandering around talking to the vendors to see what's new and exciting. I stopped by the AMD booth (it was a gold sponsor of the event) to see how its AMD ZEN architecture CPUs and Radeon Instinct GPUs (which seem to be catching on) were doing. The ZEN architecture is used in RYZEN (consumer markets) and Epyc (enterprise systems) CPUs. I asked the folks at AMD how the Epyc CPUs were doing in the server world, and they said that the sweet spot for their Epyc CPU is in dual-proc systems. Moreover, they were very happy with the Dell servers that were running on their processors. They showed me some benchmarks that were quite impressive and said that the OEM vendors were very receptive to their new technology, and that their CPUs have been in public clouds.

Also, Microsoft Azure and Baidu (the largest search engine in China) have publicly announced that they would be running AMD chips, and although they couldn't drop any other names, they said that if you're running workloads in the public cloud there's a good chance that some of your workload is on AMD processors.

I drilled down and asked how AMD's top-of-the-line CPU would perform with NVMe devices. They said that because it offers 64 PCIe lanes, four of which are used to connect to the south bridge, leaving 60 available to connect up to seven different simultaneous PCIe devices. I then asked how the technology in the Epyc will enable VMware's hypervisor (ESXi), and they said that the AMD EPYC 7XX1 series CPU is certified for vSphere 6.7, the Dell R6415 is currently on the HCL for vSphere 6.7, and R7415 has been certified for vSphere 6.5 and vSphere 6.7.

So this is my disjointed overview of the conference. The event covered a lot of ground and was highly enjoyable and I suggest that you, if at all possible, try and attend at least one tech event each year to keep yourself up-to-date and enthused about the technology that you use.

About the Author

Tom Fenton works in VMware's Education department as a Senior Course Developer. He has a wealth of hands-on IT experience gained over the past 20 years in a variety of technologies, with the past 10 years focused on virtualization and storage. Before re-joining VMware, Tom was a Senior Validation Engineer with The Taneja Group, were he headed their Validation Service Lab and was instrumental in starting up its vSphere Virtual Volumes practice. He's on Twitter @vDoppler.

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