Lenovo isn’t as flashy as its fellow data center powerhouses like Cisco, Dell, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), but it’s certainly one to watch.
IDC ranks Lenovo the No. 4 server vendor by revenue share, behind Dell EMC, HPE, and Inspur. IBM, Huawei, and Cisco all tied for fifth.
Lenovo hasn’t made big acquisitions, and it doesn’t try to coin new buzzy phrases like some of the other infrastructure vendors. Instead, it takes a more measured approach, partnering with other tech companies and bringing to market products that address enterprise pain-points like the data explosion, multi-cloud management, and security.
“At Lenovo, we tend to not lock ourselves into a specific technology,” said Rod Lappin, chief customer officer at Lenovo Data Center Group. “We don’t have a history of legacy technology or an investment we’ve made that we feel we have to get a return on. Instead of saying here’s a product we’ve got with this vendor, or developed in house, or acquired, we tend to say here’s how we see the industry moving. These are the trends we see, and based on the customer’s feedback, here are some options we have to address your needs.”
Lenovo’s “boutique-y focus” differentiates it from the other players in the data center market, and customers appreciate that smaller feel and the more individualized attention, Lappin said.
Plus, it makes really smart, strategic partnerships.
In August, Lenovo and Pivot3 said they were developing edge products designed for mission-critical smart city security. Pivot3’s hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) software will power the systems, which will run on Lenovo hardware.
A month later, Lenovo and NetApp launched a joint-venture company to sell storage products in China. The two companies also teamed up on Lenovo-branded products that combine NetApp’s all-flash data management and storage software with Lenovo’s servers. “If they say phase two of the partnership is we’re going to tightly couple [NetApp’s] SolidFire storage with Lenovo servers, that would be compelling,” said Steve McDowell, senior analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, in an earlier interview.
In October, Lenovo led Scale Computing’s $34.8 million Series F round, and announced a partnership with Scale to develop edge infrastructure for global retailers, distributed enterprises, and small- and medium-sized businesses.
And last month, Lenovo began offering its ThinkSystem RackSwitch models with support for the Cumulus Linux network operating system — Lenovo’s first foray into the disaggregated switch model.
It also supports several other hyperconverged and cloud stacks including VMware, Microsoft Azure, Red Hat OpenStack, Cloudistics, and Nutanix.
In addition to its edge partnership with Pivot3, Lenovo will unveil a Multi-Access Edge Compute (MEC) platform hosting ultra-low latency applications at the annual MWC event later this month. It partnered with Wind River, WiZR , Motorola, and Vertiv’s rack on the product and says it’s deployable for 4G LTE and scales for 5G.
“Having that openness is really important to use as a company, and as you see us getting into more of an edge and IoT space, our consultative approach and that OEM position is setting us up to be one of the most valuable vendors,” Lappin said. “Whether edge or data center core or a mixture of both, you’re going to see us coming to market with a very integrative solution.”
We’re eagerly awaiting to see what else Lenovo has in store in 2019