Finding The Gems In Lenovo’s Multiple Product Announcements

Recent introductions of AMD’s 3rd Gen EPYC Processors and Intel’s 3rd Gen Xeon Scalable processors have kept server vendors hectic this month.  

Lenovo is no exception, launching eighteen new products along with new solutions and services. Rather than cover the whole host of product information that you can glean from the various press releases, I will distill down the three areas that I think make Lenovo stand out from the pack.

Lenovo Product Announcement

Exascale for Everyone

Exascale for everyone” is Lenovo’s tagline, not mine. Lenovo had no high-performance computing (HPC) presence until the IBM purchase. Maintaining the relationships and trust with IBM customers, combined with Lenovo’s global supply chain and manufacturing prowess, openness with IP and the HPC community, has made Lenovo a potent HPC leader.

But here is the challenge;  air cooling cannot effectively cool the rack. Lenovo uses direct water cooling, which circulates cooling water directly through cold plates that touch the CPU thermal case, DIMMs, and other high-heat-producing components in the server. Surprisingly, the water can be relatively warm and still be very effective, as water conducts heat much more effectively than air. Depending on the server configuration, – water cooling removes about 90% of the heat, leaving the balance to be handled by a standard computer room air conditioner not requiring a heat exchanger. Not only does it increase system performance and reduce energy costs, it makes for a quieter data center. 

Because the systems are modular at 1U, all customers can experience a significant amount of computing power in a tiny space. 

Another example is the ThinkSystem SR670 V2, an accelerator platform that can hold up to eight NVIDIA A100 or T4 GPUs in a single 3U frame. This server uses what Lenovo calls direct-to-node (DTN) liquid cooling. The first Lenovo server where the liquid inside of the server doesn’t leave the server. There is a heat exchanger inside of the server chassis. The liquid cools the GPUs and carries the heat over the heat exchanger, and then fans move the heat out of the server. The fans run much slower, which saves on power consumption and makes the server quieter. Liquid-to-air heat exchangers give you the benefits of liquid cooling without adding plumbing— a very cool innovation! (pun intended)

As customers demand HPC and AI’s highest performance, the traditional air-cooled form factors start to cause heating problems at the data center level. Lenovo saw this trend early and established a lead with Neptune, and continues to stay steps ahead of the competition.

Get hyper at the edge

Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) combines servers and storage using a software layer. Customers are looking to extend the benefits of simplified management and reduce HCI costs in the data center out to the edge, with a secure, small footprint with adequate compute power. 

There is an emerging demand for mission-critical and time-sensitive decisions to be made at the edge. For instance, a chemical plant should immediately shut down if a sensor predicts a problem or a security camera at an airport must recognize suspicious individuals and react immediately. Localized real-time decision-making requires a balance between inference and training. Once trained, an algorithm can be deployed at the edge and perform inference locally, but you need the computing power at the edge to do that.

A while ago, Lenovo announced the MX 1021, designed for deploying highly available, 2-node HCI from Microsoft in remote offices and at the edge. The solution features pre-tested, pre-configured, and easy-to-order configurations with seamless Azure integration. Base on the ThinkSystem SE350 edge server, half-width and significantly shorter than a traditional server, about a laptop’s size, it is ideal for deployment in tight spaces. It can be mounted on a wall, stacked on a shelf, or mounted in a rack. To top it off, the SE350 can also support an NVIDIA Tesla T4 GPU.

Lenovo is now extending this HCI appliance to using the Nutanix software stack, generating much interest in manufacturing and retail. The new ThinkAgile HX1021 is certified and preloaded with Nutanix software. It does not include licenses to Nutanix software or enhanced software support. 

The exciting thing here is that with both Microsoft Azure and Nutanix, Lenovo is extending the familiar software layer from the data center to the edge while managing the physical asset, the security with the same operational management efficiency.

AI and Machine Learning everywhere

Many companies are saying this, but Lenovo has some interesting real-world examples. 

The first example addresses how to use AI to keep citizens safe during the Covid-19 pandemic. The City of Turin in Italy deployed thermal sensing cameras and drones, which allows the city to manage crowd sizes, social distancing, and the percentage of people wearing masks. 

The solution uses a Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 edge server with NVIDIA GPUs running CrowdHEDGE software from a small company called Addfor.

There is enough processing power in the ThinkSystem SE350 to perform thermal sensing if needed, all done in compliance with European GDPR rules. 

Another example is Lenovo’s work with the SAS ESP Event Stream Processingplatform running on the ThinkSystem SE350 edge server. Streaming data from operations, transactions, sensors, and IoT devices are monitored in real-time to extract value from the data. Usually, this kind of processing happens in the data center, but the SE350 is powerful enough to manipulate data in real-time without offloading it somewhere. 

The last example is a solution from a company called who delivers a machine learning platform. The software reference architecture is on the SR670, and SR650 AI servers mentioned earlier. The result is a deep learning platform that allows customers to train models more quickly and then convert that trained model into a rapidly deployed intuitive inference model.

These are great examples of Lenovo taking basic industry-standard building blocks and combining them with software to make it easier for customers to solve real problems. 

Wrapping up

There is much more to the recent Lenovo announcements than I have covered in this article, and I would encourage you to read the press releases for more information. 

But clearly, there is much to get excited about what Lenovo is doing these days. The moves made in the past have put them in leadership positions today. Recognizing the importance of cooling has led to an established leader in HPC. Designing the SE350 with no compromises on computing power and supporting an NVIDIA Tesla T4 GPU has enabled Lenovo to offer edge solutions that customers want today. And finally, being open with IP and partnering with software companies leads to real AI solutions I believe customers can use.

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.