Lenovo’s ThinkSystem product barrage targets data centers

Lenovo's new Data Center Group throws a coming-out party with new servers, switches and SAN arrays


Lenovo is taking on Dell EMC and HPE with its biggest portfolio refresh since it acquired IBM’s x86 server business three years ago, offering a lineup of servers, switches, SAN arrays and converged systems intended to show that it’s a serious contender in the data center and software-defined infrastructure market.

The product launch, staged in New York Tuesday, was the first major event for Lenovo’s Data Center Group, in business since April. Lenovo wants to be a global player not only for the enterprise data center but also in hyperscale computing.

Lenovo is tied for third in server market share with Cisco and IBM, well behind HPE and Dell EMC, according to IDC, and has a particularly steep uphill battle ahead in North America.

The company unveiled 14 new servers, seven storage devices and five new networking fabric products at its Transform event.

“This is the broadest portfolio  announcement in the history of Lenovo,” said  Kamran Amini, executive director for the company’s server and storage lines.

The ThinkServer and System x server lines will continue to be supported but going forward the new servers, storage and networking products will carry the ThinkSystem brand, complementing the ThinkAgile converged-system product family.

“I believe Lenovo’s new branding schema is actually a pretty big deal,” said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. “That’s partly because the company has fully put the acquisition of IBM’s System x group in the past, but is also stepping forward with a comprehensive portfolio that reflects its vision of the current server market.”

The company has also revamped its global channel strategy, noted Kirk Skaugen, president of the Data Center Group and up until last year general manager of Intel’s Client Computing Group. “We took some stutter steps” after the IBM server business acquisition, Skaugen acknowledged.

For example, over the past few years, Lenovo stopped offering some certifications for channel partners, Skaugen noted. That move may have slowed down Lenovo’s momentum in the market, since resellers who put in the time to get certified as official channel partners are typically offered incentives such as better sales margins. “Without those incentives (a reseller) may just wait for the phone to ring rather than getting out there and proactively driving sales,” Skaugen said.

The idea is that a more coherent global channel strategy, coupled with the new business unit structure, will allow Lenovo to more efficiently sell end-to-end solutions globally. “We’re bringing everything under one roof,” Skaugen noted, “and that is going to allow us to be more agile and move faster.”

It’s not unusual for a company to take a while to come up with an optimal sales and product strategy following a big acquisition, and Lenovo has been through the process before.

“Similar to the market dynamics following the company’s acquisition of IBM’s PC group a decade ago, it took some time for Lenovo’s own personality and vision of the server market to come clear and solidify,” King said. “I’d say these new and updated systems go a long way to accomplishing that.”

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