Lenovo recently announced several additions to its storage portfolio, addressing a number of market segments and use cases. This research note will cover the details of the company’s new products and provide some analysis of what it means for both Lenovo and the market.
Lenovo’s recent surge in storage rankings was a long time in the making
To give some context for the recent product announcement, it’s worth taking a moment to explain Lenovo’s place in the storage market. While Lenovo has been delivering storage solutions since 2015, it only recently surged to be a top-five provider of storage solutions and number one for solutions in the sub-$25,000 range. In my previous coverage of Lenovo’s growth, I talked about how the company has leveraged its advances in the server market along with its thriving channel program to achieve success in storage. I also predicted the company would use this growth as a jumping-off point into the higher-end storage market. And it has.
Lenovo’s new offerings are focused on delivering additional value across the storage value stack, from hybrid scale-out to high-end performance that supports workloads such as AI. Let’s take a closer look at each of the areas addressed by the recent announcement.
ThinkSystem DG Series
Lenovo’s ThinkSystem DG Series is an all-flash array aiming for the high-performance storage space. This quad-level cell (QLC)-based storage solution delivers up to 6x the performance of legacy HDD-based storage systems at about half the cost.
The DG Series consists of the DG5000 and DG7000, with the difference between the two being storage capacity. As mentioned, both storage servers are based on QLC NAND technology. As such, these are servers designed for organizations that require the best price-for-performance, but not necessarily the pure performance to be found in a tri-level cell (TLC)-based storage solution.
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If QLC is new to you, let’s take a second to discuss the different types of flash memory for enterprise-grade infrastructure. TLC and QLC are the two types of NAND flash in the enterprise storage space. QLC stores four bits of data per cell, whereas TLC stores three. Because of this, QLC-based storage has higher capacity. But also because of this, the performance of QLC tends to lag that of TLC. While the two types perform similarly for write operations, TLC can significantly outperform QLC for read operations.
The comparison between TLC and QLC offers good context for what Lenovo is doing. The company is entering the performance space intelligently with the DG Series storage platforms. Most organizations deploying all-flash systems for analytics and AI don’t require the absolute best performance. Instead, they need the best performance for a price point. And the DG5000 and DG7000 should play in this space nicely.
Lenovo’s success in the high-performance space should also help from a cross-selling perspective. Storage is a key part of every solution, and the Lenovo sales force and channel partners now have an opportunity to deliver an all-up (Lenovo) solution.
The DM3010H has the versatility to address a wide range of business needs. With a focus on cloud connectivity, resilience and price/performance, this update to the DM3000 leverages Intel’s new 4th Gen Xeon CPU to drive significant raw performance improvements.
What I like about the DM3010H is its utility across the enterprise. Remote office/branch office? Check. Hybrid cloud? Check. NAS? Yes, by clustering up to 12 DM3010H servers. SAN? Cluster up to six. From a cost, performance and management perspective, this device’s broad utility makes the life of an IT organization considerably easier.
ThinkSystem Unified Complete Software
Lenovo also morphed its DM software bundle into a universal storage management platform with the release of ThinkSystem Unified Complete Software. This is designed to deliver end-to-end management of an organization’s data environment across storage environments, whether high-performance (DG Series) or general-purpose (DM Series).
Without having deployed and used Unified Complete Software myself, it appears to check all the boxes for enterprise storage management. What I especially appreciate is the simplicity Lenovo brings to the storage management equation—at least in theory.
One thing I expect from Lenovo is some integration between Unified Complete Software and the company’s XClarity management package. For IT organizations that have gone all in on Lenovo, a single framework that delivers on observability, management and AIOps would be a gift from the IT gods.
In addition to what I’ve covered in detail above, Lenovo also introduced new ThinkAgile SXM platforms. The most significant update for these was the use of Intel’s 4th Gen Xeon CPU, delivering substantial performance gains for Azure Stack.
Once again, I like what Lenovo is doing in the storage space. Much like with its approach to the server market, the company has quietly gone about driving share gains in the market segments that are more transactional and easier to capture. Having found success in those segments and built some momentum, the company is now shifting its focus to the higher end of the market in a measured way.
I can see the DG Series being a hit with existing customers. IT organizations prefer things to be as simple as they can be, and having a single partner for computing and storage is a slam dunk that doesn’t require a lot of cross-selling. Likewise, the DG Series should be an easy sell in those organizations that have already deployed the DM Series across the enterprise and are embarking on AI projects supporting digital transformation efforts. Along with the proven performance of the DM Series platforms, the company’s Unified Complete Software should be appealing as it enables centralized management of the Lenovo storage estate.
It will take a few quarters to track the market adoption of the DG Series. And DM Series adoption will be a slower-moving target as it is primarily a lifecycle refresh play. With that said, Lenovo is on the right track. Given the company’s success in AI, HPC and large-scale analytics deployments, I have little doubt about the kind of success it will have.