In 2014, Lenovo , a dominant force in the PC market, embarked on a journey to increase its presence in the datacenter with the acquisition of IBM’s x86 server business. Lenovo’s integration of IBM’s x86 server team is now complete, and the company has shifted into a higher gear looking to take advantage of competitive disruptors such as the merger of Dell and EMC, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise HPE shedding several business units. 2016 was a big year in terms of announcements for Lenovo in the datacenter, with the launch of several partnerships, products and programs that span across software-defined storage, networking, servers and converged infrastructure. Lenovo’s datacenter business remains in strong in China, but the company has experienced mixed results thus far in the rest of the world.
Lenovo US Headquarters (Source: ABC via Wikimedia Commons)
Lenovo is taking a partner-centric strategy in datacenters by aligning with notable industry leaders such as SAP , Microsoft, Nutanix, Nexenta, Juniper and others to create new solution stacks and to partner on go-to-market efforts. This strategy is a smart move for Lenovo, as it allows the company to leverage best-of-breed capabilities from partners who have expertise in the areas Lenovo wants to target. Since Lenovo is a China-based vendor, the fact that the Chinese government encourages businesses to use local vendors whenever possible in the spirit of security and control adds to Lenovo’s allure as a partner.
One particular product launch I found interesting in 2016 was Lenovo’s foray into the converged systems market with Lenovo ThinkAgile CX, a solution that was jointly developed with Nimble Storage. As enterprise IT organizations look to drive wide adoption of private clouds within their datacenters, many have turned to converged systems—pre-integrated configurations combining server, storage, and networking with unified systems management—to improve efficiency and get to market quickly. ThinkAgile CX includes servers and networking hardware from Lenovo, flash / hybrid storage arrays from Nimble, a VMware hypervisor, Nimble predictive analytics software and Lenovo systems management capability preinstalled. You can find a deep dive on Lenovo’s value proposition for ThinkAgile CX, in our paper here.
Converged systems have been around for a number of years from companies like Cisco Systems, Dell EMC, HPE, NetApp, Oracle and others, but the market continues to grow and evolve which provides opportunity for new entrants like Lenovo. Lenovo will be facing an uphill battle when competing against the incumbents, but here are the areas where I think Lenovo has a chance to differentiate with ThinkAgile CX:
Cost Economics: Lenovo claims that ThinkAgile CX can offer up to 33% lower price than competitive solutions. This is a difficult claim to measure, due to the lack of publicly available vendor pricing information for converged systems. However, I believe Lenovo’s willingness to accept lower profit margins than some of its competitors combined with the company’s strong capabilities in logistics and manufacturing positions them well to compete on price vs. some of the incumbent vendors in the market today.
Time to Value: Lenovo claims that ThinkAgile CX systems are shipped within 21 days after order and are fully operational within four hours after the box is opened. All ThinkAgile CX systems are built from the same set of software components and are based on Lenovo servers and networking hardware plus a common Nimble Storage solution. This turnkey approach enables Lenovo to rack and configure all hardware and all software in its factory, which is different than the extensive onsite integration required by some of the other converged systems in the market. Once again, apples-to-apples comparisons on delivery and deployment are difficult to make across vendors. However, if Lenovo can meet its commitments, the company is capable of meeting or beating its competitors on delivery times.
Predictive Analytics: ThinkAgile CX includes Nimble Storage’s predictive all flash storage array and InfoSight predictive analytics software. Nimble is doing some pretty unique and innovative things in terms of predictive analytics that automate maintenance and support for all components of a system. Through improved problem identification and automation, Lenovo hopes to build ‘self-healing’ capabilities across datacenter components, including servers, storage and networking. I hope to see these capabilities fully realized in Lenovo’s solutions over the long term.
For a deep dive on Lenovo ThinkAgile CX and the company’s future plans, download our paper here. It is too soon to predict how ThinkAgile CX will fare against competitive converged infrastructure solutions, but it is good to see Lenovo adding this product to its arsenal to go after a greater share of the datacenter market. I expect to see future ThinkAgile products that will expand Lenovo’s position in the converged and hyperconverged space, and I will be keeping a close eye on the company’s progress in the datacenter.