Lenovo Q&A: Software Partnerships Are The Way Forward In Hyper-Converged Market

Brian Hamel

Lenovo says the way forward in the burgeoning hyper-converged infrastructure market is through partnerships, not competition, with hot software firms like Simplivity.

As first reported by CRN on Tuesday, Chinese hardware giant Lenovo revealed that it would partner with SimpliVity on an arrangement that brings SimpliVity's OmniStack data virtualization platform to Lenovo System X servers through distributor Arrow Electronics beginning later this year.

The company also recently entered hyper-converged partnerships with Pivot3 and StorMagic.

[Related: Lenovo/StorMagic Take Aim At Dell, HP, Cisco In Drive To Be 'Lowest Cost Provider' In Hyper-Converged]

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Brian Hamel, Lenovo vice president and general manager, North America Enterprise Business Group, told CRN that joining forces with Westborough, Mass.-based SimpliVity and other hyper-converged software firms presents the biggest opportunity in a market poised for dramatic growth.

That's a similar line to that taken by other large hardware vendors, namely Cisco, which also has a partnership with SimpliVity, and Dell, which partners with Nutanix.

Hamel said he expects the Lenovo/SimpliVity partnership to drive significant growth for those companies, as well as Lenovo's channel partners, which have a clear opportunity, he said, to play in a market forecast by research firm IDC to grow to $1.57 billion next year from less than $1 billion today.

What's Lenovo's message to partners, particularly VARs, on hyper-converged?

The converged and the hyper-converged marketplace, in IDC's estimates, is growing to become a $4 billion to $5 billion segment, so there's a pretty big shift occurring in software-defined. We have a channel-first strategy, and from a partner perspective, we're viewed as a very strong partner to go to market with. Look at our portfolio offerings, and look at the hyper-converged market, we want to play in that market. Hyper-converged is a segment of the x86 market, and it's a strategic part of our plans going forward. Look at all the software players in the market. We want to be an infrastructure provider, an enabler for our clients, for our VARs, with the best software companies in the world. And we're appealing to them, we're trying to help them enable their solutions.

How can Lenovo take advantage of its large hardware market presence?

Our portfolio strategy is to drive and strengthen. We'll be the leader in 1U-2U space as well as converged and hyper-converged. We'll have the lowest-cost solution in the market, and we'll allow VARs and software players to compete in the market. We'll drive price points to the most affordable price in the market. It's a great option for software community to partner with us. We're not going to compete with them.

Are Lenovo partners ready for this? What's Lenovo doing to prepare them?

The market is very hungry for these solutions, particularly here in the U.S., where the shift to cloud is happening much, much faster. The traditional VAR in North America has had to transform their business away from traditional hardware reseller and into software solutions. It's a tremendous opportunity for the VAR community to build a value proposition for the clients they serve around these solutions. And it's a tremendous opportunity for VARs to build software services value propositions around the hardware. The VAR community has always been very strong in hardware, and parts of that community are seeing strong gains in software too. This is a tremendous opportunity to integrate them together.

Will Lenovo continue to partner with software firms for hyper-converged solutions, or are there plans to develop your own hyper-converged products?

We plan to have relationships with all the top software providers in the marketplace. It's a great option for the software community to partner with us. We're not going to compete with them. Software companies have specific markets they're going after. We expect to be a player in the hyper-converged space [similar to] our partnership with SAP for SAP Hana, for example. We went deeper with them to integrate the stack. It's a better value proposition than our competitors. We can partner and go deeper.

What's your message to other vendors in this space? Dell? Cisco? EMC? HP? How do you intend to beat them?

Well, I have a message for our clients, for hyper-converged marketplace as a whole. The value that hyper-converged brings to the market, the integration of compute, storage, networking and software in an appliance structure. We're going to invest in bringing to market the best solutions, in increasing value through scalability, reliability. We're very confident in our ability to partner.

Are these partnerships being led by software? Will that change?

It can be more collaborative. The software is certainly what's driving the hyper-converged category. The ability to bring value through integration is what the market is really hungry for. [Clients] don't have the skills and people to do all the integration themselves. Software is where it starts. A partnership with Lenovo brings it together in a single application the market is interested in.

How will the hyper-converged market evolve?

If you look at IDC's projections, there's no question the market is going to continue to grow. Converged and hyper-converged, you see it across the board in different ways. Look at IBM, and their big-data analytics, or Oracle. Those are all appliances. You're seeing the integration value, and clients want that. Big clients, big banks, big telcos, big MSPs -- there's a huge segment of the market that wants that integration, and inside Lenovo we see an opportunity to partner and bring great value there.