A New Lenovo Sees Data Center Market As Its 'Growth Engine'

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North America President Emilio Ghilardi says he's built a new Lenovo ready to become a data center power.

With a new executive leadership team, a more nimble and forward-looking go-to-market strategy, a rich partner program and now its first comprehensive data center product portfolio, Ghilardi said the time is right for Lenovo to take advantage of the weaknesses among the herd of legacy data center hardware vendors.

Ghilardi will be side by side with Yang Yuanquing, the chairman and CEO of the $43 billion China-based computing power, on Tuesday at Manhattan's chic Metropolitan Pavillion to unveil the company's first full-fledged data center product portfolio. The comprehensive product portfolio includes high-performance servers for mission critical big data applications, all flash data center storage and SAN  offerings and a complete of cloud-ready line of networking switches.

[Related: Lenovo N. America President Ghilardi: Dell EMC, HPE And Cisco Are Stuck In 'The World Of The Past']

The product blitz represents the first major revamp of Lenovo's product lines since its $2.1 billion acquisition of IBM's x86 server business in late 2014.

Ghilardi calls the data center, and particularly hyper-converged infrastructure, Lenovo's "growth engine." However, Lenovo differs from its competition in its commitment to partnering with independent software firms rather than acquiring those firms or developing its own software, Ghilardi said. It's a strategy that emphasizes innovation, and allows Lenovo to bring enterprise customers the latest software-defined solutions without worrying about cannibalizing its own software, he said.

HPE is betting too heavily on its acquisition strategy, Cisco is protecting its long-held margins, and Dell EMC has too much on its plate to innovate in a rapidly changing IT market that is moving away from traditional sales models, Ghilardi said.

"They own the software," he said. "We don't. We worked before with SimpliVity. It was a very good relationship. HPE decided to buy them. Okay. Cool. Now we work more with Nutanix, or Pivot3 or DataCore, you name it, but we don't step into their space. We don't try to do it ourselves. We think innovation is going to be driven by small companies in this space. I challenge HPE to buy these companies and let them innovate. I spent 25 years at HP, and no disrespect, but unfortunately they don't have a great reputation for buying companies and managing them."

And while HPE is challenged to integrate and manage assets, other competitors struggle to innovate without sacrificing the margins they realize on legacy hardware, Ghilardi said.

"What's great about specific hardware is you make a lot of money. Ask Cisco. Or EMC," Ghilardi said. "It's a commodity, but it's not sold as a commodity. It's sold as perfect, and the only way to do it is this way and if you want to add more storage, as everybody does, you have no choice, just keep buying from me. This is the world of the past. The world is going somewhere else, and we can go to this somewhere else much faster and with less regret than a Dell, that just spent $65 billion buying EMC. There's nothing more traditional than EMC. It makes a lot of money, they have strong relationships with customers, but it takes a lot of energy and resources to protect that legacy particularly because the world is going the other way around. You try to win in the traditional data center, you go buy a traditional storage company. You go buy a traditional networking company. Why would you do that? That's the past. 10 years from now, we'll see if our strategy was right. I firmly believe we're doing the right things. "

Ghilardi envisions a future in which compute power is purchased and consumed much like a utility.

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