Lenovo Preps For Transform 2.0 Event, Looks To Reach Higher Into Data Center

Lenovo is looking to showcase its latest hyper-converged infrastructure, server, storage and mobile device technology at its Lenovo Transform 2.0 event, to be held Sept. 13 in New York.

Stefan Bockhop, executive director of North American channel sales for Lenovo's Data Center Group, told CRN that Transform is a unique event for the company.

In 2017, Lenovo used the event to launch a completely refreshed product data center line, including its ThinkSystem core data center server line and its ThinkAgile software-defined hyper-converged infrastructure appliance line, Bockhop said.

[Related: Nutanix Pushes Software As It Pulls Away From Hardware Biz]

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"That was a big opportunity for us to hit the market and refresh the brand, and really move from just being that compute company that purchased System x [from IBM] to be a data center company," he said.

Bockhop would not provide too many details about what Lenovo will show at this year's Transform event. He did say, however, there will be a big push of its ThinkAgile hyper-converged infrastructure business.

"I can definitely tell you that there will be conversations around our partnership with Cloudistics, which we've branded under our ThinkAgile CP offering," he said. "We'll continue the drumbeat after we launched that partnership a few weeks ago."

Lenovo also will be discussing new hyper-converged infrastructure offerings developed in partnership with San Jose, Calif.-based hyper-converged infrastructure pioneer Nutanix, Bockhop said.

"You'll see quite a bit of conversation there, especially as Nutanix made some shifts in how they are going to market," he said. "You now have the ability to buy the software on an engineered appliance base. We definitely want to have those conversations."

While Dell EMC is the largest OEM customer of Nutanix's HCI platform, Bockhop said Lenovo's Nutanix-based offering provides differentiation.

First, he said, Lenovo launched a program with Nutanix called Velocity that lets the company offer simple sizing, pricing and other factors without separate deal registration processes when helping customers acquire the technology.

"It's so compelling from the Nutanix point of view that they're actually incenting the partner community on those installations," he said. "So it's something that our sales team is leading for our partner community, but Nutanix is putting in incentives of its own. … Nutanix is really thinking like a software company now."

Lenovo also is adopting a customer-centric view in regard to Nutanix-related sales, Bockhop said.

"Traditionally, it's been an appliance model with a perpetual license," he said. "We now have the ability for customers to consume it that way, if that's their choice, just as a software license on a hardware platform. We also have a fully integrated model called ThinkAgile that includes the whole thing, from soup to nuts, including maintenance and installation."

Bockhop said that in addition to how Lenovo can manage a big part of customers' storage requirements via its Nutanix relationship, the company has a robust storage portfolio at the entry level thanks to a partnership with IBM. Lenovo also offers the ThinkSystem DS6200 all-flash array with one of the industry's best performance metrics, he said.

"We'll continue to expand those opportunities going forward," he said. "That's about as much as I can tell you."

In addition, Lenovo will use Transform to talk about the future of the data center as more assets become digitized, Bockhop said. "It really is a showcase for the future and what our customer focus is for the rest of the year," he said.

Rob Cato, executive director of North American channels for Lenovo, said the company also will unveil new offerings for its commercial PC business around workplace transformation.

"We think that's a big opportunity for us over the next several years," he said.

Security will be a big part of the Lenovo Transform message as well, according to Cato.

"We've always had a strong security product portfolio," he said. "We maybe haven't done a good job of messaging that."

Lenovo also will be unveiling new workstations and new ThinkVantage mobile systems at Transform, he said.

Lenovo has done a good job of building a channel and market for its mobile devices and its server business, said Michael Goldstein, president of LAN Infotech, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based solution provider.

But Goldstein told CRN that he would like to see Lenovo do more to differentiate its hyper-converged infrastructure technology to better compete with rivals.

Lenovo's approach in the server business has been to offer more of a basic server on which solution providers can add options as required by customers rather than a higher-end server with all the bells and whistles including features customers may not need, Goldstein said.

Lenovo also has a good storage offering that customers usually acquire along with Lenovo servers as a cost-effective alternative to other vendors, he said.

"For Lenovo to go higher into the data center, I look for it to offer partners more training and hands-on experience," he said.