DataCenterNews Asia Pacific logo
Specialist data center news for Asia Pacific
Story image

Exclusive interview: The story of Lenovo's data center business

FYI, this story is more than a year old

Lenovo is more than just a manufacturing company that sells ThinkPads and PCs, and it's not a Chinese company, it's multinational, with a diverse leadership team that reflects that.

That's the word from Kamran Amini, the company's server and storage general manager. While sitting down with Techday at Lenovo's Executive Briefing Center in Stuttgart, Germany, Amini was quick to shoot down any misconceptions of Lenovo.

“There was a lot of fud created by our competitors that Lenovo is a Chinese company. It's a multinational company. If you look at our senior leadership team today, it's 7 nationalities,” he states.

After introducing a few Intel executives to its leadership, and taking over IBM's server line in 2014, Lenovo is steadily increasing its brand as a data center provider.

"We have bought a lot of individuals in from HPE, Cisco, and Dell – we brought in a collective of people that know how to run data centers.

“And we've seen results from this as well, if you look at our last three quarters we've continued to show growth every quarter by quarter, both in revenue and profit. We're seeing a momentum establish."

In this exclusive interview, Amini is joined by Lenovo's High-Performance Computing (HPC) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) executive director Scott Tease, and Rob Makin, the company's Data Center Group general manager.

Amini discusses his fear of the cloud, Tease touches on what buying IBM's server line did for Lenovo's data center business, and Makin continues the conversation on Lenovo's image and growth as a data center provider.

What are some of the most significant changes Lenovo's Data Center Group has experienced over the past few years?

Makin: “Of our $44 billion business, probably $38 billion of that is our PC business.

"As a company, we had to separate our focus. As a data center business, the go-to-market is very different from the PC business: from the perspective of a salesperson, the DNA, the conversations you're having - so we started investing in a specialization in [the data center] space.

“In ANZ, from April 1st last year, we separated from our PC business, not separated as in an HPE and HP way, but just creating a separate operating model."

"What that enables us to do is have really focused conversations - everything we do now has a data center focus and spin on it.

“And we've seen some great growth globally, in ANZ in particular. These aren't just my figures here, they are IDC's figures - We've had 8 quarters of consecutive quarter on quarter growth.

“That comes down to our message getting across. We've had some great growth in HPC in ANZ and that all stems from our leadership and direction."

Tease: "People once thought Lenovo was just a manufacturing company.

“They thought of Lenovo as having a profitable business selling ThinkPads and PC products.

“For a lot of our vendors, we are their biggest single customer. For the Data Center Group, we've finally been able to take the value of that and merge it with the deep relationships and the deep expertise and the vertical knowledge we've bought over from IBM."

"We've blended that all together and it's really starting to show in a positive way for our customers."

Did IBM's brand and reputation as a server business wash off onto Lenovo following Lenovo's purchase of IBM's server lines? Did Lenovo continue to win the same big deals?

Tease: "IBM had an HPC business, Lenovo did not, so we took their entire HPC business along with all the rest of System X and set up shop inside of Lenovo. Lenovo had a small server business, a few hundred people.

“Very quickly we were able to merge the Lenovo capabilities with the IBM capabilities, and we've been growing very quickly, doing a lot of very big wins, and seeing a lot of good growth since then."

Kamran: "If you look at Lenovo, and our Data Center Group and our brand awareness, you'll find it's very low.

“Part of that is because we don't advertise, we don't have TV commercials or newspaper ads. But you're about to see a more aggressive marketing campaign for our fiscal year starting in April where we are going to be driving more awareness.

“When you have the engagement with the clients, they understand the technology and the value you're bringing in, it's just that the broader space has never had any experience with System X or Lenovo and doesn't know what we can bring to the table.

"Most of the time if you talk about Lenovo, it's about PCs, you don't associate Lenovo with data center provider. That's one thing we're about to change."

How are you going to do this?

Amini: "Mainly through social. There are lots of industry events we will attend, but I think it's more on how you reach people and for our society today, social has been a key factor in creating awareness. That's something I don't think we've been very aggressive in as an organization."

Makin: "It's our customers are talking about us as well.

“We've invested in the SAP infrastructure and the partner ecosystem in Australia. We've gone from three years ago when I presented the Lenovo Data Center Group story to a SAP user group, bearing in mind we had over 50% market share in SAP Hana back then, yet no one knew that Lenovo did this in the data center space - they just thought we're had a great ThinkPad.

“Fast forward two years and all of a sudden you've got our customers, some of the largest retailers in the market, standing up and talking about how they've migrated to SAP Hana with Lenovo.

“That is far better than us standing up and talking about ourselves, we're using our customers and partners to talk about us. We're gradually building our momentum up."

Tease: "When you went to talk to customers as a provider with IBM, you didn't have to convince people why they should talk to you. You got a free pass that what you're going to bring in would be valuable to them.

