Interview by Worldwide Lenovo ThinkServer Marketing Manager, Annabelle Thuan.
The Lenovo ThinkServer line began in 2008 with the release of the ThinkServer TS100. In six years, the business has gained momentum and grown exponentially. With recent news on Lenovo acquiring IBM’s x86 server business, Lenovo executives being quoted, “Attack the Rack”, and today marking Lenovo’s final product launch to round out its fourth-generation ThinkServer portfolio, we wanted to know exactly where Lenovo stands with its latest product addition, the ThinkServer RS140. How does the RS140 rack server fit into Lenovo’s current product portfolio, what are its differentiators and who will benefit from this product?
To assist in this discussion, we posed a number of questions to Worldwide Lenovo ThinkServer Enterprise Portfolio Manager, Edgar Haren.
Annabelle: What is your professional background?
Edgar: I guess I’m a bit of a technology renaissance man. I’ve been in the technology sector for more than 18 years, and I’ve been fortunate to have a variety of roles along the way. My first job was building PCs for a local Value Added Reseller (VAR) in Houston. From there, I was in outbound marketing at BMC Software and then in Product Management for Hewlett Packard in their notebook and HPC server divisions. Prior to coming to Lenovo, I was working at Oracle where I was on the Product Marketing team for their x86 systems.
Renaissance man, Edgar Haren, on ThinkServer RS140 announcement day.
Annabelle: What do you do at Lenovo?
Edgar: I’m the Portfolio Planner for our rackmount servers. I’m responsible for the long-term roadmaps for our single- and dual-socket systems, direct-attached storage, as well as key options for the HPC space. I also support our sales teams who are engaging in HPC opportunities with content or direct customer interaction.
Annabelle: Lenovo recently teased audiences with the ThinkServer RS140 rack server at its annual partner event, Accelerate 2014, and the product officially announces today, June 10. Can you tell us about the development concept?
Edgar: Well, there were a few key design tenants or customer use cases behind the RS140. The first was the concept of “right-sized computing”. We’ve found that many customers are beginning to stratify their data centers based on workloads and aligning the right hardware for the specific job, versus taking one system type and applying it across all workloads in a homogenous fashion. As a result, larger customers looking for web front-end compute nodes want low-power, compact and reliable solutions that can be deployed in large numbers and at affordable price points. Another segment consists of customers who have distributed data centers that require a unique deployment of servers. For example, many customers with retail or local storefront operations have very unique settings that make the implementation of standard IT equipment a true challenge. Often these customers need to create a secured package or bundle of compute, storage and networking for these non-traditional IT environments. The RS140 is a 1U form factor and offers a very compact footprint, which allows it to be readily deployed in a wall-mount rack or similar device to ensure the integrity of the sever while it services point-of-sale software, digital signage content or other retail-centric applications.
Annabelle: How does Lenovo’s first value-priced, 1U rackmount solution round out Lenovo’s current ThinkServer portfolio? How is it different than the single-socket towers (ThinkServer TS140/ThinkServer TS440) or the other rack servers currently offered?
Edgar: The RS140 adds incremental value to our server portfolio. As the data center continues to get segmented, it’s important for us to expand beyond our core and mainstream solutions and offer products that fit into these newly created industry gaps. When compared to our two-socket rack systems, the RS140 will support Intel Xeon E3-1200 and desktop CPUs, so this is a very different offering from the E5-2400 and E5-2600 enterprise class of processors. The E3-1200 CPUs were designed for light computing needs, while the E5 CPUs offer greater core counts, greater frequency and overall performance. However, this performance gain also comes at a significant price premium to the entry Xeon CPUs. So for small- to medium-sized firms, or the niche applications I mentioned above, customers now have a viable option that fits their needs without forcing them to grow into their compute capacity.
When you compare the RS140 to our tower systems, the differences are less obvious, as our entry tower systems have the same compute performance, but here customers will migrate to one form factor or another. For many retail environments our towers are the ideal form factor, but in unique settings or for the edge of an enterprise data center, the RS140’s footprint becomes a more usable solution. In this comparison, it comes down to how the customer is deploying the physical server as both form factors can potentially meet their computing needs.
Annabelle: How does RS140 stack against the competition? What are its advantages?
Edgar: The RS140 has a few key features that stand out from the competition. First, compared to certain other solutions that feature the E3-1200 processor, the RS140 has a smaller footprint at 16.2” deep versus 20” deep solutions from some of our other competitors. Because of the smaller chassis, we were able to drive out unnecessary costs and align price value with necessary performance. Another key feature is the support for Intel’s embedded graphics CPU bins, which means that the RS140 services a wider range of use cases, such as cloud gaming, video conferencing, cloud-based media services or improved desktop virtualization.
Lenovo ThinkServer RS140
Annabelle: Have you had any early customer interest in RS140?
Edgar: We’ve had interest from some interesting verticals. We have customers in the hotel and hospitality industries, as well as food distribution, automotive retail and media propagation. In one case, we have a large hotel that is looking to deploy the Oracle database on the RS140, and they chose to evaluate this unit because of its compact form factor. Like the hotel, we have a large grocery store chain evaluating the RS140 for the purpose of running enterprise applications, and they chose this solution due to space constraints in their remote sites. The automotive retailer and body shop has remote locations that have environments less than suitable for IT equipment, and they are looking to deploy a wide range of general IT applications. The RS140 allows them to bundle the systems along with storage and networking elements into a secured structure that keeps the systems protected. Lastly, the media firm specializes in delivering content to health care and hospitality customers and is looking for a solution that will fit into audio/video environments versus a standard IT server room.
It has truly been interesting to speak with these customers and see the very different use cases and how each customer is looking to solve a very specific need. But don’t take my word for it, for more information, please visit the ThinkServer web site.