With Lenovo's $2.3 billion acquisition of IBM's x86 server business awaiting regulatory approval, Lenovo partners have already begun openly talking logistics about moving more business to the data center and, in some cases, moving accounts from rivals Dell and Hewlett-Packard to Lenovo. Meanwhile, Lenovo executives have been forced to stay silent until the purchase is finalized. But at this year's annual Lenovo Accelerate 2014 conference in Orlando, Fla., attendees got a sneak peek at the Chinese PC powerhouse's server playbook from executives.
Darrel Ward, vice president, Enterprise Product Marketing at Lenovo, came the closest to outlining Lenovo's enterprise ambitions, which include pushing harder into the data center with servers and storage products. He rallied the Lenovo partner troops with a new Lenovo mantra: "Attack the rack." It's a strategy, Ward said, that will help Lenovo crack new software-defined data centers and software-defined storage markets.
"When you looked at Lenovo's offerings, they really didn't meet all the needs of large enterprise," Ward said. That's changing, he said, with the introduction of enterprise-grade, two-socket towers, EMC storage solutions and products such as its ThinkServer SA120, which is a modular and scalable rack-mount, direct-attached storage (DAS) enclosure.
"We are going to attack the rack in the second half of the year with an all-new performance category of ThinkServer products," Ward said. "These products will be the most innovative, the most creative, the most capable and the most versatile platforms you've ever seen from ThinkServer. These are going to be products with capabilities that HP and Dell will not have. We have optimized these platforms with the latest-and-greatest performance technologies. We have created an innovative way to modularize the storage in the IO of these platforms for maximum flexibility and infinite upsell. We call it 'any bay and any fabric.'" In a phrase heard often at this week's conference Ward added, "More on that later this year.'"
Ward was careful to avoid sharing concrete plans for its soon-to-be-acquired IBM x86 portfolio. Discussions were limited only to Lenovo's ThinkServer brand, which he said would be an integral part of its server strategy moving forward. Lenovo is in the process of buying IBM's System x, BladeCenter, and Flex System blade servers and switches, x86-based Flex integrated systems, IBM Lenovo ServersNeXtScale and iDataPlex server portfolios. Lenovo said the deal is expected to close in the Fall 2014 time frame.
Lenovo partners at the Accelerate event, which were mostly small to midsize businesses, said they are eager to step up their server business with a new mix of ThinkServers and IBM's x86 line of servers and networking technology. Chris Dadaian, senior account executive at Business IT Source, a Whitefish Bay, Wis., Lenovo and HP partner that does roughly $35 million in annual sales, said he is already selling Lenovo into large corporate accounts.
"A year-and-half ago, if you told a customer that Lenovo had a server they would do a double-take," Dadaian said. "But Lenovo's price points help, and then there is the IBM cachet with its client devices and its upcoming IBM x86 server acquisition." Dadaian, who said his primary server vendor is HP, said Lenovo sales reps have been "relentless" when it comes to pushing servers into larger accounts over the past six months. "We have heard nothing else from our [Lenovo] reps other than servers, servers and servers."
Dadaian said he's impressed with how far Lenovo has come in such a short time, filling out its enterprise portfolio with an ecosystem of server products that allow him to sell deeper into the enterprise with ThinkStation towers, ThinkServers and storage hardware. "Right now, Lenovo doesn't do blades, but they will. We never thought Lenovo would offer high-density servers, but they do now."
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