The Lenovo Data Center Group (Lenovo DCG) operates in a market where many developments are taking place. Organizations are increasingly shifting from on-premise infrastructure to the cloud, while more and more people are thinking about edge computing. Smart cities and the Internet of Things (IoT) are some examples for which solutions need to be adapted. In order to respond as effectively as possible to such developments, Lenovo DCG is going to expand its network capabilities.

During the company’s recent Acceleration conference, a lot of attention was brought to what has been achieved in recent years. This was probably the case because Lenovo DCG is still quite young. After the acquisition of IBM’s x86 server division, those activities were transferred to the PC division, but the capacities and size of that division overshadowed their data center activities. In early 2017, they decided to continue as Lenovo DCG, after which things started to improve. At the product level, there is rapid innovation, and growth figures are promising.

It is now a matter of continuing the trend. During Accelerate, we wondered what Lenovo DCG sees as their next big step. In the coming period, the company will try to expand its network capabilities, as to support additional user applications and intensify competition with other parties.

Will we get a NetApp-like framework to expand network capabilities?

Without a doubt, the most interesting development that Lenovo DCG can expect in this area was teased during Accelerate. If we believe President Data Center Group Kirk Skaugen, there will be a joint venture like Lenovo DCG already has with NetApp. “I mentioned that we did a very large storage collaboration. But I also said that we are working on a large network partnership. So, we launched the NetApp alliance and made the joint venture operational. This is the Lenovo NetApp company that operates in China, and this year, you will see that we are going to do similar things regarding networking”, Skaugen explains once again after his keynote.

Of course, we tried to get some information from various employees here and there about the details of this development, but no one made a statement about it. If you really want to achieve something similar to NetApp, we believe that you should work with a large network specialist. Cisco, HPE-Aruba, Juniper Networks and Extreme Networks are the four providers that come to mind in terms of size. However, Cisco has a server portfolio that competes with that of Lenovo DCG, which means that that company is not an option as a partner. HPE-Aruba is an illogical choice for the same reason. In our opinion, only Juniper Networks and Extreme Networks remain as logical options, although we have not been able to verify this.

By partnering with such a company, Lenovo DCG would be better able to compete with Dell Technologies and HPE and take a big step in the market in one fell swoop. The major competitors both have the necessary network expertise. Increasing their activities in the network segment is difficult. Lenovo DCG does have the knowledge and skills, but that will not be enough to create a strong footprint in the market.

NetApp means a lot to Lenovo DCG

When the company announces activities similar to those that took place with NetApp, we can expect such a partner. In the storage market, Lenovo DCG and NetApp have shown in a short period that they can complement each other well. The collaboration combines NetApp’s all-flash data management solutions with Lenovo DCG’s ThinkSystem infrastructure. As a result of the collaboration, Lenovo DCG has started to make an impression on the enterprise market, where NetApp originally came from, while NetApp can do more for SMEs and large businesses. Lenovo DCG servers are available with NetApp’s data management software. Lenovo DCG sells NetApp storage solutions to huge enterprise organizations.

According to Lenovo DCG, the collaboration has already meant a lot to both parties in recent months. In our view, the promise of a NetApp-like announcement in the field of networking can only result in attracting one of the aforementioned companies as partners.

Edge capabilities as most exciting

Accelerate could have been more interesting if concrete plans for networking would have been revealed, but too much is still happening behind the scenes to really announce anything. Nevertheless, the company points out that enough is already happening for them in this area. The market offers enormous opportunities due to the growing number of applications. Therefore, the company is intensifying its activities around the IoT and the network edge.

The network edge is particularly interesting because data can be collected and processed directly at the source. As a result, data can be analyzed more quickly. There is less need for bandwidth a data do not have to be sent to the cloud or to an on-premise server first. In this way, systems are able to make critical decisions much faster. For an autonomous vehicle, sending data to the cloud for analysis and then returning the signal would be a cumbersome and risky process. Such applications require edge devices to be successful.

Multiple collaborations as a basis

Lenovo DCG can play an important role in this with its server capacities. To this end, it has already introduced some compact data centres for which it collaborates with Scale Computing. This party has the so-called HC3 Edge Platform, which is made for edge applications of retailers and industrial companies. According to Lenovo DCG, such companies need distributed and remotely controllable computing power. In addition, they want IOT and traditional applications to be used simultaneously. Scale Computing’s software responds to these needs.

Incidentally, there are several IT vendors that will play a role in the edge capabilities of Lenovo DCG. In addition to Pivot3 and Orange, VMware’s Hyper-Converged appliance Project Dimension, which allows administrators to manage deployments via a control platform, is an important part of Lenovo DCG’s edge strategy. Project Dimension is available for traditional data centres, edge locations and software-defined data centres. So for Lenovo DCG, this offers a multi-faceted advantage.

Ambitions are there, more clarity coming soon

For Lenovo DCG, everything has to come together if they want to become a major player on just about every level of the IoT. The company also dares to be ambitious in this area. When it comes to smart cities, for example, Lenovo DCG claims it wants to provide end-to-end solutions for smart cities. In the long run, this would include Lenovo edge servers, gateways and IP-cameras.

We haven’t arrived at that point yet, and if we ask Lenovo DCG for their most concrete plans, they talk about their edge server ThinkSystem SE350. Initially, the edge activities started with a kind of ‘data centre in a box’, but with the ThinkSystem SE350, the company rolls out a compact device that measures 38 centimetres in length. This product can be mounted on a wall or installed in a rack. The ThinkSystem SE350 works with wired Ethernet, wi-fi and LTE.

In the end, we can expect a lot more from Lenovo DCG when it comes to networking, in the broadest sense of the word. The ThinkSystem SE350 is a stepping stone towards more activities. It also seems to be true that, behind the scenes, people are working on a collaboration with a networking company. In any case, we are curious about what Lenovo DCG will be coming up with, in the coming period, because their promises are great.