Lenovo enters the server market worldwide, but solely for SMBs

In taking its first step into the global server market, Lenovo's strategy is to focus exclusively on "relieving the pain points" of SMBs with hardware for Windows, Linux, and VMware's new Virtual Data Center OS (VDC-OS).

NEW YORK, NY (BetaNews) - In contrast to Lenovo's ThinkPad notebooks and ThinkVision monitors, the new ThinkServers rolled out at Interop this week are geared totally to SMBs. "They're SMB all the way," noted Tom Tobul, executive director of Lenovo's Enteprise Business Unit.

Lenovo will sell its new ThinkServers worldwide, but only through channel partners, including VARs specializing in vertical markets, Tobul told BetaNews. While the company already markets some classes of servers to enterprises and smaller businesses, up until now, they've only been available strictly in Lenovo's home country of China.

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Now, there will be five new ThinkServers for the US and other world markets, including the TS100 Tower and RS110 Rack, which are outfitted with Intel Core 2 Duo or Xeon 3000 or 3200 series processors; and the TD100 Tower, TD100x Tower and RD120 Rack, which come with Intel Xeon 3000 or 5000 series processors.

All are designed to work with Windows Server 2003 and 2008 in addition to the forthcoming Small Business Server 2008 and Essential Server 2008. Yet on the Linux side, Novell -- the producer of SuSE Linux -- is Lenovo's "preferred provider," Tobul said. Lenovo will also be shipping the ThinkServers with Red Hat's server operating system as well.

Also available for ThinkServers will be VMware's Virtual Data Center OS (VDC-OS), a new "OS for the data center" announced earlier this month, he said.

Tobul said that the new ThinkServer TS100 and RS110 models for worldwide markets are aimed at small offices needing servers for e-mail, file storage, and Web server applications. The three other models are intended for medium-sized businesses interested in additional functionality such as virtualization and database applications.

Lenovo is addressing both these market segments through cost efficiencies, ease of use, and "quality, reliability, and engineering," he maintained.

During a booth tour for BetaNews at Interop, Tobul demo'd a zone cooling system for ThinkServers which is designed to lower electrical bills while also reducing heat in the environment.

Tobul also contended that the ThinkServers provide more status indicators and alerts than most servers, with separate status lights for configuration and temperature, as well as relative power.

Bundled with these models will be EasyManage, a performance management tool for one or multiple servers, developed in conjunction with LANDesk. Other bundled software includes EasyUpdate, a utility for downloading and installing hardware and firmware updates, and EasySetup.

For support, ThinkServer Priority Support brings 24/7 phone support for both the servers and third-party software applications running on them, along with next business day warranty services. Then in addition, ThinkPlus Productivity adds on-site hardware installation and online training. Lenovo is offering a 90-day free trial on Priority Support, but not on the Productivity package, said Tobul.

Lenovo will find itself competing with, among others, the company that coined its own "Think" brand. In January, IBM launched Foundations, a line of small business software servers co-branded with Lotus, and oriented toward ease of use.

In March, Sun announced new SMB server hardware certified to run Ubuntu Linux in addition to Windows Server, Solaris, Red Hat Linux, and Novell SuSE Linux.

Speaking with BetaNews, Tobul denied some industry speculation that his company -- formed by the Lenovo Group's buyout of IBM's Personal Computing Division back in 2004 -- had stayed out of the server business until now out of any legal obligation to IBM. Instead, Lenovo just "wanted to make sure we had things right for SMBs by relieving their specific pain points," he said.

Elsewhere at Interop, some of Lenovo's latest ThinkVision monitors will come with "green computing" features, including "100 percent recyclable packaging" and a new design aimed at using LCD light more efficiently by reducing the number of light tubes per monitor without affecting viewing quality.

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