Think Servers? Think Lenovo

By Lauren Simonds
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If you watched any of the Beijing 2008 Olympics Games, you "saw" Lenovo servers managing events in 56 venues across seven cities. But outside of China, people are far more familiar with Lenovo's ThinkPad notebooks and ThinkCentre desktops than they are with the company's servers. For small business owners, that may be about to change.

ThinkServer, a line of products designed specifically for small businesses, is Lenovo's first foray into the worldwide server market. The company describes it as an out-of-the-box solution, meaning that in addition to the actual hardware, ThinkServer also includes software and services so that small businesses that lack the IT staff can setup and maintain the technology.

The "Think" brand holds significant cache, and Marc Godin, the company's vice president and general manager called ThinkServer a true member of Lenovo's family of Think products. "The 'Think' brand is synonymous with 'rock-solid,'" said Godin. "It represents quality, reliability and exceptional engineering."

Lenovo ThinkServer
The Lenovo ThinkServer

Rob Enderle, principal analyst of the Enderly Group, sees an advantage in the company's brand value. "New servers are hard to launch because you need accounts to establish trust and the accounts want the trust before they will buy, it is a chicken and egg problem. The Think brand provides the trust needed to mitigate this problem initially, so the servers can gain and build on their own reputation."

The ThinkServer family includes both tower and rack-mounted models. Lenovo built the ThinkServer TS100 Tower and RS110 Rack servers around Intel Core 2 Duo or Xeon 3000 or 3200 processors. The TS and RS models are designed for companies that need to run basic applications such as e-mail, messaging and storing files and for use as a Web server.

The ThinkServer TD100 Tower, TD100x Tower or RD120 Rack servers offer a choice of Intel Xeon 3000 or 5000 processors. They're designed for businesses that need more demanding capabilities such as database applications or virtualization.

The servers are designed to scale and thus fit the needs of companies ranging in size from one to 500 employees. Lenovo offers two operating system options: Microsoft Windows Server or SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. Pricing for the ThinkServer family starts at $749.

When it comes to building a line of servers for small business, Godin said that providing superior-quality products is essential. However, he also emphasized that the overall experience makes a big difference. "We've included software designed to support small business owners through the major steps of using server," he said.

The Lenovo software tools include:

ThinkServer EasyStartup: Simplifies the initial server configuration with a step-by-step guide that shows people with limited technical expertise how to set up a server.

ThinkServer EasyUpdate: An automated tool that keeps your server up-to-date by identifying, downloading and installing firmware patches for both hardware and software.

ThinkServer EasyManage: Lets you manage and monitor your server – or multiple servers ‑ from a single console.

"It's all about the experience," said Godin. Big companies don’t need such easy-to-use software, small businesses do." He added that ThinkServer combines quality hardware, easy software and packaged services. "We want to make life easier for small business owners."

The Lenovo service packages, available through the company's many business partners and VARs, include:

ThinkPlus Priority Support: Provides access to advanced technicians to handle both hardware and software issues. "This gives small business owners a single level of contact for whatever problem they have," said Godin. "Plus, it's free for the first 90 days, which is the most critical period during server setup."

ThinkPlus Productivity Package: Provides all the features found in the Priority Support package plus onsite hardware installation and online training on how to run and maintain a server.

The businesses partners and VARs determine the price of the service packages, and price will also vary depending on the server model and service level (for example, a four hour response time). Generally speaking, the prices range as follows:

  • ThinkPlus Priority Support, three-year agreement: $299-$699
  • ThinkPlus Priority 4, three-year agreement: $599-$1,399
  • ThinkPlus Productivity, three-year agreement: $698-$1,098

Entering the world server market isn't easy and, said Godin, Lenovo's chosen to focus on the requirements and expectations of small businesses, a decision that bodes well for the company and its customers.

By initially focusing almost exclusively on small business, Lenovo isn’t distracted by the enterprise requirements most of the major players have to deal with and can better craft its solution," said Enderle. "Most other offerings in this class feel more like altered enterprise solutions, while Lenovo’s effort is built from scratch to address the needs of a small business customer explicitly."

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com

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This article was originally published on October 13, 2008
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