Lenovo DCG: New Solutions for Modern SMBs and ROBOs

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  November 7, 2018

An interesting if little discussed sidelight on technology is how a rapidly maturing industry successfully serves increasingly sophisticated customers. This issue is present in numerous sectors and product classes, from automobiles to zippers. However, while the dynamic is clearly apparent in business-to-consumer (B2C) markets, it’s also a significant factor in business-to-business scenarios.

Why is that the case? Because like consumers, over time businesses have ready access to and become increasingly savvy about products and services they utilize. Consider how that has played out in IT over just the past decade or so with organizations rapidly transitioning from “bricks” to “clicks” business models leveraging IT resources. Not to mention companies adopting public cloud solutions, adapting to often opaque online advertising and contending with social media-enabled customers and ratings.

While scale is an obviously important point to consider here, these changes are impacting businesses of every kind and size. In other words, even small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) and use cases with relatively modest or specialized needs, such as remote and branch offices (ROBOs) require dependable, innovative computing solutions. Plus, they are also smarter and more demanding about what they buy today than ever before.

Those points are important to keep in mind when considering IT offerings, like Lenovo’s new single socket servers for SMBs and ROBOs.

The thing about SMBs and ROBOs

It’s not like SMBs and ROBOs are anything new. There are millions of such organizations worldwide that interact with billions of customers every day. But their typically modest IT requirements – a few physical servers with attendant storage and networking gear – makes them a tough sell for volume-minded IT vendors. In fact, all too often “SMB class” solutions consist of rudimentary servers or systems that have few, if any, enterprise-class features.

While such offerings may have been adequate a while ago, the playing field is significantly different today. Why so? Mainly because of public cloud providers focusing on SMB and ROBO service provisioning. Such offerings address a number of key concerns for smaller customers, including space constraints, lack of IT staff and resources and tight budgets, making easy to access, pay as you go cloud solutions exceedingly attractive. But while cloud options can be highly valuable, they’re not ideal or even appropriate for every circumstance.

For example, security-minded companies – which includes a lot of small start-ups – often prefer to keep Crown Jewel intellectual property assets tightly protected onsite. Maintaining secure data and IT assets is also crucial for businesses in governance/compliance-sensitive industries, like banking and healthcare where supporting on-prem IT in ROBO facilities is a matter of course.

Retailers that depend on reliable links to banks and credit card companies often prefer managing their own physical systems to trusting their businesses to third party clouds and hosting services. Finally, growing SMBs often come to a point where the costs of cloud services exceed on-premises options. That’s a key factor in many organizations’ decisions to “repatriate” their IT from the cloud.

Lenovo ThinkSystem – Addressing the needs of SMBs and ROBOs

Is Lenovo’s approach to SMBs and ROBOs appreciably different or superior to what other vendors are doing? In a word, yes. The company’s Data Center Group (DCG) organization is best known for serving the world’s largest enterprises, being the #1 provider of systems on the TOP500 list of leading supercomputers and nailing design wins with 6 of the top 10 global hyperscale companies.

Those successes may seem more than a little remote from what SMBs and ROBOs experience but they provide a rich store of technologies and practical experience that Lenovo has brought to bear in its new solutions:

  • ThinkSystem ST50 – Designed as an ideal first server for SMBs, ROBOs, and productivity-minded retailers. The ST50’s 4U form factor (deployable as a tower or in a rack) make it well suited for day-to-day computing, file management, printing, email, and web serving in distributed environments. High efficiency fans keep the server cool but limit noise, a critical point for office environments. Aggressive pricing and higher enterprise-level capabilities make the ST50 an excellent alternative to conventional desktop offerings.
  • ThinkSystem ST250 – A fully-featured, easily-managed rackable tower server for SMBs and ROBOs. The ST250 offers web serving, system management and near-side data backup features that enable it to robustly support numerous business applications and processes. Intel’s Software Guard Extensions (SGX) provides security for blockchain applications. Storage options include up to 16x 2.5-inch hot-swappable HDDs/SSDs, low latency NVMe drives, and an internal M.2 module, as well as optional RAID. Performance and connectivity options include GPU support, multiple PCIe slots, and TruDDR4 memory.
  • ThinkSystem SR250 – A single-processor, 1U rack server with integrated power, reliability, flexibility, and security features and options critical for many SMBs and ROBOs. The SR250 offers high price/performance, as well as the flexibility to handle numerous business workloads, including web serving, virtualization, and entry-level cloud and data-analytics processes. Integrated Intel SGX makes the SR250 a good choice for blockchain. Its multiple network interface ports and a dedicated management port are complemented by I/O performance that also enables heavy network communications and faster data transmission. The SR250 supports either fixed or redundant power supplies, allowing systems to be configured for specific enterprise use cases and optimized for future scalability.

All three servers utilize Intel’s next gen Xeon E-2100 processors and 2666Mhz memory. The new ThinkSystem solutions also feature Lenovo’s XClarity systems management software whose intuitive UIs simplify deployment, provisioning and other administrative tasks.

The new Lenovo ThinkSystem ST50, ST250 and SR250 are available for order today.

Final analysis

It’s safe to say that technology has fundamentally changed businesses globally, along with the ways that organizations conduct business with both consumers and other businesses. But it’s also important to realize that these changes have impacted and are continuing to impact companies of every size and kind, including SMBs and organizations that depend on ROBO facilities.

For too long, these smaller IT customers and their modest requirements have been treated as second class citizens by some vendors. But elemental changes in IT markets, including the advent of cloud services designed for SMB and ROBO deployments have altered the market’s balance, making it imperative for vendors to rethink their solutions and strategies.

Lenovo’s new portfolio of ThinkSystem solutions for SMBs and ROBOs shows what happens when a vendor gets things right. The new servers can be effectively employed for a wide variety of SMB and ROBO use cases, emphasizing the value that on-prem IT can offer those organizations.

At the same time, these ThinkSystem servers leverage the considerable experience Lenovo’s DCG has gained and the innovations it has developed in providing solutions to some of the world’s largest and most demanding IT customers. Overall, SMBs and companies with ROBO facilities would do well to investigate Lenovo’s newest ThinkSystem offerings.

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