Lenovo Taps Strategic Partners for New Everything-as-a-Service and Edge Solutions

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  September 15, 2021

Lenovo has long been one of the tech industry’s canniest vendors in terms of building and extending strategic partnerships. So, it is no surprise that both new and existing partners shared the spotlight and rallying cries during last week’s Lenovo Tech World 2021 event.

Building on Lenovo’s existing suite of Infrastructure-as-a-Service and Device-as-a-Service offerings, the company also used the Tech World event to unveil a host of new as-a-Service and edge computing solutions. Many of those are delivered through its Infrastructure Solutions Group (ISG) and Solutions and Services Group (SSG).

However, while most every systems vendor is delivering or developing its own brand of EaaS and edge offerings, few are focused as intently as Lenovo is on the practical value partners can add to those efforts. As a result, Lenovo’s new offerings will arrive at market well ahead of and better formed than many others. Let’s consider this in greater detail.

The case for EaaS and edge

First, why are vendors focusing so intently on EaaS and edge computing? In essence, they are following the money and the market but for somewhat different reasons. The case for EaaS—acquiring, deploying, maintaining and managing a vendor’s products through a single contract, support and payment agreement with no upfront costs—has strengthened significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Businesses facing unexpected challenges in everything from staffing to facilities maintenance to customer demand to supply chain management are looking for ways to survive and succeed. Those drivers, along with simplified monthly or quarterly payment terms, have made EaaS solutions increasingly valuable for and attractive to business customers.

According to Lenovo, the market for aaS offerings is growing at more than 4X the overall IT services TAM. On the product side, the company noted that aaS represents 12 percent of x86 server spend and over half of new enterprise storage spend, growing at 40 percent CAGR. In commercial PCs, one of the earliest markets for EaaS, solutions represent 17 percent of overall spend (up from 1 percent two years ago) and is growing at 50 percent CAGR.

In other words, it is no wonder that IT vendors are pursuing EaaS.

What about edge computing? The narrative there has also been impacted by Covid-19. For years, the case for edge computing revolved around the need to process, analyze and enhance the value of data being generated and collected at the remote ends of corporate networks, in locations such as factory floors and retail outlets. Those value propositions still exist but added to the mix are new use cases, such as businesses supporting remote workers and schools enabling distance learning.

As a result, private and public sector customers are seeking solutions that enhance the performance of network functions and services while also easing or automating complex management tasks. Given the growing interest in and potential size of these markets, numerous IT vendors are actively developing and delivering edge-focused solutions and services.

Lenovo’s new enterprise offerings and partners’ value-add

So, what exactly did Lenovo announce at Tech World 2021? Perhaps the most important takeaway is that the company will begin offering its entire portfolio of products as a service under the expanded TruScale brand. Lenovo believes it is fully able to differentiate TruScale from competitors’ offerings through its global reach, its portfolio of end-to-end — “from the pocket to the cloud” — technology solutions, and its centralized management platform.

That said, what are Lenovo’s new enterprise data center and cloud EaaS and edge offerings all about, and what roles do Lenovo’s strategic partners play? In the former case, the new EaaS solutions significantly expand on the company’s TruScale Infrastructure Services which allow customers to use hardware and services without purchasing the equipment and pay for what they use with no minimum capacity requirements.

Lenovo’s metering solution remains outside of the customer’s data plane, combining the simplicity of cloud-like access and economics with the security of hardware deployed on-premises. Capacity can scale-up or down to meet a customer’s business needs. Agreements include all related services (maintenance, support, remote monitoring and management) paid in one monthly bill.

Partners play key roles in existing Lenovo TruScale-enabled offerings, such as the SAP S/4HANA Cloud private edition, a fully managed SAP S/4HANA cloud service based on Lenovo TruScale and purchased through SAP, and the Nutanix- and Citrix-based hosted desktop solution announced in April.

