When IBM sold off its System x division to Lenovo Group in the fall of 2014, some big supercomputing centers in the United States and Europe that were long-time customers of Big Blue had to stop and think about what their future systems would look like and who would supply them. It was not a foregone conclusion that the Xeon-based portion of IBM’s HPC business would just move over to Lenovo as part of the sale.
Quite the opposite, in fact. Many believed that Lenovo could not hold onto its HPC business, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Dell were quick to capitalize on the confusion that IBM sowed into the market to boost their own HPC divisions. But, as it turns out, the HPC market grew and Lenovo has experience with hyperscalers and a low cost structure – things that IBM did not have – that have allowed the company to stabilize and then grow its HPC business. Even Lenovo seems a bit surprised by how this business has rebounded so quickly after such a tumultuous change.
“We thought back then that there would be concerns that Lenovo would not be able to carry on the HPC mantle that IBM had, and the good news is that it is going much better than we ever were at IBM,” says Scott Tease, executive director of high performance computing at Lenovo. “Not only are we continuing to win the big high profile deals, such as the startup of the Marconi cluster at Cineca in Italy, which is the largest Omni-Path cluster in the world. So we continue to win on those really big ones that IBM used to win. But what is ever better is that we have a lot more success at what we call the run-rate HPC at universities and industry that buy clusters in the $500,000 to $1 million range. We were never as IBM to be cost conscious enough to win these types of deals, but as Lenovo, we are. We still win the big deals, but we have this run rate engine going. We never had that in the past.”