Lenovo took on a formidable track record when it acquired IBM’s server division. What has changed under Lenovo, and why?
In terms of the track record of excellence in reliability and performance, nothing has changed. But our approach to market is very different. Lenovo is a new player that brings a fresh set of eyes and ideas to datacentre solutions and the surrounding ecosystem.
Since Lenovo Data Centre Group is young, we are not encumbered with a heavy investment in ageing architecture that has to be sweated over many years to make a return on investment.
In comparison to our longer-established competitors, we’re able to be a lot more nimble, agile and forward-looking. This really is our major advantage and one that our competitors with their large base of ageing technology to support are really challenged by.
As a data centre specialist group, what are the global trends you are seeing now?
The space is changing rapidly; one could ask five people what “data centre” means and get five radically different answers depending on each person’s point of view and their place on the technology adoption curve.
In the ‘90s, data centres were racks of servers running operating systems and applications, ringfenced by physical boundaries. Today, that’s virtually impossible: data centres are rarely one place; one building; one set of equipment in racks. Increasingly, everything is software defined – elastic storage, networking, virtualised compute nodes.
Next generation data centres are defined by services, where software abstracts itself from hardware and can scale performance more freely than in the old days of rigidly defined physical infrastructure.
That flexibility sets the foundation for cloud to absorb computational requirements where it makes sense, allowing Lenovo customers to seamlessly integrate cloud technologies with their own data centre infrastructure.
How is the APAC region responding to those trends?
We have mature markets like Japan and Australia alongside emerging markets like Thailand, The Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia, for example, that are growing at a breakneck pace but do not necessarily have the established infrastructure to build on.
Within our mature markets, companies typically go on a long journey. They start from server-based storage and move on to centralised storage solutions. Then they typically migrate to virtualised compute nodes and further centralised storage solutions. Eventually they get to virtualisation and abstraction of resources and the whole cloud of things.
However, in emerging markets there’s an opportunity to “leapfrog” entire generations of data centre technology and go straight to the most modern. As a group, Lenovo is well matched to meet the demand, as we’re also aligned with the latest data centre technologies.
Where does Lenovo fit into competitive landscape?
The Lenovo Data Centre Group was born in April last year. We are only a year old as an organisation – and Lenovo is best known as a PC vendor – but we have been rapidly evolving, and now have three lines of business – PC, mobile, and the Data Centre Group.
We are already among the top suppliers of data centre solutions, on numerous metrics. For example, if you look at Highly Converged Infrastructure (HCI) adoption in APAC, industry analysts rank Lenovo extremely highly – even more so than some of the longer established competitors.
For example, for the tenth straight year, IBM and Lenovo servers again achieved top rankings in ITIC’s 2017.
And Technology Business Research found in studies measuring 22 satisfaction attributes among Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Lenovo customers, that Lenovo outscored its peers in customer satisfaction in almost every attribute, giving Lenovo the highest score overall.
In the more “bleeding edge” technologies such as High-Performance Computing (HPC), the yardstick is often who is doing better in the top 500 most powerful computers in the world. Lenovo is the second most commonly listed company today – and that’s in just 12 months.
How has Lenovo won so much ground so quickly?
What makes us different from other vendors building on the same commodity tech components is the innovation we can put into the product design – our commitment to this is demonstrated daily in our seven data centre-focused R&D centres around the world.
Additionally, our supply chain is tightly optimised for data centres, which has made us great at providing solutions that perform better, in shorter timeframes.
We take on big design challenges, such as water-cooling technologies – Lenovo is one of the first companies in the world to use warm water-based cooling technologies for very large server farms, significantly reducing the energy required for cooling high density sites.
Secondly, we are committed supporters of software-defined technologies. And instead of just saying ‘we’re going to try to lock everyone into a proprietary Lenovo solution’, we have invested heavily with best-in-breed partners. That includes Nutanix for HCI, hybrid cloud with Microsoft, large enterprise solution providers like SAP to optimise e-Memory computation of SAP HANA and so forth.
Are there particular challenges in the APAC region?
With so many countries covered by the Asia Pacific, there certainly are many varied challenges.
Our emerging markets are growing rapidly, but as they come from the background of having a large, established infrastructure base of ageing technology, they don’t necessarily appreciate the benefit of using the newest technologies. So there’s a challenge there to demonstrate how newer technologies can save them money and provide better results.
In terms of growth areas, small to medium business in the Asia Pacific actually hold great potential because they are more likely to go straight to the newest technologies rather than having to go on a long enterprise migration journey.
In the enterprise space, regulatory requirements can vary widely between each country and some countries have highly restrictive data sovereignty and privacy requirements, which may impact slow technology adoption.
Major investment will resolve some of that – for example, cloud providers building local data centres in each country or region. There will need to be a lot more discussion Lenovo and our partners and governments at all levels to build understanding broadly of the benefits of cloud technology.
It’s an exciting part of the world to be in now and there’s a lot to be done. It represents an interesting set of problems and opportunities to resolve.
Find out how ThinkSystem helps these partners
In part 2, we ask Han: how Lenovo is going to grow its partner program?
 2018 Global Server Hardware and Server OS Reliability survey, page 3
 https://cloud.kapostcontent.net/pub/df03d8fa-dbee-482d-8c40-e8a67393d242/tbr-lenovo-again-leads-in-x86-based-server-customer-satisfaction-2h17.pdf?kui=AoV8LEDHF3hwqZBgD72iew, page 2