By Charles King, Pund-IT® September 15, 2021
Lenovo has long been one of the tech industry’s canniest vendors in terms of building and extending strategic partnerships. So, it is no surprise that both new and existing partners shared the spotlight and rallying cries during last week’s Lenovo Tech World 2021 event.
Building on Lenovo’s existing suite of Infrastructure-as-a-Service and Device-as-a-Service offerings, the company also used the Tech World event to unveil a host of new as-a-Service and edge computing solutions. Many of those are delivered through its Infrastructure Solutions Group (ISG) and Solutions and Services Group (SSG).
However, while most every systems vendor is delivering or developing its own brand of EaaS and edge offerings, few are focused as intently as Lenovo is on the practical value partners can add to those efforts. As a result, Lenovo’s new offerings will arrive at market well ahead of and better formed than many others. Let’s consider this in greater detail.
The case for EaaS and edge
First, why are vendors focusing so intently on EaaS and edge computing? In essence, they are following the money and the market but for somewhat different reasons. The case for EaaS—acquiring, deploying, maintaining and managing a vendor’s products through a single contract, support and payment agreement with no upfront costs—has strengthened significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Businesses facing unexpected challenges in everything from staffing to facilities maintenance to customer demand to supply chain management are looking for ways to survive and succeed. Those drivers, along with simplified monthly or quarterly payment terms, have made EaaS solutions increasingly valuable for and attractive to business customers.
According to Lenovo, the market for aaS offerings is growing at more than 4X the overall IT services TAM. On the product side, the company noted that aaS represents 12 percent of x86 server spend and over half of new enterprise storage spend, growing at 40 percent CAGR. In commercial PCs, one of the earliest markets for EaaS, solutions represent 17 percent of overall spend (up from 1 percent two years ago) and is growing at 50 percent CAGR.
In other words, it is no wonder that IT vendors are pursuing EaaS.
What about edge computing? The narrative there has also been impacted by Covid-19. For years, the case for edge computing revolved around the need to process, analyze and enhance the value of data being generated and collected at the remote ends of corporate networks, in locations such as factory floors and retail outlets. Those value propositions still exist but added to the mix are new use cases, such as businesses supporting remote workers and schools enabling distance learning.
As a result, private and public sector customers are seeking solutions that enhance the performance of network functions and services while also easing or automating complex management tasks. Given the growing interest in and potential size of these markets, numerous IT vendors are actively developing and delivering edge-focused solutions and services.
Lenovo’s new enterprise offerings and partners’ value-add
So, what exactly did Lenovo announce at Tech World 2021? Perhaps the most important takeaway is that the company will begin offering its entire portfolio of products as a service under the expanded TruScale brand. Lenovo believes it is fully able to differentiate TruScale from competitors’ offerings through its global reach, its portfolio of end-to-end — “from the pocket to the cloud” — technology solutions, and its centralized management platform.
That said, what are Lenovo’s new enterprise data center and cloud EaaS and edge offerings all about, and what roles do Lenovo’s strategic partners play? In the former case, the new EaaS solutions significantly expand on the company’s TruScale Infrastructure Services which allow customers to use hardware and services without purchasing the equipment and pay for what they use with no minimum capacity requirements.
Lenovo’s metering solution remains outside of the customer’s data plane, combining the simplicity of cloud-like access and economics with the security of hardware deployed on-premises. Capacity can scale-up or down to meet a customer’s business needs. Agreements include all related services (maintenance, support, remote monitoring and management) paid in one monthly bill.
Partners play key roles in existing Lenovo TruScale-enabled offerings, such as the SAP S/4HANA Cloud private edition, a fully managed SAP S/4HANA cloud service based on Lenovo TruScale and purchased through SAP, and the Nutanix- and Citrix-based hosted desktop solution announced in April.
