Research Note: Lenovo Infrastructure Solution Summit ’23

By Matt Kimball, Patrick Moorhead - July 13, 2023

Lenovo recently held its EMEA Infrastructure Solution Group (ISG) Analyst Summit over two days in Budapest. The event was focused on building awareness of the company’s momentum in the market, as well as its focus on driving what I call the next generation of IT. While much of the summit was delivered in a non-disclosure setting, the following sections will focus on my general takeaways from the event.

Security is more than a talking point

I have been covering the server security market for some time and have come to understand that each vendor has its own way of positioning its approach to securing servers, as well as a more general approach to cybersecurity. It’s hard to say that one approach is better than the other, and while they are different, each vendor seems to have made securing the platform a top priority.

Lenovo has developed its own strategy and approach to building comprehensive security into its platforms. The company has invested a lot of money, R&D and resources into establishing a secure supply chain and a secure server. The only thing lacking is letting this well-kept secret out.

It’s important to understand how Lenovo talks about its approach to end-to-end platform security. Much like its competition, the company talks about security from a lifecycle perspective, from the sourcing of materials through the secure recycling of servers when they are retired. While one can argue about who is more thorough in security, suffice it to say that Lenovo is at par with even its most scrutinous competitors. One thing that stood out in global product security leader Bill Jaeger’s presentation was the amount of rigor and operational discipline the company puts into achieving platform security. From who is chosen to work on the team to where the work is performed and how security is tested regularly, the company has put a lot of effort into establishing trust.

And for those who still live in the past, let’s put the “China” argument to rest once and for all. Lenovo has passed the scrutiny of the U.S. Government many times over. In addition, it regularly performs third-party audits and is deployed in some of the world’s largest companies, universities and smart cities. Finally, Lenovo servers power cloud and high-performance computing labs more than any other major server vendor. The company’s fidelity to high security standards is beyond reproach.

Lenovo

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Summing up Lenovo ISG on the security front, the company has built a strong security practice from the supply chain to business processes to product design. And this has translated into highly secure platforms.

I would like to see Lenovo get bolder in talking about all the excellent work it has put into its security practice. Playing corporate psychotherapist, I think Lenovo sometimes frames things too cautiously, perhaps to avoid the heritage discussion. Maybe I’m wrong, but if the marketing folks emphasized educating the market on the integrity and security of Lenovo’s platforms, I think their efforts would pay dividends.

AI innovation: Lenovo’s got it

Are you shocked that a server vendor would talk about its innovation leadership in AI? I say this jokingly, but the company did an excellent job of showing how its AI is being used across several of the largest retail organizations to drive more efficient processes, better customer service and safer cities. This is achieved through Lenovo’s own edge platforms as well as the AI platforms it has designed in conjunction with customers and its ecosystem of partners.

Per Overgaard, Lenovo’s CTO for EMEA, gave an impressive presentation on AI. It showed the real-world application of hardware and software, and how Lenovo has enabled so many use cases through its ecosystem of AI innovators. The company has a very straightforward, three-pronged approach to enabling AI by combining its IP portfolio with partners to target specific verticals and use cases.

Lenovo’s strategy for approaching as-a-service through TruScale
Lenovo

Lining up nicely with Overgaard’s presentation was news out of the U.S., where Lenovo announced an additional $1 billion investment in its AI portfolio and an expansion of its AI Innovators program. On the investment front, the company is looking to build out frictionless AI solutions to be easily deployed by customers. The company already claims more than 150 solutions from 45 different ISV partners as of today.

To accompany this investment, Lenovo has announced two new platforms. The Intel-based ThinkEdge SR360 v2 will deliver AI at the edge with dense GPU support in a small form factor. And the AMD EPYC-based SR675 v3 accelerated computing platform brings improved performance to the datacenter. This is a beast of a server, packing up to eight GPUs (with two EPYC CPUs) in a 3U form factor.

As with its security solutions, my only criticism of Lenovo here is about getting its story out. From what I saw in the analyst summit, including the parts for which the details can’t be shared, the company is powering the intelligent edge in many different verticals and across many regions. Next time you’re in a fast food restaurant—any fast food restaurant—look down at the kiosk. Chances are it’s going to have a Lenovo logo. My point is that the company is doing a lot in enabling the AI-driven edge. In some ways, it’s the best-kept secret in the market.

As-a-Service growing in importance

Raise your hand if you’re familiar with TruScale. Lenovo announced this infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offering way back in early 2019. At the time, the company took a much simpler approach to consumption-based computing than its competition did. Treat compute as an actual utility, simply charging based on usage—no more, no less.

We saw little out of the company on that front in the following couple of years. Lenovo was trying to see how the market was going to develop while quietly building out its portfolio.

Fast forward to this week in Budapest, and Lenovo showed a more aggressive approach with TruScale, as demonstrated when worldwide lead for TruScale Craig Routledge walked the analysts through Lenovo’s strategy. The company is making suitable investments and focusing on the right solutions to stand up TruScale as an effective service.

Lenovo is being prescriptive in terms of which workloads, use cases and deployments it stands up first because it understands that there are more direct benefits for some types of deployments than others. Those benefits are both financial and operational.

Every IT professional I speak with brings up as-a-service models when talking about infrastructure—especially when discussing the cloud operating model. My suggestion for Lenovo, and for any server vendor, is to have your story aligned to this, because even if a specific server purchase doesn’t always lead to corresponding as-a-service purchases (e.g. for management), that is still where the buying journey begins.

Sustainability: Lenovo is maniacally focused

Being an American in Europe, I expected a more significant emphasis on sustainability than what I hear in the U.S. But holy heck, I didn’t expect it to be that much more. Here are my two takeaways on sustainability from this analyst summit:

  1. EMEA is light years ahead of North America. I have read estimates that put EV car sales in Norway 75%–93% of all new car sales there in 2022. And the country is trying to end the sale of gas-powered vehicles altogether by 2025. How’s that for an aggressive sustainability posture? All across EMEA, governments are implementing mandates—and the corresponding technology—to reduce carbon emissions. While it’s more challenging to implement some of these measures in the U.S., I do wonder when we will, as a country, catch up with the rest of the world. I’m game for all of this except regulating my air conditioner use in Dripping Springs, Texas.
  2. Lenovo is equally aggressive in sustainability, in both word and deed. The company spent a lot of time discussing its march toward zero emissions and how it is helping customers do the same. It also demonstrated the impact of its efforts on the manufacturing floor and in the datacenter. I like how sustainability was a part of every discussion and infused into every company presentation.

Closing thoughts

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into Lenovo’s analyst summit. I understood the company’s roadmap and strategy perfectly well, and I’ve covered its performance closely over the last few years. But would there be anything new to come out of this event?

What I came away with was all of the context that we sometimes miss when we study quarterly earnings, press releases and PowerPoint decks detailing new products. The Lenovo executives at the summit did a good job of connecting the dots and conveying their commitment to doing things right. I got a good sense of why more and more companies are choosing Lenovo and how the company is delivering real value to the market. That may sound a little cliché, but it’s true. Now I only hope the company can share this context with the broader market.

Matthew Kimball
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Matt Kimball is a Moor Insights & Strategy senior datacenter analyst covering servers and storage. Matt’s 25 plus years of real-world experience in high tech spans from hardware to software as a product manager, product marketer, engineer and enterprise IT practitioner.  This experience has led to a firm conviction that the success of an offering lies, of course, in a profitable, unique and targeted offering, but most importantly in the ability to position and communicate it effectively to the target audience.

Patrick Moorhead
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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.