At Tech World 2021, the company announced new partner-enabled offerings including:

  • Edge-to-cloud solutions utilizing Lenovo’s ThinkAgile VX HCI platform and VMware Cloud Foundation or Lenovo’s ThinkAgile MX HCI platform and Microsoft Azure Stack HCI (both will be available in December 2021)
  • VMware-based infrastructure solutions (Lenovo + VMware Cloud Foundation) as-a-service managed by Lenovo through the VMware Cloud Provider Program (VCPP) (available worldwide in December 2021)
  • Deloitte Cloud Managed Services powered by Lenovo TruScale IaaS which leverage Deloitte’s Open Cloud management platform and can be purchased through Deloitte or Lenovo (available in December 2021)
  • In partnership with Intel, Lenovo TruScale Infrastructure Solutions with Silicon-as-a-Service capabilities will enable customers to scale compute resources on-demand and only pay for activated processor cores. Proof-of-Concepts are currently in progress with availability slated for 1Q 2022
  • Lenovo TruScale Infinite Storage enables perpetual non-disruptive storage infrastructure data services, including guaranteed upgrades to the most current Lenovo ThinkSystem DM series for the life of the contract. Enables customers to non-disruptively grow their storage environments up to 260PB to meet performance and/or capacity requirements (available in 1Q 2022)

Along with customers purchasing the new EaaS solutions directly through Lenovo and its strategic partners (where noted), members of Lenovo’s TruScale Channel Program can directly contract and deliver TruScale as-a-service solutions to customers (available in September 2021 for T1 partners and in Q1 2022 through Distribution).

Three separate announcements underscored Lenovo’s focus on edge computing. First, the company said it will be the first vendor to market with a solution that leverages VMware’s edge computing platform. The offering consists of two Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 Edge Servers integrated with pre-loaded VMware software and can reduce the footprint of edge hardware by up to 50 percent.

The company also announced enhancements to Lenovo Open Cloud Automation (LOC-A), which is designed to automate data center and cloud infrastructure deployment tasks. According to Lenovo, LOC-A can now support up to 10,000 edge computing sites and speed time to deployment by up to 81% while reduce labor requirements by 10X+ (vs. manual methods). The ThinkSystem SE350 Edge Servers and LOC-A enhancements will be available in September 2021.

Finally, the company introduced the Lenovo ThinkEdge SE70, a flexible artificial intelligence (AI) edge platform for enterprises that is designed to support intelligent transformation efforts in areas from logistics, transportation and smart cities to retail, healthcare and manufacturing. The ThinkEdge SE70 was created in cooperation with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and leverages the AWS Panorama Device SDK which can be used to transform commonplace IP cameras into ‘smart’ cameras. The new solution is powered by NVIDIA’s Jetson Xavier NX platform for supporting AI and machine learning models at the edge. Availability for the ThinkEdge SE70 is slated for 1H 2022.

Final analysis

Successfully working with strategic partners is a vital issue for vendors of every stripe. Doing so can substantially reduce the time, effort and risks involved in developing and delivering new solutions and services. Plus, well-known partners add their own imprimatur or “seal of approval” to new solutions, a crucial issue for enterprises and other organizations that tend to value reliability as much as they do innovation.

Those points and value propositions are clear in the new EaaS and edge computing solutions Lenovo announced at Tech World 2021. With the help of strategic partners, the company has significantly expanded its TruScale portfolio with IT and cloud infrastructure offerings that should appeal to a wide range of business customers. Lenovo has also followed a similar partner-amplified path in its new edge offerings, resulting in solutions that will resonate with businesses’ current needs and emerging areas of interest.

As I noted earlier, Lenovo has proactively leveraged strategic partnerships for many years, from well-established efforts with IT industry mainstays, including Intel, Microsoft, VMware, SAP, Nutanix, Citrix and NVIDIA to newer relationships with Deloitte, Kyndryl and AWS. While the Everything-as-a-Service and edge computing offerings announced at Tech World 2021 may be new, the partner-driven ethos behind them has been a key part of Lenovo’s longstanding success and the benefits it consistently delivers to business customers and the channel.

© 2021 Pund-IT®. All rights reserved.

