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All that said, EMC will specify Lenovo servers in EMC's VSPEX reference converged infrastructure solutions. With VSPEX, EMC is starting to offer a series of blueprints that specify how channel partners can configure server, storage and networking combinations to meet customer requirements for specific applications.
"Our plan is to build in Lenovo servers as part of the blueprint," Mathews said. "We will be very focused on Lenovo servers. Customers at their own discretion can select other servers. But, it will be natural for many of our partners to use Lenovo servers. A large number of our VSPEX channel partners already work with Lenovo in North America."
Mathews said he could not be specific about how many of EMC's solution providers also partner with Lenovo.
EMC will not jointly market or sell the Lenovo servers, Mathews said. "But, VSPEX and how we roll it out will be a kind of joint marketing," he said. "As Lenovo brings these servers to market, we'll turn on our marketing materials."
For Lenovo, this becomes a potentially huge opportunity to grow its North American server business, a business that has not done well in the wake of Lenovo's late 2004 acquisition of IBM's PC Division.
"We've been clear on the need to expand our server business beyond China," said Peter Hortensius, senior vice president of Lenovo and president of the company's product group. "We needed to expand our product offering and our marketing capabilities. Over time, we'll see more efforts as we build this out. This is a statement about growing our server business."
While IBM in 2008 licensed its server technology to Lenovo, Lenovo's share of the North American market remains "very small," said Hortensius.
That’s one reason why a number of partners believe the EMC-Lenovo pact will have little or no impact on EMC's relationship with Cisco or on their joint-venture VCE business.
Steve Kaplan, vice president of data center and cloud solutions at Presidio, a Greenbelt, Md.-based partner of EMC and of Cisco, said he never sees Lenovo in deals where his company is talking to customers about Cisco UCS servers.
"We position UCS not as a server but as an optimized hosting platform for virtualized and cloud infrastructures," Kaplan said. "And as such, there is no competitor out there."
Kaplan said he sees no sign of a rift between EMC and Cisco or in the VCE relationship.