At Tech World 2021, the company announced new partner-enabled offerings including:
- Edge-to-cloud solutions utilizing Lenovo’s ThinkAgile VX HCI platform and VMware Cloud Foundation or Lenovo’s ThinkAgile MX HCI platform and Microsoft Azure Stack HCI (both will be available in December 2021)
- VMware-based infrastructure solutions (Lenovo + VMware Cloud Foundation) as-a-service managed by Lenovo through the VMware Cloud Provider Program (VCPP) (available worldwide in December 2021)
- Deloitte Cloud Managed Services powered by Lenovo TruScale IaaS which leverage Deloitte’s Open Cloud management platform and can be purchased through Deloitte or Lenovo (available in December 2021)
- In partnership with Intel, Lenovo TruScale Infrastructure Solutions with Silicon-as-a-Service capabilities will enable customers to scale compute resources on-demand and only pay for activated processor cores. Proof-of-Concepts are currently in progress with availability slated for 1Q 2022
- Lenovo TruScale Infinite Storage enables perpetual non-disruptive storage infrastructure data services, including guaranteed upgrades to the most current Lenovo ThinkSystem DM series for the life of the contract. Enables customers to non-disruptively grow their storage environments up to 260PB to meet performance and/or capacity requirements (available in 1Q 2022)
Along with customers purchasing the new EaaS solutions directly through Lenovo and its strategic partners (where noted), members of Lenovo’s TruScale Channel Program can directly contract and deliver TruScale as-a-service solutions to customers (available in September 2021 for T1 partners and in Q1 2022 through Distribution).
Three separate announcements underscored Lenovo’s focus on edge computing. First, the company said it will be the first vendor to market with a solution that leverages VMware’s edge computing platform. The offering consists of two Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 Edge Servers integrated with pre-loaded VMware software and can reduce the footprint of edge hardware by up to 50 percent.
The company also announced enhancements to Lenovo Open Cloud Automation (LOC-A), which is designed to automate data center and cloud infrastructure deployment tasks. According to Lenovo, LOC-A can now support up to 10,000 edge computing sites and speed time to deployment by up to 81% while reduce labor requirements by 10X+ (vs. manual methods). The ThinkSystem SE350 Edge Servers and LOC-A enhancements will be available in September 2021.
Finally, the company introduced the Lenovo ThinkEdge SE70, a flexible artificial intelligence (AI) edge platform for enterprises that is designed to support intelligent transformation efforts in areas from logistics, transportation and smart cities to retail, healthcare and manufacturing. The ThinkEdge SE70 was created in cooperation with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and leverages the AWS Panorama Device SDK which can be used to transform commonplace IP cameras into ‘smart’ cameras. The new solution is powered by NVIDIA’s Jetson Xavier NX platform for supporting AI and machine learning models at the edge. Availability for the ThinkEdge SE70 is slated for 1H 2022.
Successfully working with strategic partners is a vital issue for vendors of every stripe. Doing so can substantially reduce the time, effort and risks involved in developing and delivering new solutions and services. Plus, well-known partners add their own imprimatur or “seal of approval” to new solutions, a crucial issue for enterprises and other organizations that tend to value reliability as much as they do innovation.
Those points and value propositions are clear in the new EaaS and edge computing solutions Lenovo announced at Tech World 2021. With the help of strategic partners, the company has significantly expanded its TruScale portfolio with IT and cloud infrastructure offerings that should appeal to a wide range of business customers. Lenovo has also followed a similar partner-amplified path in its new edge offerings, resulting in solutions that will resonate with businesses’ current needs and emerging areas of interest.
As I noted earlier, Lenovo has proactively leveraged strategic partnerships for many years, from well-established efforts with IT industry mainstays, including Intel, Microsoft, VMware, SAP, Nutanix, Citrix and NVIDIA to newer relationships with Deloitte, Kyndryl and AWS. While the Everything-as-a-Service and edge computing offerings announced at Tech World 2021 may be new, the partner-driven ethos behind them has been a key part of Lenovo’s longstanding success and the benefits it consistently delivers to business customers and the channel.
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