Dell launches new generation of AI, edge computing servers
Dell EMC unveiled the next generation of its PowerEdge servers this week. The new range includes 17 servers aimed at supporting enterprises’ edge computing, AI and automation capabilities.
"Data is being created and used in more places than ever before, and organisations are challenged to act on it as quickly as possible," commented Jeff Boudreau, president and general manager of Dell Technologies’ Infrastructure Solutions Group.
"As we innovate for the future of IT, advanced automation is a must, no matter where infrastructure resides. Our new PowerEdge servers offer next-level performance to help customers accelerate data insights and the move toward autonomous compute."
Built for the edge
Increasingly, advancements in IoT and 5G technology mean that more and more demanding workloads are being shifted away from the centre of networks towards the edge, where operators can take advantage of the kinds of ultra-low latency connections that are required to support everything from drone fleets and self driving cars to advanced real time analytics and mixed reality.
Among the newly released servers, the PowerEdge XR11 and XR12 are Dell’s latest entrant into the field of ruggedised digital infrastructure. Designed to operate for long periods of time in remote or harsh environments, the XR11 and XR12 are designed to support increasingly complex computing workloads at the edge of customers’ networks.
"Infrastructure has long been evolving beyond the data centre, and workloads at the edge are only becoming more complex," said Patrick Moorhead, founder and president, Moor Insights & Strategy. "Dell's servers and intelligent management solutions give organisations the compute options and tools to run even the most complex workloads from the data centre to the edge or wherever they need to be."
Powering next-gen AI
As the capabilities of AI increase, so too do the demands placed upon the hardware that supports it. Dell’s new PowerEdge servers now reportedly feature “PCIe Gen 4.0 – doubling throughput performance over the previous generation – and up to six accelerators per server to support the most challenging, data-intensive workloads.” By coupling this hardware with PowerEdge’s autonomous intelligence capabilities, make this Dell’s most AI-friendly server portfolio to date.
Specifically, Dell is touting the new PowerEdge XE8545 as a “powerhouse for AI workloads”, capable of crunching through huge datasets faster than ever thanks to the 128 cores of 3rd Generation AMD EPYC processors (which have ) and four NVIDIA A100 GPUs.
Forrest Norrod, senior vice president and general manager of AMD’s Data Centre and Embedded Systems Group, commented on the partnership: "The relationship with AMD and Dell Technologies in the data centre keeps getting stronger with the launch of the 3rd Gen AMD EPYC server CPUs, available today in the latest lineup of the Dell EMC PowerEdge server portfolio. Together, we are helping not only to deliver some of the world's highest performing servers for enterprise customers but are also pushing the boundaries on AI with the PowerEdge XE8545."
How is AI helping to manage workloads in data centres?
Workloads are taking their toll on the data centre industry, increasing to the point where enterprises are now turning to artificial intelligence (AI) technology for help in reducing the burden on IT teams while boosting efficiency and reducing costs. But how can AI help, and are data centre managers prepared to hand over the responsibility of managing tasks to machines?
Management through automation
One way in which artificial intelligence can help control data centre workload is through automating it to the most efficient infrastructure both inside the data centre itself and in a hybrid-cloud setting consisting of edge, cloud, and on-premise environments.
If AI is used more in workload management, data centres in years to come will look different to those of today. The technology could see the creation of several smaller, interconnected edge data centres, all of which would be managed by a single administrator.
Reducing costs is something that many, if not all, organisations in the industry are looking to do, mostly due to several factors keeping costs high, such as inflation, and pandemic-necessitated budget cuts, and tougher competition. Jeff Kavanaugh, Head of the Infosys Knowledge Institute, said: “AI and automation have proven to be powerful tools in workload management, as it frees employees from time-consuming and mundane tasks and allows them to focus on work that actually requires a human”.
Non-AI tools are reactive instead of proactive
While many data centre managers already enlist the help of non-AI tools to manage tasks, the tools in question are often reactive instead of proactive, according to Sean Kenney, Director, Advisory at KPMG. “They react to the problems in the data centre, but they don't collect data to determine any foresight to reduce the problem behaviour”, he said.
Sanket Shah, a Clinical Assistant Professor of Biomedical and Health Information Sciences at the University of Illinois in Chicago, believes AI can also help managers who may struggle to predict their future plans and requirements. He said: “With AI, capacity and horsepower can be allocated in a more efficient manner, allowing organisations to scale and become flexible. Automating certain processes and shifting power where necessary will ultimately lower costs for those [managers] that have rapidly evolving data needs”.
However, the use of AI technology in data centres is not a new concept. In 2014, U.S tech giant Google announced that it was using AI technology it purchased from the AI specialist DeepMind to enhance its data centre equipment management across several sites.
AI’s involvement in the data centre industry is ever increasing. Bill Howe, Associate Professor at The Information School of the University of Washington, highlights this, saying: "There are a tonne of choices and a tonne of limitations, but there are usually ways to mitigate those limitations.
“I don't see the problem of choosing the right methods and engineering solutions ... to be particularly more or less challenging in workload management than any other complex AI application”, he said.
It is clear that the use of AI technology in the industry is becoming more prominent. But what about its ability to replace humans? Richard Boyd, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of artificial intelligence and machine learning developer, Tanjo, said: "Machines simply cannot replace humans in many respects, but there are certainly areas where machines are much better than humans.
He concluded that "popular opinion will shift once AI and ML become prevalent and workers adapt to this new partnership”.