“With Lenovo, we don't have that same free pass to just go in and talk to people in the data center. We have to earn our right to talk to people and that's why I think you are about to see a lot of very disruptive ideas about how we want to do things differently in the data center.

Makin: "Legacy free helps. We've got a storage business, however the mantra we believe in is - if you're designing a data center it has to be done software-defined."

"We go in there with our portfolio of products, our partnerships, but we actually don't compete. If you stack up the other server vendors in this space, our competition, they've all got competing technologies and it's confusing to customers.

“I sit in front of customers and see how some of our competitors have gone in there with five specialists all pitching slightly different technology that's all owned by the same company. We go in with a very clear message. Our message out there is really important, and right now, it's showing that we're winning."

Kamran, you've spoken in the past about your fear of the cloud, and also your belief that traditional data centers will never be obsolete. Can you elaborate here?

Amini: "The conversation around fear of the cloud is because the economics to get to entry-level cloud is cheap typically. That's what AWS, Google and everyone else tells you. The problem is - that's exciting; everyone thinks why should I do it in-house, just push it to the cloud.

“The challenge is, that philosophy doesn't work with every aspect of the business. A couple of years ago one of my clients developed software to do taxes in the U.S. Their CIO had three data centers and he said 'Everything is moving to AWS. We are not going to buy single hardware.' A few years later they moved from two data centers to three. They began to realize that certain things can move to the cloud and be built on AWS, other things have to still be on-prem."

"But if you look at three years ago, his philosophy was no more data centers."

"That's where the fear is. There's a perception of greatness, but that's at the high-level, you've got to dive deep to figure out what makes sense for your business."

"For us, it's been about focusing on three key areas: we have to deliver on-prem technology; we have to be able to deliver cloud technologies for public cloud providers; and we also have to be able to provide them the path to get from their on-prem, private to a hybrid environment if they want to."

"That's where I think we are positioned well. But I'm always fearful, I think if you don't fear around you, you're never going to be successful. If you think you're the best, you will set yourself up for failure."

"One of the things we always say is that we want to be the trusted partner to the data center. You'll never see any chart from Lenovo, internally or externally, that says we want to be number one in server business."

"We believe the way we build trust and relationships is what will lead us into the future."