IBM Power E1080: IBM Puts Power10 Muscle Behind its Hybrid Cloud Strategy

By Charles King, Pund-IT®

It is difficult to think of a Tier 1 vendor that placed a bet on cloud computing earlier than IBM. In 2007, the year after AWS launched its seminal S3 cloud storage and EC2 services, IBM announced plans to develop cloud solutions for enterprise customers. Four years later, the company said its cloud services were being used by 80 percent of the Fortune 500. Since then, IBM has become a key player in hybrid cloud, ramping up its own home-grown services bolstered by vital strategic acquisitions, including Cloudant and SoftLayer, and its stunning 2019 deal for Red Hat.

IBM CEO Arvind Krishna (the chief architect of the Red Hat deal) has continued to focus on hybrid cloud as a vital market for the company’s solutions and service offerings. So, this week’s positioning of IBM’s new Power E1080 server for hybrid cloud use cases makes strategic sense. Let’s take a closer look at IBM’s new Power10-based solution and what it offers for enterprise customers. Continue reading

IBM Telum – Using Silicon to Address Evolving Business Challenges

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  August 25, 2021

The pervasiveness of technologies that touch virtually every corner of consumer and commercial life tends to obscure how solutions evolve to address changing behaviors, circumstances and markets. While those shifts are often subtle, vendors can alter their own efforts to benefit customers and help them deal with serious existing and emerging threats.

It is important to note that these benefits are not limited to any specific form or class of technology, like silicon hardware, software and services. In fact, new and valuable innovations can arise anywhere, even areas that conventional wisdom considers fundamentally fixed and mature. Some might believe that the new IBM Telum Processor the company announced at Hot Chips this week belongs in this category. So, let’s consider Telum and what it promises to IBM’s global enterprise customers. Continue reading

Intel Reveals Future Roadmap – A Way Ahead with New Innovations and Partnerships

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  August 11, 2021

Like most corporate communications, how companies talk about themselves should be taken with a couple of pounds of salt. The worst tend to be simplistically self-aggrandizing but other examples can offer meaningful insights into an organization’s plans and self-perception.

That is particularly true following significant changes in leadership, such as the January announcement that Pat Gelsinger (then CEO of VMware) would replace Bob Swan as Intel’s CEO. On July 26 at the “Intel Accelerated” event, Gelsinger, Dr. Ann Kelleher, SVP and GM of Intel Technology Development and other company executives revealed a roadmap for new products that will be delivered through 2025 and beyond. What Pat Gelsinger and his team discussed is certainly worth considering, but how they talked about it is also intriguing.

Meaty innovations

The detailing of Intel’s new process and packaging innovations began with a bold disclaimer by Gelsinger. “The industry has long recognized that traditional nanometer-based process node naming stopped matching the actual gate-length metric in 1997.” In other words, the nanometer (or “nm”) related marketing terms and rhetoric that silicon manufacturers have depended on for 20+ years has reached the end of its useful life since it doesn’t meaningfully reflect or describe semiconductor performance.

To address that, Gelsinger said Intel will employ five new node names and associated innovations for Core and Xeon products launched through 2025 and beyond. Intel 7, Intel 4, and Intel 3 will leverage existing FinFet transistor optimizations and next gen extreme ultraviolet (EUV) production tools, resulting in a near 50% increase in performance per watt between now and 2H 2023.

Intel is also working on next gen EUV; Numerical High Aperture (High NA) EUV that will be used in future products. Those include Intel 20A which is planned to ramp in 2024 as the company enters what Gelsinger called the “angstrom era” of semiconductor production with RibbonFET, its first new transistor architecture since 2011. RibbonFET is designed to deliver markedly faster switching speeds with the same drive current as multiple fins but in a smaller footprint. The new chips will also incorporate another Intel innovation; PowerVia, a backside power delivery technology that optimizes signal transmission by eliminating power routing on the front side of the wafer. Intel 18A (scheduled for 2025) will use the same technologies to deliver another significant performance boost.

Packaging and partner potatoes

Packaging is an increasingly important issue for Intel, especially considering the IDM 2.0 strategy that marks a significant effort by the company to sell Intel Foundry Services (IFS) offerings to “fabless” semiconductor customers. IFS is a new standalone foundry business led by Dr. Randhir Thakur, who will report directly to Gelsinger. At Intel Accelerated, Gelsinger noted that AWS has signed on to become IFS’s first customer.

