SEATTLE—Personal computer giant Dell is branching out into a new market, the company revealed at Embedded World. It is applying its proven quality, reliability, and global reach to the industrial PC market with the introduction of two purpose-built industrial PC families: the Embedded Box PC 3000 and 5000 series. The ruggedized, fanless PCs are part of Dell's IoT product portfolio and target Industrial IoT edge computing and gateway applications.
"We looked at the IIoT landscape," said Andy Rhodes, Dell's executive director of commercial IoT solutions in an interview with EE Times, "and saw that edge gateways were missing in the portfolio of available systems. Also, a lot of things at the edge were embedded PCs, mostly legacy systems that wouldn't be replaced with something entirely different." In addition, he noted, the IT departments of companies contemplating the adoption of IIoT technology want to use the same tools they have in IT to manage their OT and edge systems.
Dell saw opportunity in the situation, Rhodes said, despite the existing ecosystem of industrial PC providers offering modular products based on industry standard buses such as PC/104 and compactPCI. "The embedded PC companies can't supply large volumes quickly," Rhodes noted, "and it's hard to validate and certify the final configurations. Global support is also a challenge for them. Further, systems management and security for the IIoT are not something small companies can handle." Dell, he noted, has proven capability in all these areas along with a well-established global distribution and support infrastructure.
"Over-provisioned IO" is key to Dell's strategy of combining wide applicability with volume pricing in its industrial PC line.
Dell's industrial PCs are designed to MIL-STD 810G specifications for ruggedness, offer DIN-rail, VESA, or wall-mount options, and are specified for a 0° C to 50° C operating environment. They work with a keyboard and monitor or operate in a "headless" fashion as needed and are available with a choice of operating systems, including Windows and Ubuntu. Powered by Intel Atom processors, the 3000 series targets space-constrained applications. Intel Core processors power the 5000 series for high-bandwidth IO and processing applications. The 5000 series also offers two PCI/PCIe card slots for adaptability to special needs.
While Dell can provide a small amount of customization to meet specific requirements, Rhodes noted, it is not intending to address every possible use case in the industrial PC market. "There is a bell curve of need," Rhodes said, "and we'll service that majority in the middle." The strategy, he added, will be to over provision the IO with extensive wired and wireless capabilities to meet a broad range of needs, and use volume pricing to keep the cost of unneeded IO from being an impediment to purchase. Dell expects to leverage the economies of scale that come from its consumer and corporate desktop PC businesses to keep prices down in its industrial PC business. The 5000 series, for instance, starts at $1699 and the 3000 series starts at $1099.
Acknowledging that the consumer PC business evolves rapidly while industrial users require longevity of designs, Rhodes added that the sales cycle for Dell's industrial PCs will be at least five years with an additional five years of support availability. The Embedded Box 3000 and 5000 series are due to become available in select countries in the summer of 2016.
Note: The prices for the two series were reversed in the original posting and have now been corrected -- RQ
—Rich Quinnell covers industrial control for EE Times. Contact him at email@example.com,