AUSTIN, Texas — Dell's research arm is making strides in accomplishing goals set at its formation early last year, according to Jai Menon, vice president of research and innovation and head of Dell Research.
The division was tasked with "long-range, disruptive, and pan-Dell" research and innovation, as well as writing the Dell Technology Outlook on disruptive trends. At Dell World, Menon and team were lauded for a proof-of-concept called high-velocity cloud that can support a million telecom users on a quarter rack of standard Dell R920 servers. CEO Michael Dell said the research supported 214 Gbyte/s of bandwidth while leaving 90% of the server CPU free.
Despite the research accomplishment, Menon said there is a long way to go, especially with telecoms.
"Honestly, the [network functions virtualization] journey is a lot like virtualization in the data center. It took 8-10 years to get to 70-80% penetration in the larger enterprise. It's going to be like that, and telecos will probably be even slower," he said. "This is the carriers coming together and saying, 'Please help us. We want to go here.'"
Dell Research is also working on a software-based switch that turns a server into a switch in about nine seconds. The group recently partnered with Scott Shenker, a professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, to study NFV and software-defined networks (SDN) further. Shenker recently visited the Dell Research lab to "map out a joint story" with Menon, who eventually hopes to hire some of the 12 graduate students on the team.
The Dell Research group relies on a "constant flow of people coming into research" to bring more ideas through the lab, Menon said. He would not say how many people are working for him.
Medical analytics is also an important area of research at Dell, which already has a large healthcare business. Menon's team is focused on modeling and reducing re-admissions -- the probability that patients return to hospital within 30 days. Medicare spends $50 billion on such re-admissions, Menon said.
Dell Research sits on the board of the Dell Clinical Cloud Archive, which hosts 8 billion medical images. Menon hopes to use the images to conduct analytics on community and population health.
He and team are also working on mobility issues and have demonstrated a "seamless mobility" project to combat spotty cellular reception at its Bay Area campus. When running an application on a smartphone, the demo will "automatically and seamlessly switch you over from WiFi to 4G" without dropping the app. The demo is also able to automate multiple connections.
"It's measuring various signal strengths and being able to figure out what is strong and what is weak," he said. "The iPhone 6 is trying to do this with voice, only they're barely just getting there."
Security was a big topic in both keynotes and breakout sessions at Dell World, and Dell Research is working on a project that uses machine learning to identify user-specific handling methods as a form of authentication.
"This notion that you authenticate yourself the first time and that's itů we don't think that's good enough. Your touch is different than my touch. The way you swipe is different than how I swipe," Menon said. Those unique mannerisms can be tagged as user-specific. "Over time, the machine learning will say there's a probability it's still Jai, and there will be some threshold" before you have to prove your identity again.
More work needs to be done before Dell Research can demonstrate such technology, though Menon said he recently hired a dedicated staff member for the project.
— Jessica Lipsky, Associate Editor, EE Times