Lenovo’s new “Enterprise Cloud Solution designed for SAP HANA” in China provides an interesting example of how vendors can effectively parlay their individual strengths to achieve common tactical and strategic benefits. In this case, Lenovo has muscular technological and regional leadership positions that complement and extend SAP’s in-memory HANA solutions.
First off, what are the main points of the new service? Lenovo will use one of its data centers in China to support cloud-based SAP HANA databases and applications. The company will deliver technical support, including hotline services, meaning that customers will directly benefit from Lenovo’s expertise in SAP solutions. The facility will also follow compliance and regulatory requirements in China, a critical point for many enterprise customers.
In addition, SAP will work with Lenovo to customize the cloud environment to optimize HANA-based applications’ performance and availability, including real time analytics features. The core hardware for the offering will be Lenovo’s top-end System x x3850 X6 and x3950 X6 servers, as well as its x3650 X6 solutions for application servers.
Finally, the Lenovo cloud facility provides a major new channel for SAP HANA so it also underscores the value of the expanded strategic alliance the companies announced in January 2016.
Taking a technical lead
What does the deal have to do with the companies’ respective technical achievements? Lenovo’s System x solutions have been the reference architecture for SAP HANA since 2010, the start of their common exploration of in-memory analytics and business opportunities in China.
Why has System x X6 been used for so long as the SAP HANA reference architecture? In large part because of unique Lenovo technologies, like its Enterprise X-Architecture (currently in its sixth, X6, generation) that enable System x X6 solutions to offer far larger and more robust memory capabilities than other servers.
For example, Lenovo’s x3850 X6 solution (a 4U configuration) supports up to 6TB of DDR4 memory while the 8U x3950 X6 supports up to 12TB of DDR4 memory. That makes System x X6 an ideal choice for a wide range of SAP HANA infrastructures, from in-memory appliances to cloud-based services. Lenovo’s Enterprise X-Architecture also offers the enterprise-class RAS capabilities needed for business-critical applications.
System x X6’s modular building block design enables customers to use the platform for both scale-out and scale-up configurations. The fact that System x X6 supports multiple generations of Intel CPUs means that customers enjoy notable investment protection since they can deploy HANA clusters with mixed processors or add HANA memory capacity to existing clusters.
One result of Lenovo’s technical innovations is that System x X6 can deliver dramatic results. For example, the company noted that implementing SAP HANA for its supply chain management reporting processes resulted in reducing the time required to generate reports from 1 to 2 weeks to 6 to 8 minutes. That represented about $50M in cost savings and led to the company winning a SAP HANA Innovation Award.
The new Lenovo Enterprise Cloud for SAP HANA can be used for a wide range of workloads and scenarios, including real-time analytics. Customers simply bring in their SAP HANA license and Lenovo does the rest.
Be it ever so humble…
How about the regional angle for Lenovo’s SAP HANA cloud service? First, as a business founded in China (one of its two global headquarters is located in Beijing), Lenovo should enjoy significant home court advantages. That includes being well-positioned to work with numerous enterprises and government agencies that prefer to do business with China-based entities.
Lenovo’s new service certainly won’t be unopposed. Other public cloud companies offer SAP HANA-based instances for the China market, including Alibaba, AWS and Microsoft Azure, but whether their solutions can meet the most stringent requirements of enterprise customers is debatable. That means Lenovo should be able to compete effectively and win, especially in circumstances where proven enterprise-class performance is key.
The Lenovo Data Center Group should also capture significant value from the new service. IDC and other IT market research firms have noted that server sales in China have grown strongly over the past several quarters while other global server markets stayed relatively flat or declined. Lenovo is also better known than China-based competitors, like Huawei, Inspur and Sugon which mainly focus mainly on ODM direct sales.
That should enable Lenovo to burnish its data center solutions with the new SAP HANA cloud service, a critical issue in a market that is expanding so much faster and more steadily than others. Add in the fact that China places a premium on high profile compute-intensive projects, including supercomputer and HPC installations, and the new cloud service could help Lenovo position itself for opportunities where performance metrics are critical to success.
Overall, Lenovo’s new Enterprise Cloud for SAP HANA is likely to provide notable benefits for the companies and their existing customers in China, and also open the door to new business opportunities. The vitality of China’s enterprise data center market is likely to be a key factor for both Lenovo and SAPs future growth. As such, Lenovo’s new Enterprise Cloud for SAP HANA underscores the benefits that vendors can capture with innovative, well-executed technologies and strategic alliances.
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