Despite acquiring IBM’s x86 server business in 2014, the amount of sway that Lenovo holds in the server market today is fairly small. In fact, the majority of what market share it does have in the server category is made up of low-end tower servers typically found in small offices.
Lenovo is looking to change that with a pair of hyperconverged servers aimed at the small- and midsize- business (SMB) market that it developed in collaboration with Nutanix. The 1u and 2u appliances are designed to bring the benefits of a hyperconverged appliance that is simpler to manage, said Radhika Krishnan, executive director and general manager for converged infrastructure and networking in the Lenovo Data Center Group.
Lenovo is counting on thousands of PC resellers with limited experience selling servers to drive adoption of these appliances. However, the company isn’t leaving that to chance either. It is putting thousands of its own salespeople in the field to help drum up server business that will ultimately be fulfilled by its channel partners.
Whether the low end of the IT market has an appetite for hyperconverged appliances, however, remains to be seen. There are not that many instances of racks being employed to house appliances below the midmarket. The hyperconverged appliance concept was initially promulgated in enterprise data centers looking for ways to more easily scale out IT resources within the context of a private cloud. As a pioneer of the concept, Nutanix is widely regarded inside many of those data centers.
However, the relationship between Lenovo and Nutanix is complicated. Nutanix also counts Lenovo rivals such as Dell among its partners. Dell, however, is in the process of acquiring EMC, which brings with it a line of hyperconverged appliances developed by its VCE unit. The VCE appliances are optimized for VMware, while the Nutanix appliances can be configured with VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V or a hardened instance of the open-source Kernel-based Virtual Machine developed by Nutantix.
Lenovo, meanwhile, has several other hyperconverged appliance partners, but in recent weeks, it has made it clear that Nutanix is now its primary partner. Part of that shift reflects an assumption that Nutanix is going to be less enthusiastic about its relationship with Dell once the company’s salesforce starts selling those VCE appliances.
About the only thing that is clear is that Lenovo is highly committed to the server category. In the PC category, history has already shown that Lenovo knows what it takes to move from last to first. For solution providers across the channel, the question that most everyone will be waiting to see answered is whether Lenovo can do the same thing in servers, which is considerably more complex than PCs.
Michael Vizard has been covering IT issues in the enterprise for more than 25 years as an editor and columnist for publications such as InfoWorld, eWEEK, Baseline, CRN, ComputerWorld and Digital Review.