Lenovo Upgrades Servers, Expands EMC, SAP Relationships

Lenovo on Tuesday unveiled an upgrade to its X6 server family, and said it is expanding its partnerships with storage vendor EMC and software vendor SAP.

The move comes about seven months after Lenovo closed its acquisition of IBM's x86 server business, making Lenovo the world's fourth-largest server vendor in terms of revenue during the fourth quarter of 2014, according to IDC.

Lenovo enhanced its System x3850 and System x3950 server families, which in early 2014 were originally introduced as part of IBM's X6 server family, with the addition of the new Intel Xeon processor E7-4800 v3 CPUs as well as new high-performance NVME (non-volatile memory express) flash storage, said Stuart McRae, Lenovo's director of enterprise server products.

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The X6 server family has a unique modular design that allows Lenovo to not only quickly develop new models but also easily upgrade previously installed solutions, McRae told CRN.

"The memory and CPUs of the servers are in modules we call Compute Books, which can be taken out of servers and replaced quickly," he said. "So customers with existing servers can get a quick upgrade without replacing the servers."

The enhancements give the new X6 servers a performance boost of up to 50 percent compared with competing solutions and previous Lenovo servers, McRae said.

To go with the servers, Lenovo has unveiled multiple new pre-tested infrastructure solutions with software developers including solutions based on SAP HANA, SAP Business Warehouse Accelerator, Microsoft SQL Business Warehouse, and Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint, McRae said.

"The new solutions go hand in hand with the new servers to make it easy for partners to size them for customers," he said.

The SAP HANA solution is pre-integrated by Lenovo, while the others are available as templates to facilitate channel partner integration, he said.

Lenovo also expanded its EMC VSPEX reference architecture partnership to include SAP HANA solutions.

Lenovo, which earlier this year said it will develop VSPEX converged infrastructure reference architectures that combines the Lenovo Flex Systems with EMC storage, has unveiled a VSPEX solution specifically for SAP HANA, McRae said.

Using the VSPEX reference architecture, solution providers partnering with both Lenovo and EMC can either integrate a complete SAP HANA solution for customers, or integrate Lenovo Flex Systems and SAP HANA for customers with existing EMC storage systems, he said.

Lenovo on Tuesday also started its XClarity management solution for its X6 and Flex Systems servers. XClarity, which was unveiled a few weeks ago, automates the deployment and configuration management of the servers whether via VMware vCenter or on a stand-alone basis, McRae said.

The Lenovo server upgrades were expected, and a part of the natural expansion in server technology, said Tom Hughes, director of alliances for the Technology Solutions Group at Ciber, a Greenwood Village, Colo.-based solution provider and Lenovo channel partner.

However, the XClarity solution will be a boon to the channel, Hughes told CRN. "Our architecture teams are looking at XClarity, and it looks real good," he said.

Hughes was not sure how well Lenovo solution providers will do with the VSPEX reference architectures that require EMC as well as Lenovo expertise.

"It's a meet-in-the-channel solution," he said. "It's great to offer solutions around converged infrastructure. But how many partners have Lenovo and EMC capabilities and are able to do the integration? I'd like to see Lenovo bring together the solution, and not leave it up to the partners."

It is good to see Lenovo expand its storage offerings beyond its storage partnership with IBM, Hughes said. "It's good for partners to have alternatives," he said. "The challenge for partners is, how many partnerships can they take on that go beyond just selling products? If a solution provider partners with IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Dell, and then take on EMC, at some point they could run out of management capability. It is important to add value beyond just the selling."