Lenovo’s ThinkAgile VX Series and Hybrid Cloud Computing

By Charles King Pund-IT, Inc.  August 30, 2017

If you’re looking for a common thread connecting cloud computing, hybrid cloud, integrated systems and hyperconverged appliances, virtualization is the best place to start. When it was first introduced commercially in the late 1960s (for IBM’s S/360 mainframes), virtualization addressed a problem that still exists today—the wide disparity between system performance and application requirements.

In essence, servers had (and have) far more compute capacity than applications need, a breaking point that continues to widen due to ongoing microprocessor, memory, storage and network evolution. Virtualization enables compute resources to be logically divided into virtual machines capable of supporting numerous individual applications and workloads. That makes great good sense technologically and economically.

Not surprisingly, virtualization technologies like those from VMware are also at the heart of cloud computing, including hybrid cloud solutions like the new ThinkAgile VX Series of hyperconverged appliances announced by Lenovo this week. Let’s consider that further.

Virtualization and the cloud

Remember that “cloud computing” is essentially a rebranding of Internet-delivered, hosted data center solutions. That’s why Amazon called its initial offerings Web Services (AWS) when they were introduced in 2002. It wasn’t until its 2006 relaunch that AWS included a beta version of its Elastic Compute Cloud (ECC) that “cloud” became part of the industry’s common vocabulary.

In 2008, VMware’s then-CEO Paul Maritz launched the company’s vCloud initiative by comparing centrally managed virtualization extending across the data center “the big mainframe or big computer.” Nearly a decade later, companies like Amazon, IBM, Google and Facebook have helped make that data center-wide vision of cloud computing a reality.

But virtualization also incorporates significant costs, especially in terms of technical complexity and the skills required to effectively manage hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of virtual machines and their underlying hardware. To help address that, vendors including IBM, Lenovo, Dell, Cisco and HPE have developed solutions, including integrated converged and hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) offerings.

These solutions are deeply pre-integrated and optimized at the factory with necessary software and virtualization tools, and delivered to customers ready for deployment. Most all are designed to ease their owners’ data center modernization efforts and adoption of private cloud. Most include simplified, often automated management and maintenance technologies that also pave the way for hybrid environments blending companies’ on-premises private cloud assets and offsite public cloud infrastructures.

Lenovo’s ThinkAgile VX Series

Lenovo’s new ThinkAgile VX Series is an excellent example of both this sort of solution and how vendors are adapting to the realities of the marketplace. The VX Series’ launch at VMworld 2017 was hardly a surprise given that the new platform features VMware’s latest vSAN ReadyNodes. The new platform also joins other Lenovo ThinkAgile solutions, including the HX Series (for Nutanix-based HCI with multi-hypervisor support) and SX Series (for both Nutanix and Microsoft’s Azure).

Leveraging the latest version of VMware vSAN has specific implications for Lenovo clients since it now supports up to seven times greater storage space (with deduplication and compression capabilities) than previous generations. Plus, vSAN now includes new features, including native encryption, thus eliminating the need for self-encrypting drives that increase total cost of ownership (TCO) for security-sensitive customers.

In addition, Lenovo is certified to offer VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) ReadyNodes, which integrates VMware’s vSphere, vSAN, and NSX into a native stack that can be deployed on-premises or run as-a-service from the public cloud. According to Lenovo, the ThinkAgile VX Series is designed to support numerous business use cases and environments, including remote office/branch office (ROBO) and retail stores, as well as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and enterprise applications.

To that end, the ThinkAgile VX Series is available in three models that support configure-to-order flexibility, and are available with either all-flash or hybrid storage options:

  • VX 3000 Series: General-purpose 1U and 2U 1-node solutions optimized for VDI and other compute-heavy applications.
  • VX 5000 Series: Storage-dense 2U 1-node solutions optimized for fast, high-capacity storage applications, like analytics, big data and email.
  • VX 7000 Series: 2U 1-node solutions optimized for databases, collaboration and other workloads requiring the highest levels of performance.

Like other ThinkAgile solutions, the new VX Series is deployed with ThinkAgile Advantage, a unique Lenovo support service that offers deployment, configuration and training assistance designed to decrease customers’ time to value from days or weeks to just hours. Customers also enjoy a direct line of communication to ThinkAgile support technicians who act as customers’ single-point-of contact throughout the entire support process and streamline hardware and software troubleshooting.

Lenovo’s new ThinkAgile VX Series offerings will be available on November 17, 2017.

Final analysis

Given the deep historical and technical connections between virtualization and cloud computing, the steady evolution of optimized hyperconverged infrastructure solutions shouldn’t surprise anyone. Not only do these solutions simplify complex integration and management processes but they also allow vendors to shine a complementary light on their own innovative capabilities and best practices.

That’s certainly the case with Lenovo’s ThinkAgile VX Series. The new offerings make the most of Lenovo’s highly robust and reliable data center solutions, and complement VMware’s vSAN technologies and vCloud Foundation (VCF) ReadyNodes. As a result, new VX Series solutions will offer considerable value to the sizable portion of Lenovo customers who depend on VMware for their virtualization and cloud requirements. In addition, the VX Series adds additional formidable HCI options to Lenovo’s ThinkAgile portfolio.

Moreover, the new solutions also highlight the points that Lenovo’s Data Center Group (DCG) made at its TRANSFORM launch in late-June. That event mainly focused attention on the company’s refreshed and expanded data center portfolio. The new ThinkAgile VX Series underscores the fact that Lenovo DCG’s transformation continues apace, and is widening to encompass the best efforts of key strategic partners, including VMware.

That’s excellent news for cloud-bound customers today, and evidence of further innovations to come.

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