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Driving innovation at Dell World — a manufacturing perspective

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Engineering-centric companies were highly visible at last week’s Dell World event, with good reason. A key theme was innovation and no other function carries as much burden as engineering to deliver on the promise of innovation. From the main stage to the exhibit floor, Dell customers and partners demonstrated how to get past the hype and share concrete practices for turning ideas into compelling new products and solutions.

The opening keynote featured Tesla and SpaceX CEO and Fortune’s 2013 Businessperson of the Year, Elon Musk. Elon arrived in a flashy red Tesla, but his responses to Techonomy CEO David Kirkpatrick’s questions were decidedly down to earth. Elon said, “I think people self-limit more than they realize. I keep getting asked this question, how about innovation, how do you do more innovation and I think the number one thing is people should just try. I mean, literally, did you try yesterday? Did you try today? It takes a lot of mental exertion to innovate and I think it is helpful to learn about different industries and try to cross-pollinate…me running both Tesla and SpaceX has been helpful because I see how both industries work and I can take things from one to another.”

On the exhibit floor we had Freescale Semiconductor who has engineering teams distributed around the world responsible for delivering innovative products. They wanted to consolidate their data center infrastructure while providing secure and fast application performance for these teams. Freescale deployed a virtualized Linux desktop infrastructure built on Dell servers, Violin Flash Memory Arrays and Dell Networking switches. With this solution, they were able to consolidate 18 data centers down to two. Freescale engineers based at more than 80 locations around the world now enjoy secure “in the office” application performance wherever they are working. “Our global pools of engineers can take advantage of supercomputing resources via the Dell VDI,” said Chris Aidan, Head of Engineering High Performance Compute. “With no need to pass large data sets between desktop endpoints and the data center, performance is excellent even where large geographical distances are involved.”   This super-fast application performance is speeding the design process at Freescale and helping the company bring new, revenue-generating products to market faster.”

Also on the exhibit floor was NASCAR team JTG Daugherty, complete with Toyota Camry race car, #47. Manufacturers are increasingly using the NASCAR circuit as a test bed for their R&D initiatives and teams are making the most of electronic fuel-injected engines and other innovations permitted by NASCAR in recent years. In a racing environment, real-time data analysis is critical for making quick, accurate decisions so JTG Daugherty needed to change from their manual processes. JTG Daugherty brought in ruggedized Dell notebooks to enable team engineers to collect, analyze and share data in real time at the harsh trackside environment. JTG Daugherty driver Bobby Labonte shares the results: “We can collect and process data from test runs immediately with our ruggedized Dell notebooks and quickly make changes that shave vital thousands of a second off our lap times.”

Follow Kirsten @kirstenatdell.

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