Lenovo’s DX8200D – Strategic Partnering to Make SDS Simple and Affordable

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  March 22, 2017

Lenovo’s recent launch of its new DX8200D software-defined storage (SDS) appliance with SANsymphony from DataCore Software is worth considering on its own but also offers an opportunity to see how the company’s broader Data Center Group (DCG) partner strategy is evolving.

In short, the DX8200D is designed to harness the capabilities of existing SAN arrays by pooling and virtualizing internal, direct-attached and external heterogeneous storage infrastructures via its SDS capabilities. Lenovo describes the DX8200D as a pre-integrated turnkey appliance that promises to greatly simplify deployment and reduce management expenses while providing a single point of support for SDS applications and workloads.

Lenovo noted that the DX8200D’s centralized interface supports data protection, replication, de-duplication, compression, and other enterprise storage capabilities at a much lower price point than traditional SAN arrays. That enables Lenovo customers to use the new solution to scale storage infrastructures, increase the life and ease the replacement of their existing storage assets and simplify the transition to SDS.

Built on Lenovo’s System x3650 M5 server, the company noted that the DX8200D is designed to deliver the highest levels of response times, availability and utilization. In addition, Lenovo will work with DataCore to pre-test appliances to reduce deployment risks and increase time-to-value.

The DX8200D is designed for medium to large enterprises with existing heterogeneous storage infrastructures, and Lenovo believes customers in education, healthcare, industrial and public sector organizations will find the solution particularly valuable. Along with its SDS capabilities, the DX8200D should be optimal for accelerating transactional databases, analytics, ERP and CRM workloads, and for supporting business continuity and disaster recovery for business-critical applications.

Final analysis

To begin, the DX8200D looks fully capable of supporting all the capabilities and delivering the full IT and business value that Lenovo claims. The new solution is based on the company’s well-known and proven System x3650 M5, a rack server introduced early in 2015. Able to support up to 1.5TB of memory and a numerous HDD and SSD options with its 26 drive bays, the x3650 M5 is an appropriate choice for a wide variety of storage and business use cases, including server-based storage virtualization.

How does the new solution reflect on Lenovo’s partner strategy? As I’ve noted in previous commentaries, the company has charted an intriguing course that differs somewhat from its competitors. While all system vendors engage in strategic partnerships, quite often those relationships result in acquisitions designed to effect competitive dominance. HPE’s recent purchase of SimpliVity is a good example of that point.

In contrast, Lenovo has pursued and developed relationships with numerous like-minded partners, particularly infrastructure software players, including DataCore, Cloudian and Nexenta for SDS, and Nutanix and SimpliVity (at least until HPE took it off the board) for hyperconverged systems. As a result, Lenovo has been able to increase the variety and value of its own portfolio, and also maximize the options customers can choose to meet their business and compute requirements.

The evolution of individual partnerships is also intriguing, as a closer look at Lenovo and DataCore will reveal. At VMworld in September 2015, DataCore demonstrated its then-new parallel I/O software, certifying record-breaking performance in the SPC-1 benchmark with a Lenovo System x3650 M5. The following January, the two companies launched three new solutions based on the x3650 M5; an all-flash array and appliances for application acceleration and storage virtualization.

In February 2016, Lenovo and DataCore announced plans to develop a single stack, adaptive infrastructure solution for software-defined storage leveraging System x3650 M5 servers and SANsymphony software. To underscore the value of the effort, DataCore’s CEO said the company would invest 20 percent of its total revenues in the R&D effort, focusing on parallel I/O processing, virtual I/O, universal data services, and simplicity and automation.

Lenovo’s DX8200D with DataCore’s SANsymphony is the result of those strategic efforts.

Overall, the DX8200D seems entirely capable of providing customers the full range of software-defined storage features, functions and value that Lenovo and DataCore envision. But Lenovo’s DX8200D also qualifies as a notable example of the innovation that can result from deeply considered and fully developed strategic collaborations.

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