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
ASUS Servers announce AI developments at NVIDIA GTC
The Taiwanese multinational now offers NVIDIA-certified servers with H100 Tensor Core GPU and AI enterprise software suite.
Story image
Eradicating ‘App Fatigue’ and retention problems through implementing no-code ITSM
Almost always, simplicity is best. Intuitive designs and practical workflows are the keys to preventing fatigue.
Story image
Sustainable IT
Equinix partners NUS to use hydrogen tech in data centres
The partners will develop hydrogen fuel technologies for green data centres in tropical climates, and for use in Equinix’s global network.
Story image
IT infrastructure
Bentley Systems announces finalists for the 2022 Going Digital Awards in Infrastructure
The company says that this annual awards program honours the work of Bentley software users who are advancing infrastructure design, construction, and operations throughout the world.
Story image
IT Automation
Juniper Networks announces expansion of Apstra Software with Apstra Freeform
The newly announced Apstra Freeform technology will give customers the ability to manage and automate operations for data centers regardless of the architecture.
Story image
Honeywell launches Data Center Suite for business outcomes
Honeywell has launched its Data Center Suite, a portfolio of outcome-based software offerings to help data centre managers and owners.
Story image
SoftIron announces its newest flagship offering, HyperCloud
SoftIron has announced HyperCloud, the world's first full turnkey, completely integrated and supported Intelligent Cloud Fabric and the company's newest flagship offering.
Story image
Digital Transformation
NTT launches its Cyberjaya 6 data center in Malaysia
NTT expands its hyperscaler footprint in Malaysia with its sixth data center facility, supporting the growing digital economy.
Story image
Data Protection
iseek secures Queensland Government data centre contract
iseek secures the Queensland Government's core network data centre as-a-service contract after a competitive procurement process undertaken by the CITEC.
Story image
DCI Data Centers breaks ground on AKL02 center
DCI Data Centers has commenced construction on Auckland's largest data center.
Story image
Equinix invests $23m to expand ME2 data centre in Melbourne
Equinix has completed the second phase expansion of its ME2 International Business Exchange data centre, located in Port Melbourne.
Story image
Data center
Macquarie Asset Management acquires stake in ST Telemedias VIRTUS Data Centres
"We will further strengthen VIRTUS' focus on sustainability by backing investment in its technology and enhancing the lifecycle management of its equipment."
Story image
NCS, FPT Software launch Strategic Delivery Centre in Vietnam
The new partnership is designed to support increasing demand for high quality digital services across the region.
Story image
Data Centre Maintenance / Management
Schneider Electric backs new Leading Edge data centre in Australia
As a result of the new project, regional Australian businesses and communities will likely have greater access to distributed cloud networks.
Story image
Software Defined Wide Area Network
Axiata, Versa Networks partner for enterprise SASE in Asia
Axiata has partnered with Versa Networks to deliver Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) technology to rapidly digitalising Asian enterprises.
Story image
Iron Mountain InSight SaaS platform extends capabilities on AWS
Company deepens work with AWS, helps customers to accelerate their journey from physical to digital on a global scale.
Story image
DCI plans to build new cloud edge data centre in Canberra
DCI is one of the first to commit to the Precinct which has a focus on defence, space, cybersecurity and high-tech manufacturing sectors.
Story image
Growth in hyperscale data centres to increase shortage of IT workers
New Zealand's tech worker capacity is set to come under increasing pressure as the number of hyperscale data centres grows.
Story image
VMware advances multi-cloud management with VMware Aria
Managing apps and infrastructure in a multi-cloud, especially public cloud, and multi-technology environment is complex.
Story image
ManageEngine unveils SaaS availability of Analytics Plus
ManageEngine's Analytics Plus is now available as a software as a service (SaaS) offering, enabling users to set up a completely functional and integrated analytics platform anywhere in under a minute.
Story image
Worldwide 5G mobile data traffic exploding - report
"With 5G, there is a wider range of deployment scenarios, forcing vendors to provide comprehensive solutions to support every need."
Story image
Talend announces support for Amazon Redshift Serverless
Talend has announced its support for Amazon Redshift Serverless, with the company saying the integration reinforces its commitment and leadership in supporting businesses.
Story image
Cloudera launches all-in-one data lakehouse cloud service
CDP One makes it faster, easier and less risky for businesses to move to the cloud and migrate existing workloads to a modern data architecture.
Aws Marketplace
Learn how to implement a backup and recovery plan for a new generation of Kubernetes-based modern applications
Link image
Story image
Zetaris is changing the way we think about data virtualisation
Zetaris was launched on the Microsoft Marketplace and Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplace in Australia in 2020 and has since expanded into nine global markets.
Story image
Data Centre Maintenance / Management
Vertiv releases update to Smart InfraSight platform
Vertiv has unveiled an update to its Smart InfraSight data centre management platform, featuring improved intelligence and the ability to manage multiple IT devices.
Story image
InterSystems releases updates to its IRIS data platform
Provider of next-generation solutions InterSystems has announced a series of new releases to its award-winning InterSystems IRIS data platform.
Story image
Seagate announces next gen advanced storage arrays
The new Exos X systems feature up to twice the performance of the previous generation and enhanced enterprise-class durability, the company states.
Story image
Digital Transformation
Nanyang Technological University Singapore builds digital brand presence
Leveraging the customisation features of Sitefinity DX, non-technical users could upload content and create design pages and boost work productivity. 
Story image
Stellar financial result after major strategic moves by Superloop
We get a glimpse under the hood at the financial results from 2022 for the connectivity giant Superloop.
Story image
Machine learning
Oracle announces MySQL HeatWave for Amazon Web Services
MySQL HeatWave is a service that combines OLTP, analytics, machine learning, and machine learning-based automation. 
Story image
Network Infrastructure
Vertiv launches solutions to better manage edge computing
Vertiv has introduced new power and cooling solutions for the edge of the network, including the addition of lithium-ion models to a leading on-line UPS family.
Story image
Fortinet unveils compact firewall for hyperscale data centres, 5G networks
"Fortinet’s dedication to pushing the boundaries of what is possible in security performance has yielded the most powerful compact firewall yet."
Story image
Public Cloud
How hyperscalers are shaping Australia’s enterprise cloud landscape future
Australia’s public cloud market encompasses both global and domestic players and there has been widespread adoption of cloud technology across public and private sectors.
Story image
VMware extends collaboration with Microsoft for enterprise workloads in Azure
Mutual customers will have the choice to purchase Azure VMware Solution through the VMware Cloud Universal program.
Story image
Data center
Australia’s data centre pioneer still leading after 22 years
We look at the fascinating success of Macquarie data centre's over its 22 year life span and how they continue to innovate in a highly contested sector.
Story image
Google Cloud Platform
Google Cloud to open first cloud region in NZ - among others
Google Cloud has announced plans to bring three new cloud regions, one each in New Zealand, Malaysia and Thailand.
Story image
Sustainable IT
Empyrion DC announces 40MW green data center in South Korea
Empyrion DC has announced it is developing a 40MW green data center in Gangnam, Seoul, South Korea (GDC).
Story image
SnapLogic named Visionary in two Magic Quadrant categories
SnapLogic has announced that it is the only iPaaS (Integrated Platform as a Service) vendor to be named a Visionary in two Magic Quadrant categories.
Story image
Edge Computing
NTT launches Edge-as-a-Service to accelerate automation
"Minimum latency, maximum processing power, and global coverage are exactly what enterprises need to accelerate their digital transformation journeys.”
AWS Marketplace
Whitepaper: A practical guide for mitigating risk in today’s modern applications
Link image