Partners: Ghilardi's Departure Latest Sign That Lenovo's Data Center Offensive Faces Uphill Battle

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Lenovo solution providers said the departure this week of Lenovo North America President Emilio Ghilardi is yet another indication of just how tough it is going to be for the company to find its footing in the data center business.

Ghilardi stepped down as president of Lenovo's North America business after less than 18 months on the job and less than two months after the company rolled out its new ThinkSystems data center portfolio, CRN reported Wednesday. Ghilardi led Lenovo's entire North America business until April, when the company hired Intel veteran Kirk Skaugen as president of its Data Center Group. Ghilardi's interim replacement is Christian Teismann, currently senior vice president and general manager of Lenovo's worldwide Enterprise Business Segment, Lenovo said.  

Whether it's Teismann or some else who eventually takes the reins on a permanent basis, Ghilaridi's replacement faces many obstacles as the company tries to muscle share away from data center stalwarts like Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Dell EMC and Cisco, solution providers said.

"When customers look at Lenovo, they see desktops and laptops. They don't look at Lenovo in the data center," said Ron Venzin, partner at Focal Point Solutions Group, an Ellenton, Fla.-based solution provider that works with Lenovo, as well as Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Dell EMC.

[Related: A New Lenovo Sees Data Center As Growth Engine]

With the introduction of ThinkSystem, its first end-to-end data center infrastructure portfolio, -- including new servers, storage, and networking gear -- and its ThinkAgile portfolio of software-defined infrastructure in June, Lenovo is moving to cement a spot among the industry's most powerful IT vendors nearly three years after acquiring IBM's x86 server business for $2.3 billion.

But channel partners are concerned that Lenovo has not made the kind of moves needed to make its mark in the data center business.

Executives at several large data center solution providers told CRN Lenovo's lack of mindshare among U.S. data center partners, the pressure facing the server and storage markets its trying to break into, and even the current political climate are all converging to keep it from making share gains and asserting itself in this market.

Dan Serpico, the CEO of FusionStorm, No. 46 on the 2017 CRN Solution Provider 500, said Lenovo is practically invisible to data center solution providers like his company, even though it does sell Lenovo technology.

"I don't see them in the market," Serpico said. "We're seeing [multiple smaller rivals] a lot, and we're not seeing Lenovo. We might sell a couple million dollars of Lenovo a year, but I don't know anyone over there at all. I've had people from Huawei call me. I've had meetings with Supermicro. There's a genuine effort by competitors to reach out. If there is at Lenovo, I'm not seeing it, and you would think we'd be someone they'd like to go after."

A top executive at another national data center solution provider that doesn't work with Lenovo said the technology vendor hasn't made contact, even as competitors put on a full-court press.

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