By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc. February 22, 2017
Lenovo’s plan to develop and deliver a new “Enterprise Cloud Solution designed for SAP HANA” in China offers an interesting lesson in how a vendor can effectively parlay its strengths to pursue opportunities for its own and its partner’s benefit. In this case, Lenovo is exercising its muscular technological and regional leadership positions.
That’s well worth considering, but before that, what are the announcement’s core points? First, Lenovo will operate a data center infrastructure for the solution in China, manage and support the SAP HANA databases and applications, and also deliver technical support, including hotline service. As such, customers will benefit from Lenovo’s deep expertise in SAP solutions, as well as the facility adhering to compliance and regulatory requirements in China.
Second, SAP will work with Lenovo to customize the cloud environment to optimize the performance and availability of HANA-based applications, including real time analytics. To achieve this, the core infrastructure will employ Lenovo’s top-end System x x3850 X6 and x3950 X6 servers, as well as its x3650 X6 solutions for application servers.
Finally, the facility provides Lenovo a major new channel for deploying SAP HANA so it highlights the expanded strategic alliance the companies announced in January 2016. The effort also underscores the dedicated work that Lenovo and SAP have pursued in China since 2010.
How does this deal reflect Lenovo’s leadership positions? The company’s System x solutions have served as the reference architecture for SAP’s HANA platform since 2010, when the two companies were just starting to explore in-memory analytics and their common interests in China.
System x’s value in SAP HANA implementations is due in large part to unique Lenovo technologies, such as its Enterprise X-Architecture (currently in its sixth, X6, generation). That enables System x X6 solutions to offer far higher memory capacity than competitors’ servers. For example, Lenovo’s x3850 X6 solution (a 4U configuration) supports up to 6TB of DDR4 memory while the 8U x3950 X6 supports up to 12TB of DDR4 memory.
The Enterprise X-Architecture delivers proven enterprise-class RAS capabilities that are needed for business-critical SAP HANA applications. In addition, System x X6 is also remarkably flexible with a modular building block design enables customers to use one server platform for both scale-out and scale-up configurations. The solutions also support multiple generations of Intel CPUs. That provides myriad benefits, including investment protection, the ability to deploy HANA clusters with mixed processor generations and adding HANA memory capacity to existing clusters.
As a result, Lenovo System x X6 solutions are ideal for numerous enterprise scenarios and SAP HANA workloads, including real-time analytics. Customers simply bring in their SAP HANA license and Lenovo will meet their enterprise-class requirements. Since the new facility will offer standard HANA appliances of up to 8 socket, 8TB configurations based on Intel Broadwell EX-based systems, Lenovo will be able to support considerably larger HANA databases than most other cloud providers.
The improvements that Lenovo’s System x X6 configurations deliver are often dramatic. In fact, the company cited its own experience implementing SAP HANA to accelerate its supply chain management reporting processes. The effort resulted in reducing the time required to generate reports from 1 to 2 weeks to 6 to 8 minutes, resulting in about $50M in cost savings and the company winning a SAP HANA Innovation Award.
Home field advantages
Good enough, but what about the regional angle for developing the new SAP HANA cloud service? There are two issues at play here. First, Lenovo should enjoy some home field advantages. As a business founded in China (with one of its two headquarters located in Beijing), the company is in a good position to work with numerous local enterprises that prefer to do business with other China-based companies.
That doesn’t mean Lenovo will be unopposed. There are certainly other public cloud companies offering SAP HANA-based instances for the China market, including Alibaba, AWS and Microsoft Azure, but whether those solutions can meet the most stringent enterprise requirements is debatable. As a result, Lenovo should compete quite effectively with the public cloud crowd, particularly in delivering enterprise-class SAP HANA performance.
The company’s Data Center Group also stands to capture additional benefits from the new service. Market research firm IDC has noted that the China market has delivered stronger growth in server sales over the past several quarters as other global IT markets have stayed relatively flat or declined. Lenovo is one of the four largest server vendors in China (along with Huawei, Inspur and Sugon) but it is also far better known than rivals that focus mainly on ODM direct sales.
In other words, Lenovo should be able to use the new SAP HANA service to burnish its own data center solutions’ reputation. That is a critical point in a market that is expanding far faster and more steadily than most others. But China is also placing a premium on numerous high profile computational projects, meaning that the new cloud service could help Lenovo capture business in areas where performance metrics are key to successful engagements.
Overall, the new Enterprise Cloud Solution designed for SAP HANA is likely to provide notable benefits for both Lenovo and SAP’s existing customers in China, and open the door for the companies to pursue and win new business. The vitality of the enterprise data center market in China should help drive considerable growth for both Lenovo and SAP. As such, it highlights the substantial value vendors can achieve with unique, market-leading technologies and wisely drawn strategic alliances.
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