Lenovo and NetApp Partner for New Solutions and Markets

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The commonplace role of strategic partnerships in IT industry is easy to understand. The fact is that most computing solutions are so inherently complex that single vendors have a tough time meeting the needs of myriad specific markets. But though they’re usually well-intentioned, some of these efforts fail totally.

Why so? Some are built on faulty assumptions or are badly crafted. Others founder when one or another partner changes course or can’t deal with rapidly shifting circumstances. But many strategic collaborations do succeed, especially those whose partners are well-matched from the get-go, that share common goals and pursue individual efforts that, paired, deliver highly synergistic results.

The strategic partnership between Lenovo and NetApp announced at Lenovo’s Transform 2.0 conference is likely to fall into the category of successful collaborations. Let’s consider the announcement and why the companies’ outlooks are so bright.

Working together locally and globally

So, what about the announcement is so special? Lenovo and NetApp described their joint-effort as a “global, multi-faceted partnership” that will help customers modernize IT infrastructures and accelerate digital transformation efforts. Yang Yuanqing, Chairman and CEO of Lenovo, noted that the new solutions represent Lenovo’s commitment “to driving the new IT – Intelligent Transformation – through an expanding, customer-centric set of data center offerings.” Lenovo and NetApp’s partnership will focus on:

  • Co-developing new Lenovo-branded storage products that combine core software technology from NetApp that will be manufactured by Lenovo, leveraging its world-class supply chain processes and facilities. The first of these, the Lenovo ThinkSystem DE Series and DM Series, are immediately available in more than 160 countries.
  • A new joint venture company in China that will deliver storage products and data management solutions localized and tailored to meet China’s specialized requirements and distinct cloud ecosystem. The venture is expected to be operational by spring 2019, pending local approvals.

Why are Lenovo and NetApp so well-suited? First and foremost, both companies stand out from the crowd in their respective markets. In IDC’s most recent Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker, Lenovo was listed in a statistical tie (with IBM) for third place in overall market share but led all other vendors with a blistering year-over-year (YoY) growth rate of 85.7 percent. Similarly, the company’s 53.9 percent YoY growth in server units shipped outshone all other Tier 1 system vendor rivals. In fact, the only company that enjoyed more robust unit growth than Lenovo was ODM Inspur.

How about NetApp? According to the latest IDC Worldwide Quarterly Enterprise Storage Systems Tracker, NetApp holds a solid third position in overall enterprise storage market share and demonstrated strong (19.6 percent) YoY growth. The company also holds a solid but still-growing second position in external storage systems.

It’s also worth noting that Lenovo is enjoying great success with the storage solutions it introduced last year at Transform 1.0. In fact, while the company trails NetApp in market share (according to the IDC, Lenovo is statistically tied with Hitachi and Huawei), it’s stunning 132.8 percent YoY growth rate blew away all other listed vendors.

So why collaborate with NetApp? It’s all about Flash storage. NetApp has long enjoyed a leadership position in Flash solutions which is likely to remain robust as the cost of components continues to fall.

Through the partnership, Lenovo will gain quick entrance to one of the storage market’s most lucrative and fastest growing segments. Likewise, NetApp will benefit from working with one of the server industry’s most dynamic vendors, and one that also has deep insights into and connections within rapidly growing markets in China.

Partnering with NetApp also underscores what Kirk Skaugen, EVP of Lenovo and president of Lenovo’s Data Center Group (DCG) called its commitment “to our vision of being the most trusted data center partner for our customer’s digital transformation.”

Lenovo/NetApp solutions at a glance

The initial Lenovo/NetApp offerings highlight both companies’ relative and collaborative strengths:

  1. Lenovo ThinkSystem DM Series – combines high performance hardware and adaptive, scalable storage software into integrated enterprise solutions for enterprise workloads and demanding applications. Customers can begin with as few as two nodes, then scale to as many as 12 arrays. Three hybrid models are available for scale-out SAN, scale-out NAS and high availability scenarios. Two all-Flash models support the same SAN, NAS and high availability use cases, and are designed to optimally support critical applications and use cases, including Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, Mongo DB, VDI and server virtualization. Both systems feature NetApp’s ONTAP (data management) and MetroCluster (business continuity and disaster recovery) software, and Lenovo’s XClarity systems management solutions.
  2. Lenovo ThinkSystem DE Series – affordable rack space solutions that delivers the performance and features required by growing businesses and modern enterprise applications. A hybrid (HDD/SSD) version is available in three models that are defined by their controllers’ and scale from 147TB up to 2.88PB of raw capacity. All-Flash 2U rack scale arrays are available in two models: one delivering 300k IOPs with up to 1.47PB of raw capacity and the other supporting 1M IOPs with up to 1.84PB of raw capacity.

Additional details and background material on the new ThinkSystems solutions are available here.

Final analysis

Strategic partnerships and strategic partners are not all created equal. The best and longest lasting such efforts incorporate and explore the relative strengths of the collaborating parties so parity of assets, skills and expertise are typically critical to achieving success and longevity. In that sense, Lenovo and NetApp’s new global, multi-faceted partnership appears well-considered and designed.

The companies are similarly robust technologically, and both are enjoying remarkably successful runs in their core markets. Their common interests in the discrete needs of enterprise customers are highly complementary, meaning that they should be able to capture and fully exploit synergies between their individual portfolios.

Most importantly, the initial new ThinkSystem DE and DM Series offerings are likely to grab the immediate attention of both Lenovo’s and NetApp’s respective clients. That interest should expand as the effort results in new solutions and sales leads in China and elsewhere.

Overall, Lenovo and NetApp’s strategic partnership and collaborative solutions should deliver the strategic and practical benefits companies envision. Plus, the effort should also contribute measurably to Lenovo’s goal of being the trusted data center partner that enterprise customers choose to support their digital transformations.

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About Author

Charles King, Pund-IT’s president and principal analyst, has deep communications expertise that makes him a valuable and trusted asset for clients. In addition, Charles regularly speaks with the mainstream and technical media on topics from emerging IT products to continuing market trends.

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