Embedded by another name: Dell

August 1, 2010 OpenSystems Media

Companies build because they perceive it as more cost-effective and because they’re uncomfortable with losing control over their IP. While the component cost seems lower in the short term, they’re almost always surprised by soft costs in the long term. Also, IP is migrating more and more toward software and away from hardware, enabling companies to move to COTS hardware. By choosing to outsource their ecosystem to us in whole or in part, our customers free up their time and resources to focus on what they do best: innovate.

ECD: Explain your embedded model. You offer standardized OEM system configurations with extended life cycles?

FROEHLICH: Dell is the only Tier 1 manufacturer that offers a single source for comprehensive, end-to-end integration, producing “copy-exact” products across the globe. Customers have access to our full standards-based product portfolio and can customize it to their particular specifications. Our holistic approach provides complete supply chain management expertise including design, manufacturing, test and development, fulfillment, and service and support. This consultative approach is unique because of our build-to-order heritage and established global infrastructure. The key here is to leverage standard components so OEM customers can leverage our services model and get the economies of scale we enjoy. Some of our standard products have extended life cycles up to three and a half years with seven years of support. For example, Siemens Healthcare recently chose the Dell Precision T5500 Long-Life Workstation to power its ultrasound solutions (see Figure 1).

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Figure 1: The Dell Precision T5500 Long-Life Workstation powers ultrasound equipment from Siemens Healthcare.

ECD: You do some customization, but not board customization, right? What can be customized in a solution?

FROEHLICH: We have listened to OEMs in different industries and aligned our standards-based technologies to their needs. Dell OEM Solutions provides customers with dedicated account and engineering teams to lead them through the entire design, development, manufacturing, logistics, and support processes. We have a full range of fully customizable, OEM-ready (non-Dell brand) hardware. This can include custom bezels or build-your-own bezel kits (to which customers can apply their own logos), custom chassis, packaging and documentation, installation of third-party cards and proprietary software, custom BIOS, fulfillment, regulatory assistance, and third-party thermal testing. We will even run custom software scripts in our factories to the specifications the customer requires so products are tested properly.

ECD: What embedded application segments are embracing this Dell embedded model, and how is that changing the way they solve problems?

FROEHLICH: Dell is a global OEM supplier to more than 1,500 customers in 40 industries. We work with dozens of industry verticals, including medical and life sciences equipment, industrial automation and process controls machinery, point of sale, kiosk, digital signage, digital cinema, casino gaming, security and surveillance, transportation solutions, and others that build their own hardware-based solutions powered by the Dell systems embedded in them.

We’ve recently seen increased interest from the health care industry, which is highly regulated with complex recertification processes requiring technologies designed for harsh environments. Dell OEM Solutions addresses these needs with our longer manufacturing life cycles and enhanced material stability (see Figure 2).

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Figure 2: Dell OEM Solutions addresses the needs of the medical and life sciences industries and more than 30 other vertical markets.

In another example, we helped a different health care company scale back from two servers, a workstation, and Just a Bunch of Disks (JBOD) to two Dell Precision Long-Life Workstations in its MRI units, a change that will result in 21.5 percent cost savings once the units are deployed.

ECD: What’s been the biggest surprise you’ve seen as your embedded business has grown?

FROEHLICH: The first surprise is how narrowly the market defines embedded. When working with OEMs we define embedded as the hardware inside powering a solution, such as the workstations that power the Siemens ultrasound units. This is not how the embedded market views itself. Embedded is still a very chip-oriented and motherboard-focused discussion. Also, the fact that hardware manufacturers are increasingly becoming software companies to facilitate innovation is interesting to me. Hardware isn’t the point of innovation; it merely facilitates it.

ECD: You work closely with Intel and Microsoft. Which of their new technologies is included in your vision for embedded customers?

FROEHLICH: We have incorporated many of the products on Intel’s Embedded long-life roadmap into Dell standard products so we can easily extend the life of our platforms. The seven-year life cycles Intel has on these chipsets are key for our customers. Intel Embedded is also working on other products for specific use in key industry verticals that we are analyzing for incorporation into our product set. These products address the software appliance, medical, and digital signage markets.

Rick Froehlich is vice president and general manager of Dell’s OEM Solutions Division. During Rick’s nine-year career at Dell, he has run Dell’s PowerConnect Network switching business and started the Dell/EMC partnership. Prior to Dell, Rick spent six years in management consulting at A.T. Kearney running large strategy and operations improvement engagements. Rick began his career in the Finance Development Program at Procter & Gamble. Rick has a BA from Principia College in Illinois and an MBA from Washington University in Missouri.

Dell OEM Solutions Division www.dell.com/oem

Rick Froehlich (Dell OEM Solutions Division)
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