On the packaging side, Intel will continue to leverage the EMIB (embedded multi-die interconnect bridge) 2.5D embedded bridge solutions it introduced in 2017 and Foveros, a wafer-level packaging capability that enables 3D wafer stacking. Intel also announced Foveros Omni, a highly flexible next gen technology that will be ready for volume manufacturing in 2023, and Foveros Direct (also available in 2023) which complements Foveros Omni by enabling an order of magnitude increase in interconnect density.

Along with its process and packaging innovations, Intel highlighted notable new future-focused collaborations, including strategic partnerships with ASML on the development of High NA FUV, and with Qualcomm which plans to use the new Intel 20A process technology.

Intel emphasized that its process and packaging breakthroughs were primarily developed at company facilities in Oregon and Arizona, highlighting the company’s position as the only leading-edge semiconductor player with U.S.-based research and development and manufacturing capabilities. Intel also noted that its new and next gen technologies were developed in close collaboration with partners in both the U.S. and Europe which the company said are “key to bringing foundational innovations from the lab to high-volume manufacturing.”

Final analysis

So, what’s the takeaway from all this? Bombastic corporate rhetoric or evidence of substantial advances in Intel’s current efforts and future plans? I would argue the latter. In concert with the March announcement (where, along with the IFS business, Gelsinger enumerated planned improvements for Intel’s products and fabs), this latest announcement qualifies as the second half of a “here’s where we’re going/here’s how we’ll get there” one-two punch.

Some might demure, noting that Intel’s plans require the on-time delivery of numerous, highly complex new and significantly updated technologies and production processes, any of which might slip or stumble along the way.

That’s a valid view, but two points undercut it. First, Pat Gelsinger is a significantly different leader than Intel has seen in a very long time. He is deeply technically astute and knows (as shown by his 11+ years at EMC and VMware) how to make a good company great. Gelsinger has a reputation as a fair but rigorous leader who demands honesty and transparency  and he has a history of choosing team members who display similar characteristics. Count on him and Intel to catch and address issues before they become significant problems.

Second, the new partnerships and the customer that Intel highlighted in its announcement suggest that the company has made believers out of some significant players. Qualcomm’s plans to use the new Intel 20A process technology is a notable vote of confidence. Given ASML’s leadership in global semiconductor manufacturing equipment and technologies, it’s hard to think of a better partner for Intel to collaborate with on High NA FUV. Signing up AWS as the first customer for IFS looks like both a significant win and a serious shot across the bows of third-party foundries, like TSMC and Samsung.

Looked at another way, if Intel’s March announcement focused on strategic vision, this roadmap to 2025 and beyond, discussion of new and in-development solutions and revealing of new partners and customers was all about practical delivery. Intel knows where it wants to go, and has the motive, means and leadership to get there. The next five years should be beneficial for Intel’s semiconductor customers and instructive for its competitors.

© 2021 Pund-IT®. All rights reserved.

Dell’s Latitude 7320 Detachable and the Value of Business-Class Ultra-Portable Laptops

By Charles King, Pund-IT  July 28, 2021

Since early 2013, the year Microsoft launched its first Surface Pro, PC vendors have been exploring the value and limits of detachable or ultra-portable 2-in-1 laptops. The general approach was straightforward – take the tablet with detachable keyboard concept of Apple’s iPad but add features to make it a truly business-class device (Apple, slow to catch-on, didn’t introduce its iPad Pro until late 2015).

The success of ultra-portable 2-in-1s has been somewhat mixed, often tied to vendors’ engineering priorities and the evolution of needed components. In addition, arguments in favor of those products were sometimes undermined by increasingly powerful, highly mobile business laptops. That said, with its new Latitude 7320 Detachable, Dell Technologies has hit the sweet spot in terms of a solution that delivers features, value and full functionality that should appeal to business customers. Let’s consider this further. Continue reading

Dell and the OEM Roots of Edge Computing

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  July 21, 2021

The original equipment manufacturer (OEM) model is deeply ingrained in the tech and consumer electronic industries, as well as in other markets where commercial products depend on industry standard components. But while IT vendors are widely recognized as traditional OEMs, many also fill vital roles for another class of OEMs—companies that base their own solutions on vendors’ core PC, server, storage, networking and other technology innovations.

