HANA Alliance Deepens for Lenovo & SAP

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  May 17, 2016

IT vendor alliances and partnerships are more fragile than most of those involved would be willing to admit. Typically, companies ally to pursue specific strategic or market objectives. But in a fast-moving industry like IT, yesterday’s strategies often become as fragrant and desirable as last week’s forgotten gym socks. Partnerships are also often associated with specific executives, withering easily if or when those individuals move on.

But the most extreme cases of alliance dysfunction occur around corporate acquisitions. In those situations, it’s common as grass for the involved parties to babble happy platitudes even while they and their customers scramble for the exits. So it is truly remarkable when a strategic alliance not only survives but deepens and improves after one of the partners is acquired. That’s certainly the case concerning Lenovo and SAP, along with the new products and solutions announced at the latter’s Sapphire NOW 2016 conference in Orlando.

That was then

The acquisition I’m talking about is Lenovo’s purchase of IBM’s System x Intel-based server group which was completed in January 2015. Why is it relevant? Because prior to and after the deal closed, competitors of both Lenovo and IBM did their level best to stir-up fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) about the sale, claiming that Lenovo didn’t have the wherewithal to support or manage an enterprise-class server portfolio.

Ironically, many of those same competitors said much the same thing about Lenovo’s purchase of IBM’s PC products group, including its business market-leading Thinkpad notebook line in 2005. Eight years after that deal closed, Lenovo surpassed HP to become the world’s top PC supplier, a position it has retained ever since. So it’s worth considering the relevance of the FUD competitors stirred up over Lenovo’s System x deal or whether, like the IBM PC deal FUD, it’s little more than wishful thinking.

Where does SAP come into all this? The company has long been and remains one of IBM’s most trusted partners. When SAP began developing its HANA in-memory database technologies, IBM was a natural collaborator. In addition, the company’s System x group had developed X-Architecture, a platform (now in its sixth, X6, generation) that allowed some System x servers to support vastly higher memory capacity than competitors’ Intel-based servers.

This is now

As a result, System x became the reference architecture for SAP HANA and also established a dominant market leadership position, with over half of all annual HANA solution sales. Neither of those points changed practically after Lenovo acquired System x from IBM. In fact, the news from this week’s Sapphire NOW demonstrates that the alliance is continuing to flourish and progress. So what did the companies deliver?

  • Expanded memory support for next-gen Intel processors will enable SAP HANA solutions to support 33% more memory, from the current maximum 6TB capacity to 8TB. Lenovo intends to support up to 8-socket, 8TB configurations for SAP HANA SPS12.
  • New smart data tiering for SAP Business Warehouse on SAP HANA for managing “warm” data provides greater latitude for information lifecycle management. The solution enables customers to add more systems to HANA clusters, cost-effectively gaining access to more data and improving analytics performance.
  • A demo (by SAP, Lenovo and Samsung) of in-memory systems leveraging next gen 128GB memory that will result in higher scalability for future in-memory solutions. These enhancements will be particularly effective in large-scale transactional and data-driven workloads.

In addition, Lenovo joined with global integrators to demonstrate new solutions running on SAP HANA. These included jointly developed offerings with Bluefin (for “wrist to cloud” IoT), CSC (for cybersecurity) and iOLAP (for SAP HANA implementation services). Lenovo also showed its own HX hyperconverged solutions supporting SAP Business Suite, demonstrating how customers could benefit from supporting their SAP applications in web-scale infrastructures.

Final analysis

In short, the news from Sapphire NOW makes it clear that the partnership between Lenovo and SAP continues to be both vital and expansive, resulting in a widening range of innovative solutions. Those include the HANA in-memory database offerings, of course, as well as other core SAP business applications. Those benefit from Lenovo’s deep System x portfolio, as well as newer offerings, like its innovative HX hyperconverged solutions.

Overall, this qualifies as great news for Lenovo and SAP, along with the enterprise customers that have invested considerable time and sums in the pair’s HANA and other solutions. Competitors, however, are not likely to greet these solutions with much cheer. Not only does Lenovo’s HANA market leadership seem likely to continue but the melodramatic FUD concerning its stewardship of System x has fallen flat.

It’s too early to tell whether the success Lenovo has achieved with PCs will be mirrored by its enterprise products organization. But if Sapphire NOW 2016 is anything like a guide for what’s to come, the future for Lenovo’s datacenter solutions should be very bright.

© 2016 Pund-IT, Inc. All rights reserved.