Lenovo and Conceptualizing Future Defined Data Centers

Rob Enderle

Lenovo had a huge event this week where it showcased the power of not only an impressive multi-national manufacturing capability but the benefit of hiring one of the most experienced Intel executives in this segment, Kirk Skaugen, president of the Data Center Group.  His movement into Lenovo was in itself fascinating because, given his pedigree, Skaugen likely could have gone to any one of the major players, a VC, or even started his own firm. He chose Lenovo which was, at the time, struggling to consume the old IBM x86 server business and step away from its image as a PC only vendor. He clearly saw something amazing in the potential for the firm and, to a certain extent, showcased that this week.

While it is easy to get lost in the sheer massive number of products Lenovo announced and lose track of the strategic aspect of the announcement, Lenovo appears to be offering something targeting the needs of the 2020 enterprise rather than the 2017 enterprise which, given the time it takes to complete evaluations and deployments, makes a non-intuitive amount of sense.

Why You Want a Future Defined Data Center

We are undergoing what I think is an unprecedented amount of change at the moment, and it isn’t going to be getting any better. Our needs are changing on multiple vectors at the same time. We have the advancement of data analytics, which comes with the need not only to capture more data, but to assure the quality of that data, feed it to the decision makers in a timely fashion, and in a way that doesn’t require an intermediate data scientist.

Every company is basically in an arms race with its competitors, ranging from customer, investor and employee acquisition to assuring the firm is able to respond tactically and strategically to an ever-wider number of problems and opportunities. We used to just talk about agility and complain that our systems weren’t agile. Now we increasingly have to worry that our executives are so poorly informed that they may not only make horrid decisions but that we in the IT space are increasingly responsible and that these executives will figure that out.

The only possible way to get ahead of this is to make a rolling bet on what may be needed in three to five years, and not only constantly update that view but have a bifurcated focus on current and future executive needs and proficiencies. This probably is now number one on the list of why I personally have no desire whatsoever to be a CIO.

Lenovo’s Advantage

If you think that the CIO has a nightmare of a problem, think of the poor vendor who mostly has to focus on an aging customer base, largely operating five to 10 years behind the technology curve, but increasingly being asked to operate three to five years out. The majority of your business is in servicing legacy, but the vast majority of your growth and opportunity is in anticipating the future.

This is likely where Lenovo has its greatest advantage. Because it is relatively new to the space, it doesn’t have the distractions associated with legacy, which tends to bifurcate the effort and force focus in the wrong direction for the future, looking back at legacy, which is where the money often is but not where IT needs it to be.


This lack of conflict allows Lenovo, as it showcased, to offer a more consistently forward-looking set of lines rather than the more typical mix of legacy and hybrid.

Wrapping Up: Managing Change

Overall, every market is going through massive change. Technology is driving that change but it is also one of the best defenses for it. Whether you like Lenovo or not, the idea of a future-defined data center is far closer to what we need than what we typically see in the market. The reason for this is that most vendors are torn between supporting legacy and driving the future. Whether we are talking technology OEM or any other industry, figuring out how to get away from the legacy and focus more on the needs the firm will need will likely play a major role in regard to which companies do well or even survive and those that don’t. In the end, change isn’t slowing down anyplace. Being able to better respond to it will remain perhaps the most critical skill in technology for sellers, buyers and users.

Rob Enderle is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm.  With over 30 years’ experience in emerging technologies, he has provided regional and global companies with guidance in how to better target customer needs; create new business opportunities; anticipate technology changes; select vendors and products; and present their products in the best possible light. Rob covers the technology industry broadly. Before founding the Enderle Group, Rob was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group, and held senior positions at IBM and ROLM. Follow Rob on Twitter @enderle, on Facebook and on Google+


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