When you talk of Lenovo, PC comes to the mind first but the Chinese tech giant has become a big player, after a slow start, in the data centre business by taking advantage of its acquisition of IBM’s x86 server business in 2014.
Lenovo acquired IBM’s server business for $2.1b.
The Lenovo DCG (Data Centre Group), created in 2017, saw its server shipments in the third quarter of last year, which ended on December 31, grow by 18% year-on-year despite flat year-on-year revenue due to sharp component price reductions that decreased average system prices.
Chris Cooper, general manager for Lenovo DCG, Middle East, Turkey and Africa, told TechRadar Pro Middle East that they provide infrastructure (compute, storage, networking, and turnkey software solutions) for hyperscale data centre providers.
The company’s hyperscale business had its highest revenue in four years and grew nearly 16%, revenue from the Chinese market alone grew 46% year-on-year.
Cooper said that six out of the 10 hyperscalers globally use Lenovo’s infrastructure.
“Our vision is to be the most trusted data centre partner, empowering customers through intelligent digital transformation and solve challenges, and to be the global top three edge-to-core data centre company.
He said that they work very closely with Nutanix, Microsoft and VMware in hyperconverged systems.
“When Microsoft saw a gap at the edge computing business, we provided them with ThinkAgile MX1021, designed as a fully integrated solution to run Azure stack at the edge. We are focused on bringing new technologies and evolving the solutions around digital transformation,” Cooper said.
Moreover, he said that the edge is going to play a key role in digital transformation and the drive towards intelligent transformation.
“As more and more data are generated, you need to do compute at the edge to make informed decisions. There is a huge amount of value being generated from the data at the edge and those that manage to provide those solutions at the edge are in a much stronger position to drive digital transformation and remain competitive,” he said.
Computing for decades, he said has been solely done on big servers in central–controlled rooms but to make edge computing more efficient, Lenovo developed a small form factor PC – ThinkSystem SE350 Edge server – last year for a reliable server-class performance at many remote locations or in an organisation’s network, enabled with AI and taking care of data security.
“The edge server has the compute, storage, memory and the physical network. The applications run on top of that. It operates outside of a data centre and will provide a turnkey solution for analytics at the edge,” Cooper said.
5G will play key role in edge computing
However, Cooper said that 5G will play a vital role in edge computing as computing has become more powerful, enhanced by wider bandwidth, high speed, low latency and massive connectivity.
“We are working closely with internet service providers in the Middle East and Africa in helping them with 5G and they are looking at us for 5G-enabled devices, 5G-enabled date centre infrastructure and 5G-enabled edge computing to help them build new revenue streams and add value around 5G ecosystem,” he said.
The world is in an unprecedented environment due to “coronavirus outbreak” but Lenovo is working very closely with its partners for a first to market strategy, he said.
“There is a bit of a challenge in the marketplace today but the difference with Lenovo is that we are working very closely with our partners and clients to provide business continuity. The real differentiator is most of our competitors rely on contract manufacturers. Lenovo owns its own manufacturing facilities,” Cooper said.
Benefits of having global manufacturing facilities
Most of the production activities were halted for a period of time when Covid-19 really kicked off in China but Cooper said that Lenovo had the benefit of having global manufacturing facilities and moved its manufacturing to other locations.
Now, he said that most of its global manufacturing facilities are operational and gives it the benefit to deliver in a faster time frame to end-user customers compared to the competition.
Moreover, he said that the partnership of ecosystem partners or channel partners will be the key to grow the regional business and drive innovation and introduce new solutions to tackle the major issues that enterprises face.
Looking ahead, Cooper said that future growth is expected across all areas and the group is focusing on increasing customer diversity and broadening indirect channels.
Moreover, he said that Lenovo is the fastest and largest growing vendor in the High-Performance Computing (HPC) or supercomputers and it will grow despite the weak economic downturn.
According to Top 500 supercomputer list latest stats, Lenovo has 173 systems, followed by Inspur with 71, Sugon with 63, HPE with 40, Cray with 39 systems, Fujitsu with 13, and IBM with 12.
Cooper said that out of the 25 large research institutes globally, 22 of them use Lenovo’s supercomputers.
“We have large installed bases in industrial, research and academics in the region. We intend to retain our number one ranking and to be an essential partner in AI solutions,” he said.
When asked whether HPE’s acquisition of Cray will have an impact on DCG’s business, he said that Lenovo is already competing with HPE and Cray in tenders globally and don’t expect any large impact from the acquisition.