Lenovo DCG – A Refreshing Journey to Cascade Lake

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  April 3, 2019

A little discussed benefit of industry standard microprocessors and related components is the predictability they provided system vendors and enterprise customers. By leveraging the “tick-tock” of Moore’s Law-derived innovations that Intel (and, less frequently, AMD) provided, vendors could focus their attention and investments on enhancing server design, operational functions and facilities issues.

But that predictability also created room for a doubt: What would happen to the industry and Intel when steady improvements hit the brick wall of material limitations? Intel answered those concerns pretty clearly in this week’s launch of its new 2nd-Gen Intel Xeon Scalable platform (aka Cascade Lake). I’ll have more to say about that subject in next week’s Pund-IT Review. For now, let’s consider what 2nd Gen Xeon Scalable means to Lenovo’s Data Center Group (DCG) and its customers.


Like other vendors, Lenovo announced that it will use Intel’s new Xeon solutions to refresh its DCG portfolio, including 15 ThinkSystem servers and five ThinkAgile appliances. As a result, Lenovo can offer clients the incremental-to-significant performance, power efficiency and workload-specific enhancements that are a predictable part of Intel’s next-gen silicon launches.

Those are important for supporting traditional business applications and conventional processes. However, they will also facilitate the development and adoption of new, rapidly evolving workloads, including advanced analytics, artificial intelligence and high-density compute infrastructures.

In addition, one specific feature of 2nd-Gen Intel Xeon Scalable chips—their support for Intel’s Optane DC persistent memory technology—could be particularly critical for and valuable to Lenovo customers. Why so?

According to Intel, Optane DC will enable customers to transform critical data workloads – from cloud and databases to in-memory analytics and content delivery networks by:

  • Reducing system restarts from minutes to seconds
  • Supporting up to 36 percent more virtual machines per system
  • Increasing system memory capacity by up to 2X, or as much as 36TB of memory in an eight-socket system

That last point is particularly important for Lenovo due to the company’s longstanding leadership in memory-intensive computing. The company has long provided the reference architecture for SAP’s HANA in-memory database solutions and technologies, and Lenovo is a leading provider of SAP HANA solutions. The importance of this point was reflected in Lenovo’s announcement that its ThinkSystem SR950 will be the industry’s first eight-socket server to support Optane DC and its 36TB of memory capacity option, making it ideal for demanding SAP HANA environments.

Lenovo is also using 2nd Gen Xeon Scalable silicon to develop new engineered systems for key workloads, including SAP HANA, Microsoft SQL Server and Red Hat OpenShift Containers. These solutions will be verified as Intel Select Solutions, signifying their ability to support superior workload performance, ease of deployment and simplified evaluation. The company also expects to introduce new Intel Select Solutions for workloads, including VMware vSAN, Network Function Virtualization Infrastructure (NFVI), Blockchain Hyperledger Fabric, & Microsoft Azure Stack HCI.

Compliments of Lenovo

This is not to suggest that the benefits of Lenovo’s refreshed portfolio are due entirely to Intel. The new solutions all benefit from the company’s ThinkShield which secures Lenovo devices with oversight of development, supply chain and lifecycle processes. Along with having unique control over its own global supply chain, the company is also aligned with Intel’s Transparent Supply Chain, allowing customers to locate the source of components in their new systems. In addition, Lenovo oversees the security of suppliers that build intelligent components, making sure they conform to Trusted Supplier Program guidelines and best practices.

Finally, while the new and refreshed solutions can be purchased directly, they are also available through Lenovo’s TruScale, the company’s recently announced consumption-based as-a-service program. TruScale enables customers to use and pay for Lenovo data center hardware solutions without having to purchase the equipment.

Final analysis

To some folks in IT, predictability is a mundane topic that is easily superseded by whatever shiny new object falls off the industry turnip truck. That attitude ignores the fact that for customers, especially businesses that depend on data center systems and other solutions, IT predictability can mean the difference between succeeding, faltering or failing.

Knowledgeable vendors deeply understand that point and do their best to utilize their own and their strategic partners’ innovations to ensure that their products are fully, predictably capable of supporting both existing applications and emerging workloads. Lenovo obviously isn’t the only vendor benefitting from Intel’s 2nd-Gen Xeon Scalable chips. However, Lenovo’s new/refreshed ThinkSystem and ThinkAgile offerings, and the company’s creative use of Intel’s Cascade Lake enhancements, provide excellent examples of how this process works and will deliver often profound benefits to Lenovo customers.

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