Lenovo, NetApp Partner on Flash Storage, Chinese Market

Lenovo and NetApp have teamed up to build all-flash and hybrid Lenovo branded storage hardware with NetApp’s data management software•The two also announced plans to create a joint venture that will supply products tailored to the Chinese market•Analysts praised the partnership, saying it better positions both companies to compete with HPE and Dell EMC

Wylie Wong, Regular Contributor

September 14, 2018

3 Min Read
Lenovo ThinkPad P Series launch party at Siggraph 2015 on August 12, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Lenovo

Lenovo and NetApp have teamed up to build storage hardware together and to create a joint venture in China.

The two companies are collaborating on all-flash and hybrid-flash Lenovo-branded storage equipment that will feature NetApp’s data management software. The partners announced their first joint products this week: the Lenovo ThinkSystem DE Series and higher-end DM Series storage systems, featuring a total of ten models to choose from.

During a keynote at the Lenovo Transform 2.0 conference in New York Thursday, Lenovo executive VP Kirk Skaugen said the partnership would leverage “global scale that’s never been seen, supply-chain efficiencies, and rapidly accelerating innovation and solutions.”

Lenovo and NetApp also announced plans to form a joint venture in China to develop storage and data-management products tailored to Chinese companies’ unique requirements.

Lenovo will own 51 percent of the joint venture, expected to launch next spring, while NetApp will own 49 percent, Skaugen said.

“We will deliver R&D in China, for China, pooling our IP and resources together and delivering a single route to market through a complementary channel not just in China but worldwide,” he said in his speech.

Analysts said the partnership is a smart strategy for both companies. It will strengthen Lenovo’s product portfolio and allow the two to better compete against Dell EMC and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst of Moor Insights & Strategy, said in an interview with Data Center Knowledge.

“This is good for customers, and I think it’s a good move for the companies for the simple reason that it gives them a lot more market reach,” Moorhead said. “Lenovo pulls in NetApp customers it doesn’t have, and NetApp pulls in Lenovo customers it doesn’t have.”

Lenovo updated its entire product portfolio, including storage systems, at last year’s Transform event, but the one area it was a bit thin on was all-flash solutions, which is the most dynamic portion of the storage market, Charles King, president and principal analyst at Pund-IT, said.

The NetApp partnership solves that problem. “Enterprise flash solutions depend heavily on sophisticated software features and functions like those supported by NetApp,” King said. “So, by partnering, Lenovo is adding substantial new flash systems. It should be a win-win for both companies and their customers.”

For example, the new ThinkSystem DM Series systems run on NetApp’s ONTAP data management software and MetroCluster data protection software, which does everything form deduplication and compression to data replication, according to King.

For NetApp, King expects, the partnership with Beijing-based Lenovo will open some doors in China, where foreign tech companies have historically struggled to get a foothold.

“Working with Lenovo should help NetApp develop a solid, sustainable business in China over time,” he said.

Customers can centrally manage Lenovo servers and the new ThinkSystem all-flash or hybrid storage systems by using Lenovo’s XClarity software, Lenovo executives said.

The ThinkSystem DM Series is a high-performance storage system designed to support critical applications, such as databases, server virtualization, and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, King said.

The ThinkSystem DE Series is a more affordable rack solution. The hybrid (HDD/SDD) version can scale from 147TB to 2.88PB of raw capacity, while the all-flash version comes in two models: one offering 300K IOPS with up to 1.47PB of storage, the other supporting 1M IOPS and up to 1.84PB of storage, according to King.

Looking ahead, Moorhead said, Lenovo and NetApp could develop new converged or engineered systems that integrate server, storage, and networking, pre-tested for different environments, such as SAP, Oracle, or VMware.

The partners can also build “composable infrastructure,” in which data center resources are managed as a single pool, allowing IT organizations to have the capabilities of a public cloud infrastructure within their on-premises data center equipment, he said.

The composable infrastructure market is still emerging, but Lenovo’s competitors already have solutions: HPE with its Synergy Composable Infrastructure Platform and Dell with its PowerEdge MX product.

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About the Author(s)

Wylie Wong

Regular Contributor

Wylie Wong is a journalist and freelance writer specializing in technology, business and sports. He previously worked at CNET, Computerworld and CRN and loves covering and learning about the advances and ever-changing dynamics of the technology industry. On the sports front, Wylie is co-author of Giants: Where Have You Gone, a where-are-they-now book on former San Francisco Giants. He previously launched and wrote a Giants blog for the San Jose Mercury News, and in recent years, has enjoyed writing about the intersection of technology and sports.

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