When it comes to the enabling future-proof data centers, Lenovo Data Center Group is heralding a lot of innovation with its unique products and solutions positioned for this space.
Sumir Bhatia, President, Asia Pacific, Data Center Group, Lenovo speaks with Zia Askari from ChannelDrive.in about the company’s current strategy and its future plans.
What are the core focus areas for Lenovo DCG today?
IT doesn’t just stand for Information Technology here at Lenovo, it is Intelligent Transformation—a transformation driven by AI and underpinned by three key building blocks: data, computing power, and algorithms. We are the dedicated designers and builders of the “Intelligent Transformation.”
As such, our goals are clear: to become the most trusted data center provider in the industry, and accelerate the pace of data center innovation for our customers. We aim to achieve these goals through innovation, best-of-breed strategic partnerships and an unwavering focus on customer centricity in every aspect of our business.
We’ll continue to grow this through our comprehensive data center portfolio. For example, our recent NetApp partnership has significantly expanded our storage and data management market segment coverage, giving us 93% reach in the market compared to 15% previously. Another focus is augmented learning and machine learning capabilities for hyperconverged solutions to expand the possibilities of technology and discovering new storage models.
How do you look at the Data Center space today, in terms of technology adoption? What are the big trends here?
In terms of technology adoption, I’m seeing a lot of Software Defined Infrastructure (SDI) through hyper-converged infrastructure and solutions. Customers are looking for hybrid cloud solutions, and they are refreshing their data center from legacy, older infrastructure to more workload-based infrastructure. Also, a big trend that can’t be ignored is Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Focusing on AI, this emerging technology is climbing up the ranks in terms of the value it will bring to businesses, without the need to grow manpower. AI has the potential to be organizationally transformational and is at the core of digital business, with Gartner predicting that global AI-derived business value will reach nearly US$3.9 trillion by 2022 .
Additionally, we also see the need for thermal management, given the development of high-power processors. In extracting the most computing power out of every watt of electricity, processing chips are consuming more power, and giving off more heat than ever before. This means that direct liquid cooling (which is most commonly used in High Performance Computing, or HPC) is becoming a viable solution, as they provide better server performance, improved efficacy in high densities, and reduced cooling costs.
What are some of the big innovations that Lenovo is driving in this space?
To focus on AI, we have committed US$1.2 billion in R&D investment to help bring AI to life for its customers, which includes the Lenovo Intelligent Computing Orchestration (LiCO)—a software solution designed to overcome recurring challenges for customers implementing multi-user environments using clusters for both HPC workflows and AI development.
Additionally, at our four AI Innovation Centers (in Morrisville, North Carolina, Stuttgart, Germany, Beijing, and Taipei), customers are working with Lenovo and ISVs, data scientists and system engineers to help develop their first use case. For example, these efforts have improved our demand forecasting accuracy, and we offer these solutions to other manufacturing companies such as Baosteel, improving the Chinese steel manufacturer’s demand forecast accuracy by 30 percentage points to nearly 90%.
A big challenge in the data center is power and cooling. We deliver technologies like warm water cooling, which helps reduce data center power consumption by 30 – 40% compared to traditional cooling methods.
As Enterprise communities look for better and more efficient provisioning of computing / storage resources, data centers are often getting overloaded. How does you solutions solve such challenges?
Servers are increasingly power hungry. Besides processors becoming faster and more powerful, the other components on the motherboard – such as memory and storage devices – are also taking up more power. Additionally, every component inside a computer produces heat, which will destroy sensitive circuitry if allowed to build up.
For decades, computers have always relied on the movement of air to push heat out the system, and data centers have been designed to maximize air movement for heat dissipation. However, the power hungry processors of today have made it increasingly harder to cool servers with just air alone, especially as we expect CPUs to push above 240 watts and co-processors (such as GPUs) to cross 300 watts, and CPU-only servers to push past 1kW.
We recently unveiled two designs, one of which helps bring the efficiency of liquid cooling to data centers without the disruption of ripping and replacing the entire cooling system. Our affordable ‘heat sink’ allows for higher-density processors, while reducing the amount of airflow necessary to cool the server. The other one is direct warm water cooling which has helped customers like the Liebniz Supercomputing Center and Peking University achieve a power usage effectiveness (PUE) of under 1.1.
As data centers and supercomputers demand more energy and therefore generate more heat, we continue to pioneer solutions that enable ongoing sustainable and efficient energy management.
How important is the channel community for Lenovo DCG?
At Lenovo, we put our channel partners at the heart of our business—with more than 90% of Lenovo’s DCG business coming through our channel partners in Asia Pacific. Our partners expand our reach to customers, as we have a comprehensive channel network comprising best-of-breed partnerships with 40 value and volume distributors, and more than 2,000 active customer-facing partners across AP.
We constantly strive to be the technology vendor that will grow alongside channel partners in the changing business landscape. We are committed to revamping the channel experience, helping our channel partners stay relevant and future proof their business through continuous dialogue with our partners to take on board their feedback.
What are some of the activities that the company is doing to encourage and motivate channel partners?
Our channel transformation strategy is designed to make it easy for partners to grow with us through co-marketing, co-selling, and enablement. We understand our channel partners’ common pain points include lengthy approval times in quotations, administration complexity in claiming marketing funds, navigating volumes of information on poorly designed partner portals, inexperienced partner managers and competing with vendors’ direct sales.
As such, we provide both support and extensive, customised programmes, from incentives and rebates to co-marketing. For instance, we have developed Partner Knowledge Base, which profiles partners by capability and specialization—including four different audiences in the partner organization (CXO, Marketing, Pre-Sales, and Sales), which we then use to align the profiles with sales and demand gen activities.
We also have our AP Lenovo Partner Portal to streamline all engagement and operations with our partners into one single platform. This portal provides useful sales and management tools, as well as training and marketing content, allowing our partners to experience how Lenovo value adds in this partnership with just a single log-in.
What are your plans to help partners move up the value chain by hand holding them on new technologies and training them?
We are continually improving our infrastructure and processes to promote ease of doing business with channel partners.
Lenovo DCG’s self-service digital marketing tool, Digital Campaign Studio “The Power of Zero”, offers our channel partners access to solutions campaigns and co-marketing assets for their marketing efforts on our single platform Lenovo Partner Portal (LPP), in turn enhancing operational efficiency.
Together, Lenovo and our partners can create and benefit from the best co-branded lead-generating campaigns, while helping partner speed up their go-to-market activities with customers. There is no cost to the partner for this tool and hence “The Power of Zero”.
We’ll also be launching two new tools in early 2019. The Lenovo Bid Portal is an enhanced tool that will contain useful pricing, quotations and deal registration information all on a single platform. The Lenovo Bid Portal will provide customers with simplicity, as it minimises pricing turnaround time (e.g. generates quotes in less than 4 hours) while delivering channel partners a more streamlined and seamless experience.
We’ll also have the Lenovo Maestro, a mobile app platform that rewards, informs, and performs for our partner audiences. Providing simple, transparent and measurable metrics across Sales, Presales, Marketing and more will enable channel partners to chart their growth better and reap greater rewards.