Notes from Lenovo’s ISG analyst summit

On June 15-17 of 2022, Lenovo’s Infrastructure Solutions Group held an analyst summit highlighting the state of the business as well as its future direction. Kirk Skaugen, executive vice president of Lenovo and president of Infrastructure Solutions Group, kicked off the event by discussing the company’s four decades of innovation as well as the current data economy.

Several key takeaways on the data economy since 2010 included the following:

  • Consumer data storage is declining.
  • Enterprise data storage is growing, but at a very slow pace.
  • Public cloud is the fastest growing data storage.

As Skaugen continued sharing details about Lenovo’s Infrastructure Solutions Group (ISG) journey, he revealed that the emphasis as a service-led motion is transforming not only Lenovo, but also its client base. This transformation plays into the reliability of its x86 servers, which have a 1% downtime compared to the x86 server market overall, according to Lenovo.

Also, Lenovo ranked No. 1 in the top 500 supercomputers according to top500.org as of November 2021. One of the reasons for this is its use of Neptune liquid cooling technology. This cooling innovation shows interesting potential with regards to sustainability, cost savings and environmental impact.

Another area Skaugen emphasized is the continued growth in storage momentum, a market in which Lenovo continues to gain traction. Lenovo believes it has opportunity to capitalize further on current storage market opportunities. The transformation journey and operation execution have led to the company’s highest ever customer satisfaction scores. The service-led “One Lenovo” go-to-market strategy was designed to achieve customer transformation and business outcomes — and it’s showing results.

As the day progressed, Lenovo articulated how it intends to achieve these goals by delivering on its customers’ challenges.

Lenovo TruScale

Dale Aultman, vice president and general manager of ISG Services, introduced new advances with Lenovo TruScale. Aultman explained how TruScale enables businesses to innovate by using IaaS and desktop as a service. He said the value of TruScale goes beyond infrastructure and extends to data management, hybrid cloud, VDI and high-performance computing (HPC).

TrueScale includes metering capabilities, a simplified portal, a range of storage as a service (STaaS) and provides Intel silicon as a service. Customer adoption from companies such as Paratera leverages TruScale’s end-to-end service for HPC. In the recent Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) brief “Modernizing Data Centers with Cloud Technologies and Operating Models,” 48% of IT leaders said their organizations would prefer to purchase on-premises data center infrastructure through a consumption-based model.

Hypergrowth in China

Bai Peng, vice president of engineering, provided an overview on the growth of Lenovo in China and spoke about the company’s focus on computing resource layout, hybrid cloud, edge and localization. The competitive landscape in China was discussed in the context of how local vendors dominate storage, hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) and networking because of local environment and unique requirements. Lenovo ISG is leveraging global advantage to win over this local competition.

This hypergrowth is supported by the combination of Lenovo’s ThinkSystem Tower servers and TruScale, which provide a full-stack portfolio with proprietary solutions. Lenovo xCloud also provides a set of hybrid cloud solutions combined with agile cloud-native technology, multi-cloud management and AI-driven operations.

This route to market leverages the One Lenovo initiative to drive business results across the customer base, sales team, channel and marketing efforts.

Modernized software strategies

Brian Connors, vice president and general manager of solutions, strategic alliances and business development, discussed ISG’s software overview. The focus is on strengthening the relationship between the partners to add value for multi-cloud, edge and hybrid cloud management, as well as on developing software for the China market by leveraging global partner relationships.

Lenovo offers a go-to-market approach and best practice based on deep relationships, targeted solutions, alignment to “as a service” models and investment in location-based offerings. The ecosystem they participate in is broad, comprised of major strategic partnerships, enterprise AI and metaverse, software-defined storage (SDS), HCI, edge and more. This ecosystem provides many options for customers but also delivers tight integration across various market types.

Connors said there is a China leadership focus with the ThinkAgile VX series, including a collaboration portal for vSAN as well as an expanded focus on vSAN in China with localized offerings. SAP is another focal point. To expand the relationship with SAP, Lenovo is leveraging TruScale for as-a-service deployments and management of enterprise cloud for SAP HANA.

The Lenovo software portfolio expands the use of xCloud hybrid multi-cloud services, edge and networking. These expansions deepen AI capability at the edge. As for the future direction, Lenovo has planned an evolution of the partners by delivering joint development labs, SaaS, MaaS and subscription offerings, using TruScale for managed services.

