Extreme, Lenovo in pact to offer data center products

Extreme Networks and Lenovo strike a reseller agreement to offer a bundled package of network switches and enterprise servers to enterprises.

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Extreme Networks Inc. and Lenovo will partner to sell joint data center products comprising Extreme switches and Lenovo servers. At the same time, Extreme said its 10 Gigabit Ethernet switch has been certified by EMC Corp. for use in the storage vendor's integrated VSPEX platform.

The Lenovo deal -- encompassing Extreme's Open Fabric Ethernet switches and Lenovo's ThinkServers --is aimed at data centers, enterprises and cloud providers in more than 60 countries. Marketing will begin this fall. The alliance will also include storage management stemming from the LenovoEMC joint venture, which began operations earlier this year.

It's all part of a strategic initiative to tap into the evolving converged infrastructure and data center products market, which open source IT consultancy site Wikibon predicted will eclipse $74 billion by 2017.

We think there is a huge revenue opportunity in converged infrastructure.
Jake Howeringdirector of data center products, Extreme Networks Inc.

"We think there's a huge revenue opportunity in converged infrastructure," said Jake Howering, Extreme's director of data center products. "Storage, compute and services -- something that's tested and interoperable and that works together. We're focusing on this space rather than a pure box positioning play. It's better strategically for our customers, as well as for ourselves."

Eileen Brooker, Extreme's vice president of strategic alliances, said the partnership will give Extreme a more "formalized, strategic entry into the market rather than just a point product. It's much more product-based, with a three-legged stool: EMC for storage, Lenovo for compute, and Extreme for the switch."

Lenovo, which just this month was crowned by both Gartner and IDC as the world's biggest PC supplier, has begun to aggressively pursue the enterprise server market. The company last fall formed an Enterprise Server Group at its Morrisville, N.C.-based North American sales headquarters, introducing its first server product, the ThinkServer TD330, in November.

While "conceptually, there is lots of mutual value" to both Extreme and Lenovo entering into a strategic alliance, success of the venture will depend on the marketing strength of Lenovo's channel partners, said Brad Casemore, research director at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC.

"This is a new foray for Lenovo, moving into [enterprise] servers and integrated infrastructure," he said. "One of the reasons customers turn to integrated infrastructure providers is that there is one throat to choke. The challenge here is the channel, which means that the channel has to be ready to go right from the outset."

For Extreme, "They are looking at how people approach the network architecturally, with fabric and SDN [software-defined networking], and [since they] don't have servers, they don't have storage, they can't play in the converged networking space. They are looking for partners, too. They want to broaden their market reach, and Lenovo certainly has the market in China," Casemore said.

That said, Lenovo "will need marketing partners and technology partners, and they'll have to think through the channel, as well; their PC channel partners won't be the ones they need [to target enterprise and data center customers]."

EMC's certification of Extreme's Summit X670 switch means the device can be used as part of a VSPEX-anchored implementation at data centers and cloud providers. EMC rolled out VSPEX in 2012; the initiative is a collection of server, storage and networking components that are certified to work together. In addition to Extreme, EMC validated switches from Brocade Communications Systems and Cisco as other options companies can consider in VSPEX deployments.

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