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By | Chris Mellor 17th October 2016 14:00

Lenovo be Nimble, Lenovo be quick, inks deal to take on Dell EMC kit

Swaps all-flash array, analytics for channel access

Lenovo, which has huge ambitions in the storage market, has sealed a partnership deal with Nimble and will be selling Nimble's all-flash array and using its predictive analytics.

Nimble Storage was one of the original trio of hybrid storage array vendors that emerged a few years ago - the others being Tegile and Tintri. It made faster progress, particularly because if its then ground-breaking predictive array analytics (now branded InfoSight), and IPO'd in late 2013. However a late adoption of all-flash array technology hindered its business progress in 2015 and the first quarter of 2016 it has only latterly started resuming its growth progress.

Lenovo is the multi-national, China-based, TV, phone, tablet, PC and server supplier, which took over IBM's xServer business in 2014, having previously acquired its PC business in 2005. There is a LenovoEMC joint venture with (Dell) EMC, which sells network-attached storage arrays.

Lenovo also has a bunch of hyper-converged infrastructure appliance (HCIA) offerings via a deal with Maxta for the Chinese market, Nutanix, and meet-in-the-channel arrangements with other suppliers.

DataCore and Lenovo have won several SPC-1 benchmark records using DataCore's parallel IO software and lenovo servers.

The nuts and bolts of the Lenovo-Nimble deal are these:

  • Lenovo and Nimble will enable the use of predictive analytics in infrastructure management to automate service activities,
  • Lenovo ThinkAgile CX series of converged infrastructure products have Nimble Predictive All Flash array storage,
  • Lenovo plans to integrate its XClarity infrastructure management software with Nimble InfoSight which leverages predictive analytics to help automate support.

The ThinkAgile range seems similar to Dell EMC's Vblock converged infrastructure (CI) systems, being appliance-centric, pre-validated and pre-integrated single products, wih factory-level pre-installation and pre-configuration of server, storage and networking capabilities, as well as virtualisation and management tools.

These "Lblocks" will be aimed at server virtualisation, private cloud deployment, VDI, databases, big data, telco, and High Performance Computing, and other application areas. These appliances will be built for rapid deployment, installation and provisioning, and come bundled with Lenovo Services for a single point of support.

Lenovo wants us to understand that it is "the only data centre company to invest in and operate its own global manufacturing network, enabling the company to deliver the fast turnaround cycle time for ThinkAgile solutions of under two weeks from order to shipment."

Lenovo's David Lincoln, executive director and general manager of its Server, Storage and Solutions Business Unit in the Data Centre Business Group, provided a canned quote: “This strategic relationship with Nimble enables us to deliver a state of the art all flash offering, further extending the industry’s best customer experience by leveraging the predictive analytics platform, InfoSight, all while providing a lower TCO. Through this new alliance, we are able to deliver a continuous integration of hardware, software, and analytics support, establishing the means to develop the next generation all flash data center and drive strategic value for our customers.”

On the Nimble side of the deal, CEO Suresh Vasudevan also provided a quote: “By combining our innovative technology with Lenovo’s global footprint and product scope we’ll provide a portfolio of high performance, application-optimised solutions that minimise infrastructure management and lower overall support costs.”

We are to note that, within the ThinkAgile portfolio:

  • There will be all-flash and hybrid flash-disk CX Series products,
  • HX Series hyperconverged appliances are getting networking capabilities and will be delivered as complete, pre-integrated appliances,
  • Customers can mix different HX offerings – storage, compute or performance-heavy configurations – to customise them,
  • Lenovo plans to develop and deliver ThinkAgile appliances based upon OpenStack environments (think Ceph) beginning in the China market later this year,
  • The first offering within Lenovo’s OpenStack environment, called ThinkCloud AIO, was unveiled last month and will be available only in the China market.


This deal instantly promotes Lenovo into the CI market and gives Nimble a potentially huge new channel. The immediate prospects for business in China must be hugely attractive for both companies. It will take time for Lenovo to gain CI market credibility in Europe and the USA, though it can reasonably expect faster progress in Asia.

Nimble's channel partners now have potential for expanding into HCI and CI-level offerings through building relationships with Lenovo. For Nimble this deal could, and probably will, materially increase its revenues, currently near a $400m annual run rate, and catapult them past $500m.

Lenovo's channel new gets access to Nimble's storage and its highly-rated analytics capabilities. Lenovo itself gets the means to take on other all-flash array vendors, such as Dell-EMC, HPE, NetApp, IBM and Pure Storage, and will probably offer attractive pricing to grow its business.

We should get used to the idea that Lenovo is joining Dell-EMC, HDS, HPE, Huawei, IBM, and Cisco, as an enterprise-class, data centre IT systems supplier.

If the partnership deal delivers the goods then maybe that we'll see a closer Lenovo-Nimble relationship.

ThinkAgile CX Series products will be available from October 28. ®

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