Project Atlas was announced to provide intelligent hybrid cloud management. This project aims to provide TruScale meeting services, predictive maintenance and platform lifecycle assistance. Project Atlas evolved from previous versions of IBM Director and XClarity. With the new version, Project Atlas provides a unified intelligent hybrid cloud interface, cloud-native developer services and management of the infrastructure.

In future versions, Project Atlas plans to include a new task-based UI, TruScale management, edge support and automation. Directionally, Lenovo seems to look forward at automation installation and configuration, AI for IT operations, predictive maintenance and advanced modeling.

Edge computing

We define edge as computing capabilities outside the data center, as well as processing data closer to where the data is created. Charles Ferland, vice president and general manager of edge computing and telecom, presented his vision and strategy on Lenovo’s edge story and focus on partnerships, services, Open Cloud automation and on-premises deployments.

Lenovo’s Open Cloud automation provides unique delivery for scalability of software by securely automating edge deployments. This includes the reach of the software from the data center, inventory management, automation lifecycle, hardware discovery, blueprint definition, edge sites and more.

Ferland discussed how Lenovo intends to be a market leader for edge computing by providing the most comprehensive edge AI portfolio and continuing to expand its edge partnerships. Lenovo strives to provide an edge experience that encompasses learning and skills development that can be applied from remote islands to the nearest restaurant chain.

Storage, cloud and HCI growth

Kamran Amini, vice president and general manager of server, storage and software-defined infrastructure, and Mario Zeng, vice president and general manager of cloud service providers, delivered an overview of the ISG cloud strategy. The conversation began by exploring who the Lenovo customer base is now and where it is going, ranging from OEM to a combination of OEMs and ODMs with stronger focus on ODM+. With 17 hyperscaler accounts and approximately 500 “next wave” accounts, Lenovo’s focus on service providers in the cloud market seems strong.

Zeng discussed what cloud customers need in terms of product design, supply chain and services to deliver the demands across the ODM, OEM and both. With the proposed megatrends, Lenovo hopes to lead the cloud service provider (CSP) space in diversification; customized and specialized offerings; security; environmental, social and governance; and innovation. The vision is to become the most trusted CSP partner for intelligent transformation by providing world-class quality, customizable design and delivery, as well as cost-effective innovation.

Amini highlighted Lenovo’s hybrid cloud strategy. This delivery includes fully tested, turnkey platforms across Azure Stack, Azure Stack HCI, Nutanix, VMware and the ThinkSystem suite of storage options. The aim is to provide a simplified approach to upgrades with built-in lifecycle management and accelerated business velocity. Lenovo offers all of this through TruScale as well.

HPC and AI was also a key focus area. Scott Tease, vice president and general manager of HPC and AI, discussed how Lenovo is bringing AI to life by providing the underlying infrastructure for AI, centers of excellence and the partner ecosystem. Lenovo wants to bring it all together by offering complete AI solutions and not a “bag of parts.” Focus on retail, manufacturing, smart cities, finance and healthcare verticals while providing a horizontal focus on security, machine learning operations and natural language processing data extraction provides Lenovo with competitive AI offerings.

Tease also mentioned that Lenovo is No. 1 in 18 markets for HPC. Lenovo HPC claims to deliver Exascale computing for all by innovating across all facets of HPC design. The “Exascale to EveryScale” design approach is also intriguing. Rather than design once for Exascale, the Exascale-to-EveryScale design provides a modular, fractal approach to delivering HPC at scale without a monolith delivery. Lenovo HPC uses Lenovo Neptune for cooling and sustainability.

Stuart McRae, executive director and general manager of data storage, discussed data management storage and the overall market view. The vision is to become the No. 1 data management infra provider. Currently, Lenovo storage business is 30% in China, 30% in EMEA and 30% in North America, with focus on traditional storage, cloud, SDS and HCI. Currently, Lenovo’s storage enablement for data intelligence solutions sits at No. 8 in market share. It has been gaining market share year over year.

Lenovo’s storage options are also offered via TruScale and claim to provide differentiation value of 95% of the market. The strategic growth objectives are to provide STaaS with infinite storage while providing traditional, SDS and continuous data protection storage across the One Lenovo experience.

Final thoughts

Lenovo’s analyst day provided a lot of insights and direction to where Lenovo is and where it wants to go in the market. However, awareness tends to continue to be a problem with Lenovo. It is known as a PC company, and with all these enterprise level offerings, the sponsorships at Formula One or Ducati may only amplify the general brand awareness. Getting the message out that Lenovo is much more than a PC company will be one of its largest challenges.

I am looking forward to where Lenovo is taking this vision and direction. There is a lot of potential, and competitors might not realize how much momentum Lenovo has.

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