Lenovo Enters Enterprise Storage Market Without EMC, IBM Help

Lenovo is looking to reach deeper into customers' data centers with the release this week of a new line of storage arrays designed with its own intellectual property.

The new storage solutions also reflect a change in Lenovo's storage strategy, away from a dependency on technology from partners EMC and IBM and more toward developing its own.

Unlike past Lenovo storage offerings, which targeted mainly the vendor's local China market, the new Lenovo arrays are now widely available to enterprise customers worldwide, including through Lenovo's North American channel partners.

Sponsored post

[Related: Lenovo Upgrades Servers, Expands EMC, SAP Relationships]

Both new Lenovo arrays are slated to ship in June. Lenovo declined to provide pricing at press time.

The new Lenovo Storage S2200 and S3200 arrays arrive only weeks after Lenovo refreshed its X6 line of x86-based servers, and less than a year after its acquisition of IBM's System x server line.

The development of Lenovo's own storage technology stemmed from a need to take advantage of the company's increasing server clout, said Nancy Reeves, the company's senior manager for storage product management.

"About 45 percent of all storage sales are lead by server sales," Reeves told CRN. "So we're expanding our storage business. Not too long ago, Lenovo bought the IBM x86 server business. Now we're the No. 3 server vendor worldwide. Now Lenovo can provide everything a customer needs, from PCs to DCs [data centers]."

Before the introduction of the new Lenovo Storage S2200 and S3200 arrays, Lenovo in 2012 unveiled a strategic relationship with EMC under which the two would partner in converged infrastructure. As part of that relationship, Lenovo took joint control of EMC's Iomega strategy as a way to build Lenovo's China storage business.

Lenovo, however, has a larger reseller relationship with EMC, Reeves said. "We can resell the entire EMC portfolio," she said. "We've done that in China in the past, and recently expanded that relationship to the rest of the world."

Lenovo also resells the IBM Storwize V3700, V5000 and V7000 solutions, she said.

A couple of Lenovo solution providers said the fact that Lenovo is developing independent storage technology is good news for the company and its channel partners.

Tom Hughes, director of alliances for the Technology Solutions Group at Ciber, a Greenwood Village, Colo.-based solution provider and Lenovo channel partner, told CRN via email that he thinks it important that Lenovo follows its own storage course.

"It sounds interesting and it is good to note that Lenovo appears to be making their own direction with regard to storage rather than relying upon others. And to provide the [full range of storage] functionality ... at the core of most storage software offerings is key to making this successful. Where they really need to get to is a strong software-defined architecture that can bring uniqueness to their offerings," Hughes wrote.

Developing independent storage technology is important for a company like Lenovo, said Derek Keene, president and co-founder of Integration Systems, a Deerfield Beach, Fla.-based solution provider and Lenovo partner.

"It's hard for server and storage company relationships to last," Keene told CRN. "Look at the EMC-Cisco relationship, or Dell and EMC, or Dell and Hitachi. These companies are incestuous, and move from house to house."

Lenovo could do well in the storage business because of its server strength, Keene said. "Brand preference is not as important in storage as it once was," he said. "There are a lot of new startups taking different approaches from traditional storage vendors. Storage today is less and less about the name, and more and more about what it can do for my business and how I can consume it."

The Lenovo Storage S2200 and S3200 feature 2U enclosures with single or dual controllers and room for either 12 or 24 drives. The S2200 supports up to 96 drives with expansion enclosure, and offers Fibre Channel, iSCSI or SAS connectivity. The S3200 supports up to 192 drives, and has an option for connecting to Fibre Channel and iSCSI networks simultaneously.

Lenovo claims the S3200 offers performance of up to 120,000 IOPS.

Both come with a complete suite of storage services, including data tiering, thin provisioning, SSD read caching, rapid RAID rebuild, snapshots and storage pooling at no extra charge.

Keene said he likes Lenovo's all-inclusive software model for its storage arrays. "A lot of clients get tired of getting dinged, paying [later] for software features they didn't know they didn't have," he said.