Dell Technologies has been especially successful in this regard, resulting in some $6B in annual orders for OEM solutions based on Dell products. This is clearly a welcome addition to its bottom line, but OEMs also play key roles in the company’s strategic initiatives, including edge computing and Dell APEX-as-a-Service offerings. Let’s consider these points more closely. Continue reading

Windows 11 – With Intel’s Help, Microsoft Pivots to Hybrid Personal Computing

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  June 30, 2021

It’s been over half a decade since a Windows operating system (OS) launch made significant headlines – June 1, 2015, in fact when Microsoft introduced Windows 10 with an “Upgrade Your World” advertising campaign and “A more human way to do” tagline that emphasized the company’s aim to more fully personalize the experience of end users.

Microsoft also positioned Windows 10 to be an ultimate bridge to what it believed would be a future in which, rather than be a standalone entity, the OS became a transparent foundation supporting activities and applications of every kind. That once lofty goal carried more than a little irony during last week’s introduction of Windows 11 which will begin shipping later this year.

Some commentators viewed the new OS as a mostly cosmetic upgrade to Windows 10. However, with the help of Intel, Microsoft is also using Windows 11 to pivot toward hybrid compute processes and methodologies that could help the company achieve the goals it espoused in 2015. Let’s consider this more fully. Continue reading

IBM, GlobalFoundries and Creative Divestitures

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  June 23, 2021

Divesting or selling business assets happens pretty regularly in the technology industry. Why so? For tactical and strategic reasons bolstered by the evolutionary nature of tech products and markets. Simply put, things change quickly in IT, and vendors that fail to adapt place themselves and their businesses in jeopardy.

For over two decades, IBM has pursued creative divestitures and spinoffs more often than most of its peers, usually with positive results. But the recent notice of a legal action it has filed against GlobalFoundries which took over IBM’s Microelectronics assets and chip making processes in 2015 is a reminder of how even well-intentioned and constructed plans can fail. Let’s consider IBM’s history of business divestitures, its deal with GlobalFoundries, what appears to have gone wrong and its impact on both companies. Continue reading

Dell Technologies APEX and the Partner Ecosystem

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  June 9, 2021

Strategic adjustments are vital to any organization’s survival, especially in the IT industry where the pace of technological change can blindside even well-prepared companies. Bold or unconventional new initiatives require additional care since they often require workers and business units to adapt to unfamiliar processes and practices. The situation for a company’s channel and other partners can be even more unsettling, especially if they stand outside typical lines of communication.

Keeping partners well-informed about planned shifts is obviously smart from a business perspective, so it was not surprising that during the recent Dell Technologies World (DTW) conference, the company devoted considerable time to discussing how its new APEX as-a-Service will impact partners. Let’s look more closely at Dell’s plans.

Dell Technologies APEX: as-a-Service enhances customer experience

To begin, what exactly is APEX? Announced last October, APEX is designed to fundamentally shift Dell’s focus from selling commercial (business) hardware and software products to delivering as-a-Service (aaS) solutions.

At DTW, the company introduced APEX Infrastructure, Hybrid and Private Cloud, and Custom Solutions to enable and simplify digital transformations. APEX Custom Solutions include Flex on Demand, a consumption-based offering that was launched 5 years ago and is now available across Dell’s entire infrastructure portfolio.

APEX solutions are available directly through Dell Technologies and the company’s strategic partners can also offer their customers the flexibility of elastic capacity and the economy of paying only for the buffer capacity used each month. As a result, customers can align and scale the cost of their IT solutions with technology consumption requirements and budget availability.

