Major new NetApp partnership energizes Lenovo DCG storage at Transform 2.0

This morning, at their Transform 2.0 event in New York City, Lenovo announced a series of new products, partnerships and solutions around the company’s ongoing Intelligent Transformation strategy. For the channel, the centrepiece was a multi-billion dollar global strategic partnership between the Lenovo Data Center Group (DCG) and NetApp. With ten new storage products, it turns Lenovo-branded storage from a niche item in storage to a broad player, taking part across most of the storage market

“Lenovo has truly entered a new phase of growth and transformation, a point where we can now claim leadership of the transformation of the fourth industrial revolution, being driven by AI,” said Yang Yuanqing, Lenovo’s CEO, kicking off the event. “We have built our business around the new structure of intelligent transformation especially around mobile and the data centre. We now understand the importance of data in fueling intelligent transformation.”

Yuanqing emphasized Lenovo’s ability to provide the total integration of cloud, network and the device, and is the fastest growing player in the hyperscale space, and a growing presence in edge computing.

“We are creating advanced algorithms and Big Data tools combined with industry know-how,” he said. “Al of our smart IoTs are linked to the other, and to the cloud. The opportunities are truly endless. What will drive this information even faster is the speed at which our networks operate, specifically 5G. We just launched our first 5G smartphone. Next year, we will be the first company to provide the 5G mobile experience to customers, without having to buy a new phone. We will transform how people engage with the world.”

Finally, Yangqing emphasized how Lenovo is dependent on strategic partnerships.

“We need partners to unlock our full potential, to unlock intelligent transformation, because the scale is too vast,” he said. “No company can drive it alone, fully. We are dedicated to open partnerships and cross-border collaboration We partner with the biggest names in the industry like Microsoft, Intel and AMD, and find and partner with smaller innovators as well.”

Kirk Skaugen, EVP and President of the Lenovo Data Center Group, began by summing up the progress DCG has made in the last year.

“Last year I announced the largest data centre transformation in Lenovo’s history,” he said. “I talked about a lot of brand confusion. Over the last year we have been ramping based on two brand structures, ThinkAgile and ThinkSystem. We have transformed every single aspect of the customer experience.” This included moving from four global channel programs to one. Skaugen noted that Lenovo has  completely re-engaged their system integrator channel, with 175 per cent growth in the last year. They are now also ranked in the top five tech supply chains.

“Every aspect of what you knew about the DCG has been transformed,” Skaugen stressed. “Gartner just published that we are the fastest growing server company in the top ten. We are now powering six of the top ten hyperscalers in the world, which is significantly different from where we were two years ago. They want a broader supply chain than they can get from a local integrator.” Lenovo now has 33 customized SKUs for the larger hyperscalers, to compete with the most aggressive ODMs in the world.

“Our newest software defined partnership is with Cloudistics, providing a fully composable coud infrastructure, with a significant Lenovo investment in the company. We are delivering a private cloud with a premium experience. An IT generalist can set it up and manage it.” Announced in July, this is the ThinkAgile CP series.

Lenovo is already Nutanix’s fastest growing partner, but Skaugen pledged to move up from that.

“I believe we can become Nutanix’s largest partner within two years,” he stated. He also pointed to recently announced partnerships with Veeam and with Scale Computing

A new strategic partnership with NetApp was the big news of the day, which has the realistic potential to turn Lenovo from a minor storage player into a major challenger to Dell EMC and HPE.

“Lenovo is launching the largest data management and storage portfolio in our 25 year history,” Skaugen said. “Lenovo and NetApp are joining together as two global powerhouses to deliver more choice to customers than ever before, on a global scale that has never been seen, and with rapidly accelerating solutions. It lets Lenovo go from covering 15 per cent to more the 90 per cent of the storage business.”

Ten new storage platforms were announced, with availability today and shipments tomorrow of the first products in this portfolio, from the new Lenovo ThinkSystem DE and DM Series.

“This is the joining of two global leaders bringing innovative technology to help customers modernize their IT and acceleration in their digital transformations,” said Brad Anderson, SVP and GM of NetApp Cloud Infrastructure. At NetApp, we are very excited. This is a partnership between two companies with tremendous market momentum.

“We are also building this partnership for long term success,” Anderson added. “We see this as stage one – the establishment of a multi-year commitment to offer Lenovo-branded flash products globally.”

Part two is a joint venture in China, with Lenovo a 51 per cent owner and NetApp a 49 per cent owner.

“Both companies will put in storage technologies and expertise to establish a data management company in China for China,” Anderson said. “We can dream what phase two looks like, but our focus now is on making phase one incredibly successful. We will work on go-to-market strategy, strategic alignment, and realistic expectations and milestones.”

Anderson emphasized the significance of both companies’ channels in making all this work.

“Success for customers and channel partners is job one,” he said. “Channel partners are top of mind for both companies. We are committed to the success of existing and future channel partners. For NetApp partners it is a pathway to new customers. For Lenovo, it is technology to help you compare and win against Dell EMC and HPE.” He also emphasized that there is very little overlap between the channels.

Other Lenovo announcements at the show included the newest addition to the premium ThinkPad X1 laptop portfolio, the ThinkPad X1 Extreme,  designed for advanced users and prosumers with high performance computing needs, and the first ThinkPad to include NVIDIA discrete graphics.ThinkShield by Lenovo is another new offering. Designed to secure devices through their entire lifecycle, it includes secure BIOS and firmware development, and features like ThinkPad Privacy Guard security screens and the industry’s first laptop camera shutters, and involves collaboration with Intel, MobileIron, Absolute and Coronet.