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Latest Lenovo networking offerings include NOS, Juniper switches

The latest Lenovo networking products reflect the vendor's shift to technologies outside of the shrinking PC market.

Computer maker Lenovo, which is struggling to grow other revenue sources as the PC market continues to shrink, has introduced a medley of data center appliances and software.

The company unveiled this week software-defined storage (SDS) hardware, storage area network (SAN) appliances and hyper-converged systems. Lenovo networking offerings included a new switch operating system that the vendor will make available for download June 17.

The Lenovo Cloud NOS (network operating system) is the latest advancement in the company's push into data center networking. The NOS would run on bare-metal switches that support the Open Network Install Environment (ONIE), according to market researcher Current Analysis, based in Sterling, Va. Lenovo did not release additional details.

Lenovo networking technology focuses mostly on the server access layer. The company provides top-of-rack switches and embedded modules that are used primarily with Lenovo's x86 blade and Flex server systems, according to Gartner. 

"Gartner clients do not deploy Lenovo as an end-to-end DC (data center) network solution," Gartner said in a report released last month.

The Lenovo networking portfolio includes technology that's available through alliances with Cisco, Arista Networks and Brocade. Its most comprehensive partnership is with Juniper Networks.

Lenovo as Juniper reseller

Starting in the third quarter, Lenovo plans to resell Juniper's EX2300 Ethernet access switch, which provides as many as 24 10/100/1000BASE-T ports. Lenovo said this week that it would also resell Juniper's EX4550 10 Gbps campus switch and its QFX10002 spine aggregation switch.

Lenovo's product strategy in networking is "unfolding," said Dan Conde, an analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass. The company plans to introduce other products throughout the year.

Whether the new products in the Lenovo networking portfolio can reverse the vendor's falling data center sales remains to be seen. Those revenues dropped 40% last year, according to Gartner.

To increase sales, Lenovo will have to persuade enterprises to break their usual buying patterns, said John Fruehe, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy in Austin, Texas.

Most companies buy from traditional networking vendors, such as Cisco, Juniper and Arista Networks, or they buy access switches directly from their server vendors, Fruehe said. Lenovo's success will hinge on whether it can take server business away from rivals Dell and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

"I would put Lenovo in the wait-and-see category," Fruehe said. "It is too early to count them out, but they have a pretty big hill to climb in order to really make it."

Lenovo's other data center products

Lenovo launched two SDS appliances under the new StorSelect brand. The DX8200N and DX8200C are available with software from partners Nexenta Systems and Cloudian. Lenovo expects to ship the StorSelect products in the third quarter.

Lenovo also unveiled its first midrange SANs. The V-Series of 12 Gb all-flash SANs includes the V3700 and the V5030. The hardware is scheduled to ship this month.

The company refreshed its x3850 and x3950 X6 servers with Intel's Xeon E7-4800 and E7-8800 v4 processors. The servers support up to 12 TB of memory to run in-memory applications, such as the SAP HANA database.

In July, Lenovo plans to ship a new ThinkServer model. The sd350 is an ultra-dense, 2U four-node system.

Finally, Lenovo expanded its portfolio of HX Series hyper-converged appliances, which the company built on Nutanix infrastructure software that integrates compute and storage on x86 systems. The new HX1000 appliance is targeted at remote and branch offices while the HX2000 is for small and midsize businesses. The HX2000 runs Nutanix's Xpress software introduced in May. The new systems are scheduled to ship in the third quarter.

Lenovo has been diversifying its portfolio to counter a shrinking PC market. In the first quarter, worldwide PC shipments fell 9.6% year over year, according to Gartner. The decline was the sixth in as many quarters and shipments dropped below 65 million for the first time since 2007.

Lenovo has yet to find success in other tech markets. Overall revenue, which includes sales of PCs, data center networking and smartphones, fell 3% in the fiscal year that ended March 31. Also, Lenovo reported a full-year loss of $128 million, compared with a net profit of $829 million the previous year.

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