What Lenovo TruScale Consumption-Based Infrastructure Services Means For IT

By Matt Kimball - February 13, 2019

Lenovo announced its new TruScale Infrastructure Services today, a service in which IT organizations deploy Lenovo ThinkSystem or ThinkAgile platforms and only pay for the compute resources consumed. There’s a few questions I’d like to address here. Why did Lenovo launch this service? What does it mean for IT organizations? What does it mean for Lenovo’s channel partners? And finally, taken together, what does all of this mean? I will get into all of this in the next few paragraphs.

Why IT wants consumption-based technology

Before getting into TruScale, I’d like to discuss what drove the market need for flexible, consumption-based compute pricing. Anybody familiar with public cloud dynamics realizes that consumers only pay for compute cycles they use. IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service), and SaaS (Software as a Service) are all ways IT organizations pay for the compute cycles without having to worry about the capital expenditures (CapEx) associated with standing up new infrastructure on premises. In exchange, organizations sacrifice some level of control of data, security, performance latency (sometimes), and cost. As many IT organizations can attest, costs very rarely track to initial projections and are typically higher in the public cloud if not managed closely.

Why, then, do IT organizations find the public cloud an attractive deployment model to begin with?

  • Large CapEx outlay for infrastructure.
    Infrastructure is expensive. Not only is it a large CapEx outlay, but it is capital expenditure on a resource that never reaches its full potential. Even as virtualization is pervasive in virtually every datacenter, server hardware sits woefully underutilized around 30% in a typical virtualized environment.
  • Infrastructure management headaches.
    The more infrastructure that gets racked, the bigger the headache in managing hardware and firmware. We are at the point where IT spends most of its day reacting, instead of proactively addressing the needs of the business or doing research on next-generation technologies.
  • Lack of agility in responding to the needs of the business.
    This is not just through the support of infrastructure management, but through the inability to deploy new technology fast enough. The era of software-defined everything and AI has ushered in a faster innovation cycle for hardware. IT organizations have neither the time or money to invest ahead in the infrastructure that can enable the intelligently transformed business.

Lenovo TruScale on-prem consumption service

In response to the need for consumption-based compute models, Lenovo introduced TruScale Infrastructure Service. Lenovo refers to TruScale as Hardware-as-a-Service (HaaS). Lenovo infrastructure is deployed on an IT organizations premises. IT consumes compute resources as needed, like any other server in the rack. Every month, IT pays only for the actual resources consumed—just like an electricity bill.

In fact, one can say that paying for TruScale is paying an electric bill. Resource usage is metered and measured in kilowatts per hour (kWh), and at any time, customers can access a portal to look at resource usage (broken out by compute, storage & I/O) to track budgeted vs. actual use. Through this portal, IT organizations can log and manage service-related items.

How TruScale Infrastructure Services works 

Deploying TruScale appears to be straightforward. Lenovo or a trusted partner works with customers to fully understand how their needs (scale, applications, and workloads) will be deployed on TruScale infrastructure. Agreements are signed, infrastructure is deployed. Workloads and applications are migrated and optimized. The goal is that IT stops worrying about managing firmware and drivers and focuses on delivering the services that the business units require.

Is it really that simple? On paper, yes. As an ex-IT executive, I expect this process will be more involved. Still, the concept of “hands-off infrastructure” is, well, not just a concept. This is exactly what Lenovo is trying to deliver, and would make TruScale worth looking at by IT organizations of all sizes.

TruScale “plusses”

No solution is perfect, but there is a lot to like about TruScale. Here are a few aspects of the solution and Lenovo’s approach that I find to be particularly compelling:

  • TruScale enables IT Agility.
    Though referenced earlier, let’s dig a little deeper on what I mean by agility. TruScale enables an IT organization to be more agile since it can focus on enabling the business vs. managing infrastructure. This is pretty straightforward. TruScale also allows IT organizations to deploy the latest hardware technology faster. The last couple of years have seen the pace of hardware innovation increase, with new storage technologies, storage class memory (SCM), the adoption of PCIe v4, the emergence of interconnects such as CCIX, and more. These technologies become critical in support of the workloads that enterprise business requires to stay competitive. TruScale can enable IT organizations to deploy these newer technologies without having to increase CapEx budgets.  Moreover, when the latest technology trend comes along, customers who deploy HaaS can stay ahead of the adoption curve.
  • TruScale is for everybody.
    From enterprise to small business, TruScale Infrastructure Services should be able to deliver value. Lenovo was smart to make its ThinkSystem and ThinkAgile portfolios available for subscription through TruScale. This allows any IT organization to deploy TruScale for any workload and use case, with no “minimum consumption” requirement and no lease. You truly only pay for what you use.
  • Lenovo understands the importance of its partners.
    It would be easy for channel partners to look at TruScale as a threat to its server business. By involving these important players, Lenovo ensures resellers like Connection can build a managed service practice around TruScale.

Is this unique? 

Consumption-based subscriptions, also known as flexible capacity, is not new. Hewlett Packard Enterprise  offers Greenlake. Dell Technologies  offers Flex On Demand and Cloud Flex. Cisco’s service is known as Open Pay. Each vendor’s offering is compelling in its own way.

Lenovo’s support for its full ThinkSystem and ThinkAgile portfolios combined with its “no minimum subscription” approach should make TruScale an equally compelling service; it allows IT organizations to deploy the optimal infrastructure for their specific needs without being “locked in” to a lease.

Critical successful factors

Lenovo achieved the first step to success, by launching what looks like a compelling service offering. I believe there are three additional things Lenovo should do to achieve the highest possible success with TruScale.

  1. Pick the right targets.There are some obvious easy wins for Lenovo with TruScale. In its existing customer base, Lenovo should be able to position and sell TruScale services for new IT projects that are stalled due to funding. Moreover, as any IT professional knows, there is a long list of projects that are in a holding pattern until budget frees up. Lenovo can also find success in the SMB space with TruScale. The breadth of portfolio combined with no minimum monthly and true subscription makes the ramp on/ramp off of TruScale seem frictionless.
  2. Trust the partners. Lenovo spent the last couple of years building a strong channel program. Now is the time to activate those channel partners. Find key partners that play in target segments, verticals, and geographies, and give them the tools to be successful.
  3. Let the market figure this out. Consumption-based is finding traction, but market education is still required. This holds particularly true for the midsized and small enterprise segment. Lenovo should put the appropriate resources to enable its sales force and channel partners. This effort could pay dividends.

Closing thoughts

Lenovo delivered a service that should find appeal with its existing customers, as well as other enterprises that are looking for subscription-based computing services without limitations on hardware and no lease. The ultimate success of TruScale Infrastructure Services will depend on Lenovo’s go-to-market efforts, combined with flawless execution of these HaaS deployments in customer datacenters and server rooms.

Note: Patrick Moorhead, Moor Insights & Strategy Founder, President, and Principal Analyst contributed to this analysis.

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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.