APEX aims to extend that same model across all the company’s product portfolios, including servers, storage, networking and hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) offerings. Solutions designed for specific vertical industries and emerging use cases, like edge computing and artificial intelligence (AI) are also included. Customers can easily and rapidly access, update and manage their IT environments and contracts through the new Dell APEX Console.

Practically speaking, APEX alters IT acquisition, management and maintenance from a costly and often unpredictable CAPEX process to a predictable, dependable and highly flexible OPEX model. At the same time, it will essentially evolve Dell’s focus from developing and delivering physical products to ensuring the continuity and quality of clients’ experiences focused on outcomes That may seem to some like a mere rhetorical gambit, but it will require everyone involved to rethink the way they interact with and serve Dell’s customers.

APEX and partner evolution

Those necessary adjustments in customer engagements also apply to Dell’s partner communities, including business-focused channel partners. In fact, how and how well partners incorporate this new services-first approach will be vital to the success of APEX.

Why so? As noted by Chairman and CEO Michael Dell and other executives during DTW, partners helped drive over half of the company’s $94.224B revenues during FY2021. Just as importantly, Dell Technologies partners represent the company in their engagements with tens of thousands of businesses worldwide. Ensuring that partners, and through them customers are on the same page when it comes to APEX could not be more important.

How important? DTW featured a keynote focused entirely on the company’s partner community, hosted by Global Channel Chief, Rola Dagher and SVP of Global Alliances, Denise Millard. They and other company spokespersons discussed the value that Dell Technologies’ partners supply in terms of experience, expertise and insights into the businesses, industries and markets they serve.

Making certain that partners understand and are onboard with APEX is vital but so is ensuring that new as-as-Service solutions provide partners paths to and methodologies for achieving business security and financial success. Dell executives addressed those points during DTW keynotes and breakout sessions and plan to continue communicating with partners as the APEX evolution progresses.

APEX and strategic collaborations

Also worth considering is how APEX will impact the company’s relationships with its strategic partners. One DTW announcement highlighted an expanded collaboration with global digital infrastructure company Equinix to broaden the availability of APEX via Equinix’s International Business Exchange data centers. The goal of this effort pairs Dell-managed infrastructure and Platform Equinix, enabling organizations subscribing to APEX Data Storage Services at Equinix locations to effectively meet unpredictable IT and storage requirements.

Given Equinix’s global footprint, with over 220 data centers located across five continents and its digital ecosystem of more than 10,000 companies, it seems entirely likely that many of those businesses will investigate how they and their customers might benefit from the hybrid cloud environment and the ability to shift to an OpEx budget model supported by APEX.

Final analysis

While Dell Technologies APEX will eventually drive a substantial portion of the company’s business and revenues, Dell executives also noted that its as-a-Service plans will be executed over the long term, in tandem with delivering point products and solutions. Plus, the descriptions of APEX solutions and discussions around them clearly showed that it is keeping partners in mind and in discussions regarding how new offerings and services are evolving.

That is great news for the company’s partners and their customers and prospects. Overall, APEX appears well-considered and well-positioned to deliver the substantial benefits underscored by Michael Dell and others in the company’s leadership. Those goals seem entirely achievable so long as Dell Technologies’ employees, partners and customers have time to adapt to the substantial and subtle changes these new as-a-Service solutions will require.

© 2021 Pund-IT®. All rights reserved.

IBM Extends “Tailored Fit” Pricing to Z Hardware

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  May 26, 2021

Over the years, I’ve written quite a bit about the longevity and durability of IBM’s mainframe solutions, especially regarding the company’s ongoing efforts to keep its IBM Z platform current with enterprise computing trends and practices. However, it’s also worth considering how IBM has adapted mainframe offerings (and adjusted its own attitude) to stay aligned with other external forces.

That’s especially true in terms of hybrid cloud computing—an area where, as CEO Arvind Krishna noted in his recent IBM Think keynote, the company is “all in.” IBM has essentially realigned its business model to support customers and partners in maximizing the value of cloud computing. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that those efforts are tangibly influencing and impacting its system portfolio. The recent announcement of Tailored Fit Pricing for IBM Z hardware highlights that strategy. Continue reading