Data is the new currency and IT decision-makers are the new bankers: Vivek Sharma, Lenovo Data Center Group

The Digital India initiative as well as the COVID-19 pandemic has led to widespread digitisation. An increased adoption of technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and edge computing among others has been witnessed over the past 12 months in India. However, what impact has this trend had on the data center industry in India? Vivek Sharma, India – MD, Lenovo Data Center Group tells us more.

DQ: How are you seeing growth and adoption of data centers across industries?

Vivek Sharma: The data center space has witnessed explosive growth over the last few years. More so, growth reached a new high once the pandemic hit, as businesses and people across the world headed online for work, entertainment, and education. The data center market in Asia Pacific is forecasted to reach US$32 billion by 2023, and India stands as one of the fastest growing data center markets in the APAC region with a market size that is expected to cross US$4.5 billion by 2025.

As we inch closer to a post-COVID world, we are seeing verticals like education, BFSI, retail and even hospitality increasingly adopt technologies like AI, IoT and edge computing, to support business growth. Increasing digitisation across sectors is creating growth opportunities for hybrid cloud solutions as organisations look to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and focus on business continuity while ensuring data privacy and security.

We’ve seen strong customer demand from education, governments, healthcare institutions, banks and enterprises for business continuity and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) solutions to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on employee productivity and data security.

DQ: What challenges did Lenovo Data Center Group face in the Indian market and how did you overcome those?

Vivek Sharma: In the early days of the pandemic, customers were focused on immediate solutions to plug the hole in the roof rather than address long-term changes.

With op-ex and cap-ex concerns, as well as data security fears in a remote work environment, being top of mind for customers, we have been advising a more strategic and long-term approach. We have successfully met strong customer demand from banks, governments, healthcare institutions and enterprises for Business Continuity and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) solutions.

To ensure we are able to fully service our customers, we have been leveraging the full strength of our global manufacturing and distribution networks to minimise any potential impact of the pandemic. Our software-defined infrastructure (SDI) offerings coupled with the consumption-based model, provides a flexible approach to help businesses manage their cash flow during these uncertain times and focus on delivering their IT rather than managing it.

DQ: What is Lenovo DCG’s tech outlook for 2021?

Vivek Sharma: Data is the new currency and IT decision-makers are the new bankers – hence, it’s important for organisations to manage their data requirements in a way that they don’t just survive but thrive. Our strategy in India and worldwide focuses on enabling the ‘Data-Centered’ – businesses and people who leverage data to better equip themselves to cater to their customer bases.

As thought partners, our emphasis is on developing solutions that solve problems and create impact. We see ourselves as a service-oriented partner to organisations and not a hardware supplier.

We had recently introduced a range of new and updated hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) solutions and cloud-based services to enable customers to keep pace with evolving business needs in the new ‘Smart Normal’.

The Lenovo ThinkSystem DM Series Storage Manager OS allows customers of all sizes to harness data more securely and efficiently, from edge to core to cloud, with a single set of tools and capabilities for a smarter way forward.

In collaboration with Microsoft, our new Lenovo ThinkAgile MX Azure Stack HCI Edge and Data Center Solutions enable customers to rapidly deploy a hybrid cloud infrastructure.

The Lenovo ThinkAgile VX HCI Solutions improve agility and reliability for SAP HANA database deployments, launched in collaboration with Vmware.

We are also continuing to invest in key technologies such as IoT, Edge Computing, Cloud, 5G and AI, and will ride on their capabilities to lead the era of ‘new normal’ after COVID-19.

DQ: Enlighten us on the use of artificial intelligence and analytics to smartify entry and mid-sized organisations.

Vivek Sharma: Analytics has always been a progressive field and with more businesses realising the power of advanced analytics and AI, we are experiencing a revolution in this segment. Sectors like retail, BFSI and healthcare that have experienced the next level of transformation due to the pandemic, are seeing wider adoption and creating more opportunities for AI and analytics to better under consumer demands and facilitate faster decision making and response time to market.

Security, capacity, and cost are the key variables and require a strategic plan, regardless of the size of the business. For startups, having the right team and partnering with the right IT service providers is important. As service providers, we always try to advise our customers, especially small & medium enterprises to invest in OPEX rather than CAPEX models, thus opting for consumption-based models like our TruScale offering that allow flexibility to scale up and down, depending on the market requirements. With TruScale, there is no required minimum capacity commitment, therefore customers only pay for capacity when their workloads are actively running. It is especially worthy to SMEs as it enables them to generate predictable revenue streams, add scalable value to their customers and generate better insights on customer consumption, all of which eventually helps their sales teams and while simultaneously scaling down operational costs.

DQ: What is that one emerging data center technology you are most excited about?

Vivek Sharma: The pandemic has been a learning curve for businesses who have realised that consumers appreciate faster response time, and this requires businesses to generate insights faster to make real-time decisions. Edge computing or edge data centers are rapidly evolving, offering businesses to reduce network latency (of taking data to the core for processing and bringing it back to the edge) by processing data closer to the end user. The result is higher speeds for end-users, with latency measured in microseconds rather than milliseconds. Various industries such as manufacturing, construction, automotive, agriculture, are leveraging IoT and edge computing to drive value through real-time insights.

Increasingly customers are looking for AI deployments in both existing infrastructure (hyperconverged systems (HCI) and high-performance computing (HPC) or technical computing solutions. Given the high level of compute, GPUs and learning software required for AI level computing, AI is meant for powering heavy workloads and innovation.

HPC and AI are the engines driving the latest and most promising advances from weather to manufacturing, to basic research, and of course to human health.

DQ: Please tell us about the newly launched ThinkSystem data management solutions. How do you view India’s storage market?

Vivek Sharma: India is the second-fastest digitising economy among the 17 leading economies of the world. The growing adoption of smart devices, increasing internet penetration, combined with a shift to hybrid work is spurring demand for data storage and processing. Digital India initiatives, data localisation, availability of high- speed internet and cheap bandwidth price will further drive the growth of the storage market in India.

Lenovo DCG is helping customers of all sizes to harness data more securely and efficiently, from edge to core to cloud, with a single set of tools and end-to-end data management capabilities for a smarter way forward.

The Lenovo ThinkSystem DM5100F brings high-performance, low-latency all-NVMe storage at an affordable price point, enabling customers to enhance analytics and AI deployments, while accelerating applications’ access to data. The DM Series storage systems now include new S3 Object support, to create a next-generation unified data management platform. This allows customers to manage and analyse all data types (block, file, and object) within a single storage platform, accelerating the processing of data analytics while reducing infrastructure costs.  These enhancements create expanded data protection capabilities, with transparent failover and management of object storage natively.

Other new/improved solutions we announced include the:

  • LenovoThinkSystem Intelligent Monitoring 2.0 software solution, a cloud-based management platform that uses AI to simplify and automate the care and optimisation of Lenovo’s ThinkSystem storage environment.
  • Customers can monitor and manage storage capacity and performance for multiple locations from a single cloud-based interface, predict issues before they happen, and receive prescriptive guidance.
  • Lenovo DB720S Fibre Channel Switchwhich further accelerates the performance of customers’ applications.
    • This switch provides 32Gbps and 64Gbps storage networking, delivering higher speed and 50 percent lower latency than previous generations. The DB720S delivers autonomous SAN infrastructure with self-learning, self-optimising, and self-healing capabilities, leading to reduced downtime and simplified storage network management.

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