Lenovo Extends Its EPYC Portfolio – Here’s Why IT Should Take Note

By Patrick Moorhead - May 21, 2020

The Lenovo Datacenter Group has been on an impressive run since Kirk Skaugen took over in 2017. The team he assembled quickly and methodically righted the ship, driving market share gains quarter after quarter. They also made smart strategic bets, resulting in success in all segments of its infrastructure business. Server shipments continue to increase, and the company has been quite successful in high performance computing (HPC), hyperscale and across market segments.  

AMD found success with its EPYC CPU, launched in 2017, almost in parallel with Lenovo. And much like Lenovo, the company placed strategic bets that enabled it to grow its business in targeted market segments while it continued to develop its portfolio for the broader enterprise market. The recent addition of Dan McNamara as SVP and GM of the Server Business Unit and the launch of new EPYC SKUs signal that the company’s drive to win the enterprise is in full force.

The companies formed a partnership akin to their respective approaches to the datacenter market – strategic and well managed. As a part of this, Lenovo recently announced two new additions to its EPYC portfolio: the SR645 and SR665. This gives the company the ability to support the full range of workloads that make up the modern datacenter in terms of power, performance and cost. For AMD, these additions further open up Lenovo’s well-established channels and bolster AMD’s push into the transactional market. So, what does all of this mean and where will the companies find success? We’ll try and unpack all of this and more in the next few paragraphs.

What was announced?

As mentioned, Lenovo announced the SR645 and SR665 rack servers, with 1U and 2U form factors, respectively. Each have impressive specifications, including:

  • Up to two AMD EPYC CPUs, each with 64 cores/128 threads
  • Up to 4TB of DDR4 memory across 32 memory channels
  • 128 PCIe Gen4 lanes supporting faster I/O for storage, networking and application accelerators
  • Up to 32 NVMe drives, or 40 2.5” SSDs (on the SR665, the SR645 supports up to 10 NVMe drives)
  • Support for up to 8 single width GPUs or 3 DW GPUs (on the SR665, the SR645 supports up to 3 SW GPUs)

These servers don’t just look good on paper – they perform as well. Lenovo scored a number of world records on the EPYC platform, including the record for SAP SD-Tier 2 on the SR665, and power efficiency records (SPECpower_ssj2008) for both the SR645 and SR665.

Lenovo set records with the SR645 and SR665

Lenovo aims these platforms at what it calls Next Generation IT. That is, the infrastructure that can support the modern, data-intensive workloads running in the datacenter, in the cloud or on the edge - all while reducing TCO. And not just reducing TCO in some theoretical way, but in a real way that impacts both CapEx and OpEx - fewer servers to drive virtualized and containerized environments, consuming less power, floor space and IT resources.

Speaking of Management, Lenovo also released its XClarity Orchestrator v1.0. Think of Orchestrator as the single pane of glass that aggregates the monitoring and management of your environment, utilizing AI to predict and prevent problems before they arise. Systems management through the XClarity product family is an area where Lenovo has depth and breadth. The company would be wise to amplify the XClarity message.

Why this matters to IT

IT departments are being challenged now more than ever. Companies of all sizes must maintain legacy, virtualized, cloud and hybrid cloud environments. They must do this all while deploying and optimizing the analytics tools that allow the business to make sense of the deluge of data being generated every second. What is needed is a range of compute platforms that can support this range of needs - from infrastructure to containerized to hybrid cloud to high-end data analytics.

The Lenovo-AMD partnership has resulted in a series of platforms that can address all of these needs. What I really like about this lineup is the consistency of features that exist from the entry level SR635 all the way through the SR665. This is due in part to AMD’s approach of developing EPYC to maintain consistency of features across the portfolio. Regardless of core count, regardless of single socket or dual socket, each EPYC CPU is fully featured.

This is also due to Lenovo’s ability to take these rich features in the CPU and tailor server solutions that drive the business. For example, powering up to 8 single wide GPUs in the SR665 creates an impressive analytics or machine learning platform. Conversely, the entry level SR635 still exposes the full capabilities of EPYC and has features that make it a great platform for virtualization environments.

Lenovo’s EPYC Portfolio

How Lenovo drives success adoption of its EPYC platforms

It’s fair to say that the Lenovo-AMD partnership is stronger than ever. The products are there, and each company is seen as an up-and-coming challenger in the IT Solutions space. I believe there are a few ways that Lenovo can drive greater adoption of its AMD portfolio:

  • Make a push in HPC. Lenovo has well over 100 platforms in the Top500 list. EPYC seemingly wins a new supercomputing deal on a weekly basis. This appears to be an area where Lenovo can further extend its dominance in the HPC space and draw real distinction. Further, establishing leadership position with EPYC in the supercomputing space can have a downstream influence on enterprise IT organizations. 
  • Build solutions and look to the edge. IT organizations are beginning to shift in their purchase of infrastructure–from racks and servers to pre-packaged solutions and reference architectures. There is perhaps no better example than hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI). Lenovo would be wise to look to expand its solutions portfolios with EPYC-based platforms. The performance and security capabilities of EPYC could make it a competitive platform for edge deployments.
  • Build a go-to-market (GTM) rhythm. “If you build it, they will come” should go more like “if you build it and tell everybody, they will come.” The investment both companies made in  developing this portfolio requires an equal investment in educating and motivating the market.
  • Leverage the channel. Lenovo successfully transformed its channel presence over the last few years. Leveraging this indirect sales force to drive awareness and adoption of the EPYC portfolio can pay big dividends. However, like GTM, this requires an investment of finances and resources.

Closing thoughts

The SR645 and SR665 are compelling additions to Lenovo’s overall portfolio and give the company a range of EPYC-based solutions to address the needs of IT organizations of all sizes. As AMD makes a push into the enterprise with its recent launch of its “F” series EPYC processors, Lenovo has a real opportunity to ride that momentum into wins across a range of customer types–national labs for HPC, cloud providers and hyperscale customers, enterprise organizations, and small businesses, whether they’re just starting out, or well-established.

Some would say the hard part is over as these servers roll off the production line. Some may think the hard part is yet to come as the effort shifts to driving adoption in the market. I see opportunity. Given the strides each company has made, I’m betting we’ll see successes across all market segments.

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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.