Better known for servers and PCs, Lenovo is escalating its push into enterprise data storage with the launch of new object storage and hyper-converged appliances and its first branded midrange array.
All of the Lenovo storage products launched today involve partnerships. The Lenovo Storage DX8200C factory-integrated appliance is based on object storage software from Cloudian. Lenovo's software-defined storage program, called StorSelect, also includes a previously disclosed turnkey appliance (now called the DX8200N) that integrates unified file and block storage software from Nexenta Systems.
Lenovo's partnership strategy also extends to hyper-converged appliances. Lenovo today introduced a new model of its HX Series based on software from Nutanix, the HX 1000 Series Remote Office/Branch Office (ROBO). Last month, Lenovo and Nutanix unveiled the HX 2000 Series for small and medium-sized businesses.
Lenovo also is refreshing its HX 3000 and HX 5000 hyper-converged appliances with Intel's latest Broadwell processor technology. The HX 3000 targets "compute-heavy" workloads such as virtual desktop infrastructure and smaller virtualization deployments. The HX 5000 takes aim at virtual server workloads with higher capacity demands. The HX family also includes the HX 7000 for database and other I/O-intensive workloads.
The Lenovo storage business unit, based in Research Triangle Park, NC, also sells traditional SAN arrays through OEM deals. Lenovo later this month will begin selling IBM Storwize storage for the first time under its own brand, the Lenovo V5030 midrange and V3700 V2 entry-level arrays.
Lenovo formerly sold the arrays under the IBM Storwize name. But David Lincoln, general manager of the Lenovo storage business unit, said the company "always wanted to start getting our brand out there." Lenovo's OEM and licensing deal for Storwize was part of its 2014 transaction to buy IBM's Intel-based System X server business for $2.3 billion.
"Once upon a time, the Storwize business was part of System X. So this class of products has strong affinity with servers," Lincoln said.
IBM updated its Storwize V5000 line this year. The V5030 includes clustering, compression, external virtualization and high-availability technology, in addition to features that are also in other V5000 models, such as internal virtualization, thin provisioning, snapshots, automated tiering and remote mirroring.
In addition to the V-Series, Lenovo sells an S Series line of storage arrays from Seagate's Dot Hill acquisition. Lincoln said the S Series is the "mainstream, more price-performance line," and the V Series is Lenovo's "premium line."
David LincolnGeneral manager, Lenovo storage business unit
"If we want to be a real data center provider, we can't just be a one-trick pony with servers. We get that," Lincoln said. "We need to be a legitimate player in storage, which in the coming years -- if not already -- is going to be the biggest part of the infrastructure stack in terms of addressable market. That's why our storage business unit was formed and birthed last October, and we're investing heavily in this infrastructure category.
"We also know that there has never been this much flux in this industry, competitively and technologically. And we know that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get in as an upstart to challenge the incumbents."
He said Lenovo storage went from a "skeleton crew" of a dozen running the business to more than 100 staffers. The division remains in hiring mode, especially in the areas of software and storage engineering, he said.
Lincoln said Lenovo's goal is to make storage a $1 billion division by 2020, which would be approximately triple its current revenue.
Lincoln said the company is exploring the possibility of using its own intellectual property in the software stack, but he can't say that will ever happen. One definitive area of investment will be extending Lenovo's XClarity server console to also manage storage, he said.
Partnerships push Lenovo’s drive for market share
Scott Sinclair, senior strategist at Enterprise Strategy Group, said storage must be a key part of Lenovo's strategy if it wants to increase its market share.
"Especially when you start thinking about the interest in more agile, flexible IT deployments, organizations are trying to understand how to simplify the IT deployment and management process," Sinclair said. "One element of that is converged. The ability to get the servers and storage from the same supplier helps that."
Another critical element for organizations looking at software-defined storage is the ability to have a single point of contact for service and support, Sinclair.
Lenovo is providing support for its SAN, software-defined storage and hyper-converged offerings through a subcontract with IBM, according to Lincoln. He said StorSelect and HX Series customers would call a single toll-free Lenovo number for Level 1 and Level 2 support and receive an "assisted warm handoff" to Cloudian, Nexenta or Nutanix for Level 3 support.
The Lenovo V Series storage arrays are due to ship this month. The DX8200C and DX8200N software-defined storage appliances and the new HX Series hyper-converged appliances are expected to become generally available in the third quarter.
Randy Kerns, strategist and analyst at Evaluator Group, wrote via email that the "factory-integrated" aspect of the Cloudian DX8200C appliance is important because "most customers do not have the staff with time to do their own integration and want a complete, fully supported system."
Jimmy Pike, technologist in residence at Moor Insights & Strategy, said Cloudian's support of the Amazon S3 API would give Lenovo an object storage option that could serve both private and hybrid cloud deployments.
Paul Turner, chief marketing officer at Cloudian, said Lenovo and Cloudian had been working for eight months on the planning and integration work and the support training. He said target customers are enterprises and service providers and use cases include storing medical images, video, audio, photos and other multimedia files.
"This really is for scale," he said. "This is for hundreds of terabytes as you get into deployment."
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